How do we innovate in education?

This is a pretty important point, given that education seems to be the slowest field to innovate. Or more accurately, schools seem to be inordinately slow at innovating their cultures and structures to adjust to what we know about teaching and learning . To help answer that question, albeit in very general terms,  I offer this quote recently encountered in one of the books I am volleying between at the moment: Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, by Steven Johnson.

“What kind of environment creates good ideas? The simplest way to answer it is this: innovative environments are better at helping their inhabitants explore the adjacent possible, because they expose a wise and diverse sample of spare parts – mechanical or conceptual – and they encourage novel ways of recombining those parts. Environments that block or limit those new combinations – by punishing experimentation, by obscuring certain branches of possibility, by making the current state so satisfying that no one bothers to explore the edges – will, on average, generate and circulate fewer innovations than environments that encourage exploration.”

So what specifically is it about schools that limit their ability to innovate? Please share with the rest of the class…..

Schools and Change – Do We Adapt or Do We React?

A recent post by Clay Shirky – Institutions, Confidence, and the News Crisis – got me thinking about schools as institutions, and how they handle change. Here’s a quote form the post:

“The ability of institutions to adapt slowly while preserving continuity of mission and process is exactly what lets them last longer than a single leader or lifespan. When change in the outside world outstrips an institution’s adaptive capabilities, though, the ability to defend the internal organization from outside pressures can become a liability. Stability can tun into rigidity and even institutional blindness.”

Now, Shirky is talking about the news industry here, but the idea applies to all industries. So for schools too, institutional history and momentum are important. But change is inevitable and necessary, and it is how the organization changes that determines how well momentum and continuity of mission are carried through. A key notion here in how change is met – and it is a notion that needs to be made clear – is that  being adaptive is different than being reactive. In other words, all change is not healthy. An organization is adaptive that changes its long term goals based on a changing world, and acts accordingly to meet those goals. A reactive organization changes according to immediate environmental pressures and, if it survives, becomes a product of those pressures instead of a product of its own intention and mission.

These questions come to me:

  1. What are the changes that schools are currently undertaking (private and public), and are they being reactive or adaptive?
  2. Shirky speaks of institutions as needing continuity of mission and process. How much of what we do is up for discussion while still retaining continuity of mission, and is continuity of process a requirement for stability, or is process potentially one of the things that might need to change in adaptation?
  3. Is it perhaps the preserving of schools as institutions in their current form that keeps us from making the changes needed to actually fulfill our mission in education?

Your thoughts appreciated.

Also look for more on these questions in future posts…

Role of Technology in Education

As most of us know, literacy is not just about reading any more. The printed book was a giant leap forward in our ability to distribute information, but we are now in the fairly early stages of another information revolution – one that requires the definition of literacy to be expanded. In today’s world, we are dealing with orders of magnitude more information, coming from orders of magnitude more sources, with orders of magnitude (you get the idea) more avenues to distribute and publish – so the problem isn’t simply how to read the information any more: in this new world of information surpluss, it is about directing the flow of information inward and outward, evaluating it and processing it, collaborating with others to do more with it than we can alone – ulitmately making it serve our goals, interests, and needs.
These are skills we take very seriously at Stevenson, and to help further these ends, our job in the technology department is to:
1) manage an evolving infrastructure that can support the practice and use of these skills
2) to support the faculty as they endeavor to weave the development of these skills into their curricula
3) to help identify how the ever-evolving techno-sphere can further learning in all areas

How does technology relate to education, and what role does a technology department play in a school? Read on for some musings…

As most of us know, literacy is not just about reading any more. The printed book was a giant leap forward in our ability to distribute information, but we are now in the fairly early stages of another information revolution – one that requires the definition of literacy to be expanded. In today’s world, we are dealing with orders of magnitude more information, coming from orders of magnitude more sources, with orders of magnitude (you get the idea) more avenues to distribute and publish – so the problem isn’t simply how to read the information any more; In this new world of information surpluss, it is about directing the flow of information inward and outward, evaluating it and processing it, collaborating with others to do more with it than we can alone – ulitmately making it serve our goals, interests, and needs.

These are skills every school should take very seriously, and to help further these ends, the job of a technology department should be to:

1) manage an evolving infrastructure that can support the practice and use of these skills

2) support the faculty as they endeavor to weave the development of these skills into their curricula

3) help identify how the ever-evolving techno-sphere can further learning in all areas

Thoughts, comments?

ISTE 2010 – Day 2 Takeaways

Also known as Alan November day. Here are nuggets from two great sessions with Alan:

Alan November
Empathy: The 21st-Century Skill

www.NovemberLearning.com blog /  podcasts

Globalize the curriculum

Develop contacts with teachers and children around the world

Overseas students work harder than their teachers. How do we do that
here?

CEO of largest bank in world: most important skill for global business
= empathy

Michael Wesch (videos on YouTube
Anthropologist) – independently also says empathy

West point mission study commissioned by Petreus: old mission = win
the war
New mission = win the peace

Difference is not adding technology to old curriculum.
Do we need to change our mission?
Test scores as mission is way to fail.
Impose NCLB on other countries if we want to win

How you set up your search determines what viewpoint you get – what do
they think in turkey? Use root zone database for country codes

Assignment: what are British kids essays like on the American
revolution?
Site:sch.uk “American revolution”
Compare and contrast brit and American point of view. Find email
address of teacher who is responsible for content.
Will students be more prepared for the skype debate with the Brit students
or for test on subject: was revolution inevitable?

All content involving other countries or cultures should involve
finding their viewpoint

Starting in kindergarten!

Public schools were put in place for democracy

Tools needed to become president are blocked in most schools (social
media)

Digital Learning Farm: Students as Contributors

We have undervalued the contribution that can be made by kids in our
schools

Strategy for improving learning is to focus on the conversations
between kids

Purpose, not just relevance for school “work”

Students could design tutorials for the entire curriculum

Not grading produces better work if there is purpose in the assignment

First day of school
Give kids top ten most difficult concepts and ask them to help teach it

See hitech high
Best test scores in CA

Shift control of learning to students
And responsibility

Rich media stories of what they learned that week
Do not grade these ! Reduces quality (dan pink )

Rotating scribes (or scribe teams) as benefit to learning, sharing,
social integration , and formative feedback to teacher
-by end of year kids have written the textbook, adding much of their
own content

Team of kids:  find all the applications of a cell phone for learning

Have kids contribute to building custom search engines (and teachers)

“Can I answer my own question too?”

Official researcher (rotating) finding best resources during each
lecture to place into custom search engine

Global communicator too – find global contacts related for each lesson
for authentic interaction and other viewpoints

Use kiva.com – kids raise money and decide who to give it to

Have kids create or edit wikipedia entries

ISTE 2010 – Leadership Bootcamp

This was the first year of the leadership bootcamp at ISTE, with help from TIE Colorado. Not the best use of everyone’s time, but not a bad first year. Chris Lehmann’s (blog) lunch address was worth the day in itself. Most of the sessions in the three tracks were focused on professional learning networks, or some variation thereof, and there was significant overlap between all of the sessions. And as usual, there was plenty of do as I say and not as I do.

Here are the nuggets from Chris’s lunch address, though, which I thought were very valuable and worth repeating:

Angelo Patri
Innovative educator early 1900s. Look into what he was up to

Education not training

Citizens not workers

Responsibility instead of accountability

Innovation not change

Technology like oxygen
Ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible

Neil Postman – check him out

Read Dewey again. Just do it

What’s good not what’s new

Empower teachers and students

Students should sit on every panel making divisions about the school

Not how will we fix schools but what do we want them to be

Focus on the middle third

Not me making you better but you and me making us better

Great Teachers

classroom

A recent article in the Atlantic, What Makes a Great Teacher, is a bit of a long read, but contains some excellent information. What makes a great teacher? Teach for America mines years of experience and on one of the broadest sets of data ever on the subject to propose the common characteristics of successful teachers.

Here’s my synthesis of their results (for those with short attention spans/time):

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