Disrupt Your Thinking

Apple - think differentAs a committed and professional teacher you are no doubt on constant look out for ways in which things can be done better in your classroom, learning area, school or even school district.

Indeed, the rise of social media and online sharing allows us to access more good ideas and content than ever before.

I’ve said in the past that twitter and the subsequent links to blog posts, podcasts and research has been the key breakthrough I have experienced in professional learning in the ten years I have been teaching.

Regardless of teachers’ commitment to professional learning, most (if not all) teachers I meet are looking for ways to do things “better”.  Be it teaching and learning, planning, assessment, use of technology or the other myriad of areas that bring about enhanced learning experiences for our students.

But what if that way of thinking is actually hindering progress?


Keep reading.

Being new to my role as Head of PE Sport, I know I have been guilty of looking at processes, planners, units, school sporting events, assessment tools and thinking to myself (and the team) how can we improve? How can I do them better?

Perhaps, I/ we have been asking the wrong kind of question.

It is not sufficient to do things better, we need to do better things.

When Steve Jobs was setting out to create the first Macintosh computer his design brief to the team at apple was, “I want a computer like a Bob Dylan song.”

I would bet that every computer design brief before that point had included specifications of technical jargon like processing speed, screen lumens, amount of RAM and so on.

What he did was break a pattern.  With this provocation he got people thinking NOT about improving what was already there but thinking about making something completely new, going in a different direction and disrupting the whole technology industry.

He sparked curiosity in the mind of designers and allowed them to begin thinking about Dylan’s songs…poetic, innovative and simple.

In the case of Steve Jobs and Apple, the rest, as they say, is history.

So what learning does this offer us teachers?  Can we disrupt thinking in our world to break the mould and to take learning in a whole new direction?

We need to stop thinking about how to do the things we do better, and the start thinking about how we do them completely differently.

And we begin with a provocation like Steve Jobs did about what we actually want to end up with.

The failings of Physical Education in the past have been well documented throughout history, especially in mainstream media.  We have all read, “PE lessons are worst school memories” and “Negative experiences of Physical Education and Sport.”

That said, I also strongly believe, to quote Dylan, that ‘the times they are-a-changin’ and there is a global cohort of 21st century teachers who are rapidly bringing learning back to PE.

I have to say that these types ‘report cards’ for PE do still serve as motivation for me to things differently.

I’d like to end the post with a story.

In 2005, the Association of Independent Creative Editors in America held a competition for sub-editors to re-make a movie trailer for the 1980 movie, The Shining. I‘m not sure if you will have seen it but its fair to say its no happy stroll in the park.  Officially dubbed a psychological Horror, it stars Jack Nicholson in one of his most eccentric roles.

The contest was to re-cut the trailer using the exact same footage. Editors were only allowed to change the music and the voice-over.

New Yorker, Robert Ryang won the contest by applying an expert level of disruptive thinking, depicting the film to be a light-hearted family comedy drama about father and son bonding.

I’m not suggesting that our past or current PE ‘story’ is a horror (well not across the board) but can we change what we have into a family-friendly classic?

Can we design lessons that look like a Bob Dylan song?

Can we create units that excite and engage students in the same way as Harry Potter or Star Wars?

Is it possible to create mini #PEgeeks in our classes who are as passionate about movement, physical activity and sport as they are about screen time?

I think so.

We may just have to take a leaf out of apple’s book and think different.


*Credit: Luke Williams: Disruptive Thinking for the blog post inspiration.