Interdisciplinary Marriage

Think as if there isn’t a box, not just “outside the box”.  Embrace change and accept your responsibility as a professional within the changing economy and world we live in.  Cross the lines of discipline to collaborate and invent tomorrow’s reality!

In decades past, interracial marriage was unacceptable, interdenominational worship services were frowned upon, and inter literary scholarship was not tolerated.  As times have changed, all “inter” concepts have become the current way of life for the world around us all.  Very prominent and happy couples marry a different race / nationality than their own.  Large concerts and various other venues bring multiple religious denominations together.  And authors like Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) have combined the factual basis of a well-known organization with a nonfictional storyline to become a best seller – and movie.

Whether you realize it or not, most businesses and professional fields are interdisciplinary.  The marriage of technology and health care has created a job market in informatics.  The field of informatics then has extended to various other fields to bring data visualization and clearer understanding to disciplines other than health care.  To make the point more clear, the combination of drawing and math is the basis of the field of architecture.

How does this effect education?  I’m glad you asked.  We all see how business and education have been merged to create a large sector of entrepreneurs looking to profit from the field of education.  In my pursuit of an “Interdisciplinary PhD in Educational Sciences” I get to chase after the different marriages on a daily basis.  Constantly, I feel that aha moment where combining fields or taking in multiple understandings can solve problems and create new solutions.  Two quotes ring true in this light of intellect:

The world is your playground – Play around and don’t worry about who is watching and waiting on you to fall.  When you do fall, get back up and start climbing again!

The world is your oyster – You are the one who formulates the world that you live in.  Yes, we have laws and some guidelines, but your happiness and success relies on your perspective and mentality.

As you go through the grind of wake up, work, and go to sleep… think of ways your current skills, abilities, and expertise can be combined with a different field to innovate or make a future that no one else could realize.

Education and the Future Workforce

My parents have been telling me every since I was born…”You will have to have a Ph.D. to get a job one day!”  Well, they are becoming more and more right (as much as I hate to admit that). has created an infographic (in collaboration with Hyperakt and in partnership with University of Phoenix) that looks at the growing demand for educated workers in our society.  The lower left part of the infographic should be given much attention – although small, it provides a lot of interesting information…

Enriched Environments and Technology in Schools

Jon Becker tweeted about his experience while visiting the Information Technology High School.  As my curiosity got the best of me, I was anxious to hear about what that high school had going on that was new, innovative, etc.  Much to my surprise, the 1:1 initiative was taken away after the first year because kids could not be trusted and there really wasn’t anything noteworthy to back up such a profound name!

Combine this thought with a developmental psychology class that I took in my Master’s program – where we are discussing and reviewing research about the benefits of an enriched environment.

Add in nagging pessimists who say technology hinders kids from learning more so than helping them.

Okay, now everyone is up to speed on what is going on in my head.

The developmental psychology class brought me up to speed with how taking a kid out of a horrible environment and bringing them into a “normal,” “basic,” (however you want to phrase it) environment has a great positive outcome on the learning curve.  The unknown territory comes when a kid is moved from the “normal” environment into an “enriched” environment.  What is an enriched environment?  What would it include?  Who would it include – and how would we decide the who is?  Well…arguments continue on how societies decide what an enriched learning environment is, but regardless of how schools set themselves up, or districts determine the make-up of such an environment, or how national standards influence what the new “normal” is…every learner is different and every learner will not benefit from one overall “enriched environment.”

Now that it has been said, how can standards, districts, and school systems work together to produce the most conducive environment for enriched learning to take place?  Well…I think technology has a major role in the answer to that question…

With apps for almost everything – including calendars, note-taking that syncing across devices (Evernote, Sugarsync), learning management systems (Blackboard and Moodle), cloud printing (ePrint, Google Cloud Print), and everything in between – administrators, teachers, and students have the technology created to go completely digital.  The problems = funding, upkeep, updates, technology leaders in the school, etc.  I completely understand that there are still many issues which need to be addressed in the schools for technology to completely take over – and some schools are doing great jobs at this, but even more are resistant to change.

There is an immediate need to change!

My wife is in dental school and they tell them about apps that are available to tremendously help them, but…they are over $200.00 a piece!  My brother-in-law finished up PA school in southern Kentucky and they mandate the use of apps for such prices.  Which…you guessed it…forces the student to have a smartphone or computer capable of supporting this type of learning.  Higher education (at least at most flagship universities) are beginning to push this technology into the classrooms, but primary and secondary schools are missing the mark.

When we have a high school with the name of “Information Technology High School” and they can’t keep a 1:1 initiative going and don’t have anything else that a normal high school has for students to learn, then what message are we conveying to the future of the kids, the future career opportunities, the future of our nation?  School used to be a place where learners grasp an exemplary understanding and knowledge base of the latest theories and hardware for their disposal in the job market upon graduation.  We wonder why we need more degrees for every generation in order to get a job?  It’s because we spend more years catching up rather than moving forward.  Technology is here, technology is now, and technology needs to be the new “normal” environment rather than the impossible “enriched” environment.

Where does data visualization and evaluation come in?  Try understanding 200 years of information through looking at and studying charts, diagrams, and numbers (it would take forever).  Hans Rosling helps us to see 200 years of health and wealth data in a matter of minutes and understand how that data interacted as a result of the past and implications for the future!  Videos, infographics, interactive visualization sets for students and teachers, real-time visualizations for administrators to monitor school performance, networking technology for schools to work together for the students rather than competing for personal recognition…the possibilities are at each of our fingertips…we just have to dive in and make our mark on the future!

Don’t wait for tomorrow when you can change your life today.

Running Toward Outcome... or Process?

Forrest Gump (1994) provides an interesting and unexpected viewpoint of his exercise routine.  He runs… to run.  He is not looking to finish a race or reach a goal.  He is running to run.  Witnessing myself working day in and day out has produced a similar feeling – working just to work.  I don’t have an end goal.  I’m so focused on the current process that I am losing sight of the outcome.

In the field of education, a constant focus is on the process of teaching, the process of learning, the process of ___ (fill in the blank).  In a recent conversation, I was challenged with the idea of the process not being the metric of importance, but rather the outcome.  So then is it the “outcome of the process” that is to be measured?  I want to argue that the outcome should be a longitudinal measurement and the process is simply a means to an end.

If you are a teacher – are you focused more on your teaching style and bettering your process in exchange of losing focus on the long-term outcome of student success?

If you are an administrator – are you looking room-to-room to watch processes and attempting to regulate certain processes or are you allowing innovation to occur in light of long-term school success?

If you are a stakeholder (i.e. – parent, student, committee member, etc) – are you getting caught up in the daily mishaps of individuals or are you able to step back and focus on the larger picture of every student having a bright future?  Are you hindering the success of a community by your selfish and simplistic mindset?

I want to challenge each individual to refocus and produce a clear vision this holiday season as you enter into your role.  The down time with family and friends can lend itself to new ideas.  Remember the longitudinal measurement of outcome as being your focus next time you find yourself complaining or even suggesting a new idea.  Don’t be like Forrest Gump.  Find yourself sprinting toward a goal of success!

Image from Ben Sutherland