Outside the Comfort Zone

##AUTHORSPLIT##<--->Spend time looking into happenings in sectors other than yours,and you may just catch a glimpse into the future of education.

Geoffrey H. FletcherI ORDERED THE BOOK DisruptingClass: How Disruptive Innovation WillChange the Way the World Learns byClayton Christensen, Michael Horn,and Curtis Johnson (McGraw-Hill,2008) the other day on Amazon.com.Like other websites, Amazon has a featurethat recommends books and otherproducts to you based on your previouspurchases. While many love thisfeature, it is one I try to avoid. Why?Because I know I must get out of the"comfort zone" that feature creates.

Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago Press, 1996), a key book for me while I was working in the field of futures study, taught me that the impetus for significant change most often comes from outside an established field. So to help forecast or make change, or to keep pace in your own field, you need to pay attention to sectors other than your own. At the least, it will get you to ask new questions. At the most, you'll come across new approaches to your job that will improve your performance, and that of your students.

When you take a look at technology in the business world, you'll find that many companies are saving a lot of money by using virtualization. And long before the education world thought about it, corporations and law offices (and some politicians) were archiving e-mail. As virtualization and archiving e-mail become important in education, we should learn from what other sectors have done.

In education, higher ed has blazed the way with ERP systems, emergency notification systems, and web-based class capture. Our colleagues in higher ed have much to teach us here, just as we in K-12 can teach them about using technology for instruction.

So where do you go to learn all this? At the risk of sounding like a shill for our company, I encourage you to try reading publications from the other 1105 Media groups-- especially those serving the government, network and enterprise computing, or business intelligence sectors. Those may lead you to studies like the Rackspace Green Survey, which asked CIOs in business if they would pay more for green technologies or buy them if they negatively affected performance; the majority of survey participants said they would not. Will their stance impact your district's green initiative?

In this space, we have touted books such as Why Smart Executives Fail by Sydney Finkelstein (Portfolio, 2003). The point is to step out of your role in scanning the technology horizon; you'll find that many valuable practices translate to the field of K-12 education. As an eighth-grader once told me, "Get outside of yourself, man. You might learn something cool."

-Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editorial director

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2008 issue of THE Journal.