Technology Solutions

We are all fairly used to hearing people use the expression "in your element" to describe a state when an individual is doing something that they are good at and they enjoy doing. Sir Ken Robinson in his book "The Element" formalises this concept and stresses its importance in the identification and in the facilitation of creativity within individuals. This powerful concept is worth considering and discussing in almost any societal context including in education, business, commerce, industry and leisure.

If you have viewed Robinson's video about his book or if you have read the text of "The Element" I think that you will agree that Robinson believes strongly that we as teachers can help each child find his/her element we will helping them towards to a level of personal fulfilment which will benefit not only the individuals but our communities and society as a whole.

He does, however, point us to issues and concerns about our educational system which include: a concern that we may be operating with a system best described through a 'industrial metaphor' rather than through a 'gardening metaphor', and that works against individuals finding their element; a concern that the current testing and target driven environment or 'fast food' rather than 'Michelin Star' model of quality control, flattens out diversity and so perhaps diverse creativity is not being recognised and encouraged; a concern that we are not fully aware of the needs of the Net generation and of a data driven society in the 21st century; a concern that we are locked into an old model of education; a concern that we may not be ensuring that children have an aesthetic experience in what they do in schools and so we need to make the programmes more interesting.

Robinson would appear to believe that: people do their best when they are doing what they love; lots of issues stop people from finding their element and often for well intentioned reasons - eg parents, peer pressure. Often we are advised against particular routes or career paths by well intentioned but ill-informed people. Finding your element involves attitude, aptitude, opportunity, and passion; we often aim too low to succeed rather than aiming high in case we fail; we should choose the parts of ourselves which 'are not us' and get rid of them to find the parts of us which expose our passion; Education is a very personal thing.

It may thus be be true to say that any teacher working within his/her Element will be more likely to teach with flair, enthusiasm and with a high likelihood of success. If the learner is operating within her/his Element, learning will be engaging, enjoyable and there will be an optimality about the experience. A high degree of individualised learning and/or attention to the needs of the individual is, however, necessary to achieve this goal. Clayton Christensen (Harvard) believes that change has to take place to achieve the level of individualisation necessary for effective 21st century education. Can this be facilitated through use of technology?

Reference: Clayton Christensen; "Disrupting Class - How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns"; 2008