Pssst … there is no box. Pass it on!

I like bananas. I have been peeling them since my childhood, quite successfully I thought, but apparently not! Recently, I was dismayed to learn that I have been doing it all wrong! Shame on you if you have also been peeling your bananas the wrong way! To assist you to amend your ways, here is the correct method:

We are regularly urged to think outside box, but maybe we should take a moment to think about the characteristics of this “box”. What is it?

Mostly, isn’t the “box” simply bunch of constraints, a set of boundaries that we create ourselves, (or others create for us), often arbitrarily, about what supposedly can and cannot be done or about how things apparently must be done? It is a “box” that imprisons our thinking, stifles our creativity and sucks the life out of innovation.

Most boxes are created on a false premise: that the TRADITIONAL WAY of doing something is THE WAY of doing it.

Some time ago I was trying to share the benefits of Twitter for education with teachers in my school. I demonstrated one use by tweeting the key points of an important meeting and then emailing the hashtag I had used to the entire staff – over 150 people! The only response of any sort that I received was a single tweet from a maths teacher who said he that felt it was inappropriate and “dangerous” to use Twitter for professional purposes. Apparently, as Twitter is SOCIAL media, is too “social” to have any place in education. There’s that infernal “box” again! It shuts our thinking down, yet it’s just a figment of our imagination. ven so, that imaginary box is so powerful!

To be fair, it is true that some “boxes” are necessary. If I am driving down the freeway at 100 km/hr I want other drivers to keep their thinking inside the road rule box. There are ethical boxes, codes of conduct boxes, OH&S boxes and so on. These types of “boxes” are there for good reason. Most boxes though are not like this and they should be burned immediately! Boxes limit our thinking, often without good reason.

Perhaps one of the most glaring places where “boxed” thinking slows progress is regarding the role of digital technologies in learning. Almost every type of new digital technology has had to serve a mandatory banning period before students are finally permitted to use it at school. What is such thinking really about?

leadership resistance1

In discussions about pedagogy, individualised learning, use of digital technologies, including mobile phones, social media and other things that are usually not found inside the imaginary box, educators commonly push back asking, ‘Why should we use them?’ Perhaps a better question is ‘Why shouldn’t we utilise such pervasive, contemporary, student funded, parent approved (or at least accepted), popular tools for collaborating, sharing, communicating, evaluating and more?’

There maybe be some skills, some knowledge, some understandings that need to be developed, but that should  hardly be a big deal for an educational institution!

There is no box! “Boxes” are fictitious touchstones that we should expunge from our minds, unfettering our thinking to consider new ideas, releasing ourselves and others to courageously move forward. “Box” thinking generates hesitation and inaction. We repel change. We treat innovation with suspicion. We stagnate in an unfulfilling job. We hold others back when they need to move. Don’t “box” yourself. Don’t let other’s “boxed” thinking dominate your life. There is no box!

Everyone except for the King knew that he didn’t really have any new clothes. Everyone needs to know that there is no “box”!

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