Schools Should be Like Netflix, Not Blockbuster

Teaching has changed forever (and will continue to change).

Want to know why?

It’s not because of new standards. It’s not because the state is telling us to do something differently. It’s not because the federal government is asking for more accountability. Our teaching practice has to change because of one very important truth…

Our learners have changed (and will continue to change).

Also, our information about the world has evolved. We know more. We better understand how the brain works, how learning happens, and how this connects to our daily practice. Yet, it can be difficult to get every teacher on the same page when moving forward.

I often talk with teachers who are giving their best every single day. But in the midst of the “grind” we can easily forget that the world is changing, our students are changing right along with it, and we have a responsibility to move our practice forward as well.

When I talk with schools I often give this message: We need to think and act like Netflix, not like Blockbuster.

A Model That Works, Sometimes Needs to Be Changed

blockbuster digital strategyBlockbuster was doing everything right. They had a fantastic business. It was booming and growing each year. They would tweak something here or there. Improve customer service. Move to DVDs or Blu-ray. But the model stayed the same. Because in all honesty: the model was working.

Netflix came along and challenged Blockbuster by telling customers they didn’t have to go to the store anymore. Netflix would send the DVDs right to your house…for a monthly flat fee. A lot of people liked this. They could go online, pick out the movies and tv shows to add to their queue, and have a steady flow of DVDs coming in throughout the month.

Blockbuster said, “we can do that too…” – but you all know this is not how the story ends.

Netflix changed their entire business model to meet the growing needs of people who wanted to stream movies and tv shows to their devices.

The difference is simple: Netflix saw how the world was changing around them, and adjusted accordingly. They weren’t doing something “better”, instead they were doing something “different” because it matched what was actually happening in the world.

Schools should be like Netflix

We Can Do Things Better, But What Should We Do Different?

To me, this is the big question. I’m not saying schools are like businesses (because they are not). I’m also definitely not saying students are like consumers (because they are not).

Instead, let’s take this lesson and apply it to our schools with a focus on change. We know the world around us is constantly changing and many of those changes are effecting the everyday lives of our students and teachers:

So, if all this change is happening, and we know that change is going to be a “constant” in our lives…let’s come together to see what needs to be done differently. Here are some questions I’m asking at our school right now, and they are questions that continually need to be asked over time:

How can we shape our learning activities and assessments to match what the world actually looks like right now?

How can we create a curriculum cycle that is flexible and adaptive enough to allow for doing things differently each year if need be?

How can we focus on student-centered learning opportunities all of the time instead of some of the time?

Netflix isn’t a perfect model to look at, but we can take one thing away from their story: They have changed with the world, instead of fighting back at it.

Let’s try and do the same thing in education. Teach different, because our learners’ world is different.

How are you tackling this huge shift in your school? Would love to hear in the comments.

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  • Meg Parkhurst says:

    Wow! Great thoughtful post. There are so many relevant questions that we need to spend more time addressing in our schools. I think the use of technology is the biggest and understanding that we need to see technology as changing the way that we think and changing the way that we produce. It’s not just about replacing things that we used to do without technology to things that we do with technology. It’s about creating a whole new product or sharing an idea with a whole new audience within a more creative format.
    Thanks for sharing. I look forward to hearing others’ ideas.

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