Theory

Cultivate has been refined by significant theoretical input from across many disciplines.  In other words, we’ve done lots of reading.

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Abstract
Martin Heidegger
Ken Wilber
Otto Scharmer

We've done some reading

Abstract (top)
We all perceive innovations through a structure informed by our past (often negative) experiences.  This can easily blind us to the potential of a new innovation.. By adopting a strategy that reveals the energy faculty hold in their felt challenges and aspirations we can create a link between the innovation, a specific positive teaching and learning change, and critically, faculty desire.  We base this on the thought of, amongst many others, Martin Heidegger, Ken Wilber, and Otto Scharmer.

Martin Heidegger (top)
Our perception of Technology itself, as informed by Martin Heidegger’s classic essay ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ is our starting point.

What if the problem we have integrating innovations into the Institution lies not in our choice of technology but in our conception of Technology itself?  This idea is explored by Martin Heidegger in his essay ‘The Question Concerning Technology’.  He argues that we see technologies as discrete self contained ‘standing reserves’ of function awaiting us to release it at the push of a button.

Flick a switch to release the standing reserve of light in the lamp; push the throttle pedal to release the standing reserve of personal transport from your car.  The effect of this is to de-contextualize the technology in our eyes and fool us into thinking that the facility lies in the technology itself.  This leads to think that if the technology is robust, and if the human is trained to use it properly then the facility within the technology will be released upon command  Yet with complex technologies (like educational ones) this view runs into problems.

As an example: training someone to use a robust technology does not tell them why they should invest themselves in using it, or inspire them to use it creatively.  An affordance does not guarantee an outcome, and if an affordance is legislated then often the outcome is mimimum functional compliance rather than enthusiastic creativity.  If the value of an innovation lies in mere compliance this may be enough, but typically with educational innovations the vast majority of their value is in creative use, which must be coaxed, and cannot be legislated.

Ken Wilber (top)
How can we then integrate innovation and human creativity into a helpful ‘whole’ view?  The work Ken Wilber has done within the Integral Theory provides us with a framework in which to hold both human creativity (as experienced internally to us within our consciousness) and technology (as experienced externally in the realm of our senses).

From Wilber’s thought we derive the following: firstly that reality is a unified whole upon which we take perspectives and which we can grasp truthfully but not fully.

Secondly he argues that two (of his four) fundamental perspectives are that of the internal (felt internally) and external (experienced through the sensory).

Thirdly he argues we can understand any phenomenon best by understanding where we draw our artificial boundary around it, and which perspective we take upon it.

So to understand innovation integration within an Institution we choose to draw our boundary around teaching and learning.  This is composed of the external (hardware, software, behaviour) and internal (creativity, cognition, aspiration, challenge of those using it). Both are equally valid perspectives upon teaching and learning in an Institution; both play their part in delivering the whole and both have notions of quality attached to them.

Otto Scharmer (top)
If the internal realm of creativity, cognition, aspiration and challenge is as important as the external realm of hardware, software and behaviour how do we begin to work with the former?

Theory U, developed by Dr C. Otto Scharmer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the only change theory we’ve found that rolls up the internal and external elements of organizational life in a way that reflects the complex implications of Heidegger and Wilber’s insights.

Theory U

Theory U

The primary insight Scharmer offered was that faculty and our current perspective is the blind spot in our ability to bring about the creative use of innovations.  If I talk to you about the affordances of an innovation what do you hear?  Maybe all you’ll remember is the problems you had last time you tried to integrate an innovation into your teaching and learning; maybe you’ll be unable to imagine what this affordance will actually look like when applied in your classroom.  Scharmer’s insight is that it is these structures of thought and assumptions which prevent us seeing the external more clearly, so it is only in letting go of these structures and assumptions that we can take on a new perspective of creative possibility.

This letting go of our past structures of analysis, or downloading is the first  step of Theory U’s 5 part description of profound change. These 5 parts are echoed in the 5 thresholds of the Cultivate Journey.

Downloading: Letting go of our old opinions and perspective which tend to be incredibly self reinforcing. This is developing an open mind, freeing us to see disconfirming data.

Generative Listening: Opening ourselves to see the world from another’s perspective. This is developing an open heart, freeing us to see the whole in a new way.

Presencing: A combination of Presence and Sensing.  This is developing an open will, committing to going where the highest potential of the whole leads us.

Crystallizing: Starting to turn our insight into reality we now start to explore building prototypes and running pilot projects.

Institutionalizing: Spreading the word. We want to inspire our prototypers to go deeper and encourage others to embark on a similar journey.

In this way we can start to discover faculty’s internal felt needs and match them with the external innovations we know can make so much of a difference to their teaching and learning. (back to top)