Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Are You a Virus?

Recently, I had a chance to hear Ron Canuel from CEA speak about the need for change, and the barriers faced by change agents. In viewing the change agent as a virus, he observed that it is common for innovators to be attacked while followers prosper. Finding it easy to relate to Ron's words, I'd like to extend the metaphor.

Viruses often innovate in the relative safety of a closed door classroom. If you use attempt to use technology in unexpected ways, or if you use tools before they become the norm, you may be a virus. There are many innovators out there, but most, like viruses, are difficult to see. It is only through the sharing of stories, that they become visible.

Virus can replicate but only within living host. If you are a virus, do you dare share your strategies and learning experiments with colleagues? In my experience, viral replication begins through such conversation and conversion. Open sharing may be just the thing that ensures that your district; your school; your department remains vibrant.

Once your peers or members of the ICT department identify you as a change agent, it may trigger the natural defenses of your school or system. The immune system is made up of those who want to maintain the status quo. It might be the technicians who place limits and filters on the tools you use, or it may be the colleagues who aren't ready to adapt their practices to the realities of a changing world. Regardless of the antibodies you face, know that it is natural for any body to defend the status quo. The most intrepid change agents are used to barriers, and though they may be slowed, their viral nature will be resistant to the system's natural defenses.

While viruses are immune to antibiotics, they do need to be aware of vaccination programs. Innocuous policies are commonly adopted in order to protect the system from disruptive change. "Personal devices are not allowed on the network." "Facebook and other social media sites are filtered." "Cell phones will be confiscated if they are seen." While effective in protecting the system in the short term, such inoculations tend to expire as neighbouring school systems evolve.

The metaphor leads me to believe that our education system is in need of an epidemic. Innovative practices will have to go viral in order to infect the practices of educators at all levels. If we are to re-imagine education, schools will need the services of an ever-evolving range of viruses. Care to join me for an educational pandemic?

Image credits: Viral Flu via Novartis AG; Ambulance by chriswong3238
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