Leadbeater’s talk brought memories of Dr. John Ingram’s Negotiating Classroom. Leadbeater’s reference to El Sistema links the technology of music to the transformation of learning in some of the most impoverished parts of the world. See Jose Antonio Abreu’s TED Prize for the story of a vision that has changed the world for so many. Are we beginning to see a pattern here? What truly intrigues me is the consistency of the message to look at the developing world and how learning is facilitated in the places where people have nothing (in terms of “schools” as we know them). Both C.K. Prahalad and Christensen, Johnson & Horn emphasize the importance of a disruptive technology taking off in the hands of the non-consumers. Yet, I still go back to Neal Stephenson’s prophetic cyberpunk marvel, The Diamond Age, to paint the image of what is possible when global networks and the impoverished masses combine to facilitate learning. Is it fiction? Of course! Just like Jules Verne!

Once again, the issue of motivation comes to the center of the discussion (see Dan Pink’s DRIVE for another look at this topic – Theory X and Theory I). How could compulsory education attract a kid generating $200K per week in the drug trade away from the worldly rewards to which he had grown accustomed? It couldn’t! But create an environment that is compelling and offers hope (and a life expectancy beyond 25 years) and you just might succeed. But how do learning environments need to change to meet the increasing diversity of learners? On this, the last minutes of his talk he displays a matrix that presents four quadrants (i.e., Formal Sustaining (FS), Formal Disruptive (FD), Informal Sustaining (IS), Informal Disruptive (ID)). This will be a topic of its own in a future post.

When you consider Leadbeater’s “What if?” challenge at the end of his 2005 TEDTalk, one can only wonder how long before the developing world will surpass the “developed” world. Dan Pink shared in A Whole New Mind that a small percent of a very large number is a VERY LARGE NUMBER. What if 1% of the 54 million students in the US alone were to shift from “users to producers” and “consumers to designers” of educational curricula, instruction (i.e., opportunities to learn), and assessment? How might this one element disrupt and transform education as we know it? How many students represent the 1% in your world? Do you listen to them? What do they tell you?

Can YOU teach Amanda Fish?