Monday, June 7, 2010

Technology, People, and Learning

My son Jesse, who’s 21, got us to re-watch a video today that Shelley (my wife) and I made way back in 1991 of a trip we made with some friends to Disneyland.  We used an 8mm mini-cam to record the Disney experience and edited using a VHS player that had a shuttle wheel.  Shelley wrote out the credits and introduction which we taped from a tri-pod facing the camera down to the paper “feed” while she slowly pulled it past the camera’s view.  We dubbed cassette tape music into the VHS player at key points to lay down some music tracks.  A two hour family movie was born.  It was a painful process with the technology available in 1991…

While re-watching the video I was impressed once again with the technical wizardry Disney used even 20 years ago.  The way they synchronized the characters in the Pirates of thimagee Caribbean or the Bear Jamboree and made them come to life was quite remarkable.

Video editing today is so much simpler than in 1991.  Even with free tools like iMovie or Movie Maker, one can do amazing things with video, images, music tracks, etc. With the tools available today, Disney Imagineers have a lot of new possibilities available to them.  Isn’t it amazing how they invent attractions and experiences that captivate millions of children and adults.  People keep coming back for more and spend a lot of money doing so.

Why is Disney so successful?  I’m reading a book imageby Lee Cockerell, a former executive of Disney where he shares Disney leadership strategies. I’m only half-way through but I think their focus on people (their employees are called Cast Members) and technology is the answer.  I like this quote he shares:
In times of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future” 
Isn’t that the truth hey.  He also says that:
Your people are your brand”
Disney’s purpose is:
“Be so nice to our guests that they won’t believe it” and “Make sure that every Guest has the most fabulous time of his or her life.”
So, technology aside, those of us who have had the pleasure of experiencing Disney’s magic know that without the people (well trained, great attitudes, well adapted) who make it worth the visit.  I think that we need to keep this fact in mind when we talk about the coming disruptions to education.

Some people think all learning will be online, self directed, and teachers won’t be as important.  I beg to differ.  I think most learning will be a blended combination of same place same time with a teacher guiding, sometimes teaching, and online, virtual, simulated, etc.  But, perhaps school systems should hire Disney Imagineers to design learning experiences.  Perhaps, school systems should practice the leadership strategies Disney bases its success on.  What if students, all of them, felt the pixie dust of learning the way kids and adults experience Disney?  With technology, learning can certainly move off the page and into some very engaging immersive online / digital experiences that connect with students passion.  That, should be the promise of technology for learning.

So what do you think about mixing Disney with School?  Or, using Disney as a model and guide for using technology to support learning?