From Google: define blinders:
1. A pair of small leather screens attached to a horse's bridle to prevent it seeing sideways and behind.
2. Something that prevents someone from gaining a full understanding of a situation.
Evidently, blinders, or blinkers as they are called as well, are designed to keep a horse from looking backward, as well as towards the side. It's believed that they may help the horse stay on target, moving forward without being distracted.
But I like the second definition better.
Consider your typical school. How many in the organization are truly aware of the forces that are shaping education today? How many are aware of the learning opportunities available to people outside of traditional school? How many live in an isolated world still shaped by "What We've Alway's Done" and with a view that looks forward, but down the same path, and without the benefit of peripheral vision, and the potential opportunities afforded by a wider range of exposure to new ideas and new ways of thinking?
Worse, how many in education today are comfortable wearing blinders?
Take your school. How many are aware of the Open Courseware movment, that has reached over 100 million people in a decade? How many saw today that MIT announced a new endeavor called MITx? OK, to be fair, it was just released today. But take a look at the learning environment they are trying to create-would most see that as something to follow, to learn about, to participate in, to understand? Or is that just something happening at MIT, and well, it's MIT.
Take your school. How many are aware of, and could explain the significance, of the Artificial Intelligence course at Stanford? Or the online high schools at George Washington University, at Stanford, or the Insight School of Washington. Or, for that matter, the rise of K-12 blended learning?
More importantly, do they care to understand? Are they challenged by what they don't know, and how it impacts what they do, their profession?
Take your school. How many could explain the principles of learning within a massive open online course (MOOC)? Could they take the foundations of a MOOC course and adapt them for their classroom?
Would they at least try?
Take your school. How many could intelligently explain the impact of No Child Left Behind and AYP? Response to Intervention? Race to the Top?
Or, is it a belief that understanding all of that is someone else's issue, and if we wait long enough, it will go away anyway. It has in the past…
How many could explain "flipping the classroom?" That's been out there for a while. My guess is not that many.
More importantly, if they didn't know what that entails, would they at least be curious enough to explore the practice? Perhaps even try it? Take the initiative to try?
Or, with a sly smile, and a dismissive wave, explain that they know what works, and they know what's important for kids. After all, they've been doing it for years.
For your school, and for you, are your efforts to improve constrained by a narrow focus on the immediate, and what's directly in front of you?
Or do you have the capacity for a more wholistic vision, one in which disruptive opportunities and concepts, in the periphery and perhaps not yet in the "mainstream", challenge your intellect and potentially inform practice and action?
Or, are you wearing blinders?
image from istockphoto.com