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BLOGS.harvardbusiness.ORG – It’s not surprising that some of the long-standing problems facing U.S. K-12 education took a backseat given the unprecedented turbulence of 2008. But the darkening budgetary picture may ironically provide an opportunity for the most promising disruptive innovations in education in 2008 to break through the din in 2009.

The most promising reforms hold the potential to move us away from the current monolithic education system to one centered on individual student needs. Efforts that have made noise in this challenging time focus on “disrupting class”–changing our fundamental assumptions about how learning occurs, when it occurs, and where it occurs. They are challenging and improving upon the long-established learning interaction between student and teacher in the traditional classroom setting, which has remained strikingly unchanged for generations.

Players like Education2020,, Connections Academy, Insight Schools, KC Distance Learning, Michigan Virtual University, and the Idaho Digital Learning Academy all offer full “class” experiences online or virtually.

But the question of which disruption was the “Best of 2008” is a difficult one–and one that, realistically, we won’t know for many years. That said, we thought we should stir up some controversy and throw out three nominees–and then hear from you about which one you think is the best!

Our three nominees for the very best education disruptor of the year are Apex Learning; K12, Inc., and Florida Virtual School.

Apex Learning: With a comprehensive digital curriculum that connects students to teachers over the Internet, Apex Learning has seen fast growth in enrollments over the past year from a range of educational programs serving the complete spectrum of students–from those struggling to succeed in traditional programs to those capable of accelerating their learning. One of the pioneers in distance learning and virtual schooling, Apex Learning has increasingly been pulled into the brick-and-mortar classroom to provide solutions for alternative programs serving at-risk and low-performing students.

K12, Inc.: In most industries, integrated players tend to dominate at the outset. K12’s integrated nature–from curriculum development to delivery to professional development to accountability for student results–suggests it may be positioned for even greater success in the near future. K12 also demonstrates the flexibility to chase different opportunities as they arise. Although it began by serving younger children in the U.S. home-school market, K12 now offers supplemental high school courses in the U.S. and has offerings overseas as well. It also is exploring how gaming and other cutting-edge pedagogical techniques can bolster student learning.

Florida Virtual School: Florida Virtual School is the leader among the state-sponsored disruptors. Among its many policy innovations, Florida Virtual School’s autonomous, self-sustaining funding model (it receives a percentage of the per-pupil funds for each completed enrollment) is a key element for this organization’s success. The group’s growth trajectory is impressive: From 6,765 enrollments in 2000-2001, it grew to 25,615 enrollments in 2003-2004. And in 2007-08 a whopping 137,450 enrollments were completed.

Now it’s your turn. Which of the three finalists do you think is the best education disruption of 2008? Let us know and we’ll discuss the results in a future post. Also, let us know if we’ve failed to acknowledge a radical educational disruption from 2008. Maybe it was so disruptive that it didn’t make our own radar screen!

sokpintarneh ARTICLESFACTORY – With the right work you can get smarter, but there are also things you can do to appear to be more intelligent, and you can use some of them right now. So if you want to impress your boss or your friends with your intelligence, try a few of the techniques below. Some of them may actually improve your thinking skills too.

1. Study a current topic. Everyone has opinions about events in the news, but they usually don’t know much about these things. Learn more than the usual about one such current topic, and have an alternate view and you’ll definitely look smarter to others. If taxes are in the news, for example, not many people will know what the “Laffer Curve” is, and why it is so important. If you can explain this simple but relatively unknown idea, you’ll be the only one in the room with something truly unique to say about the issue.

2. Make it your conversation. Stick to topics you know something about, and you’ll always appear smarter. If there are things about which you are very knowledgeable, steer the conversation towards those subjects.

3. Use questions to look smart. Ask questions to which you know the answer. Immediately follow the other person’s answer with a clarification or another question, and you’ll appear to have understood the issue very quickly.

4. Spend time with intelligent people. Others will notice if you hang out with the most intelligent people around. You’ll may also learn a lot. However, don’t say much, except to ask an occasional smart question.

5. Increase your vocabulary. Read the “Enrich Your Vocabulary” section of Reader’s Digest or open the dictionary each day and choose a word to learn. A bigger vocabulary can impress others, and you’ll get smarter as well, because language is a big part of functional intelligence – but be sure to see the warning below.

6. Know how to use words. You might impress people with a better vocabulary, but using a word incorrectly can immediately lower their opinion of your intelligence. Expand that vocabulary, but use those words only when you are sure your usage is correct.

7. Have an obscure specialty. Suppose you know a little bit about the history of the Inuit people or the origin of gold mining. You’ll likely be the only one in the room who knows anything about these. This sets you apart, and any errors you make will pass undetected as well. Talk a bit about your “specialty” to impress, but be careful not to bore your audience with too much obscure knowledge.

8. Play a few intelligent games. Many people immediately think you are more intelligent when they learn that you play chess – and playing it might also help you get smarter. Scrabble will impress as well, and improve your vocabulary. Another intelligent game? Using the techniques here.

9. Openly appreciate other’s ideas. When someone has a great idea or a unique understanding of an issue, compliment them for it. When you recognize a person’s intelligence, he or she will often think you are more intelligent. And shouldn’t we give credit where credit is due in any case?

10. Learn a little about a lot of topics. Instead of reading only the usual magazines that interest you, browse several that cover unfamiliar subjects. Knowing a little about many things not only makes you appear more knowledgeable, but could help you get smarter as well. With enough general knowledge, when a woman brings up her favorite topic, you can ask an intelligent question to impress her and to learn more from her. It will impress people when you are familiar enough with a topic to know what to ask.

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