Seeking REAL improvement in education? Want VASTLY improved schools? Learn a STARTLING BREAKTHROUGH in innovation. A new paradigm & culture of respect is the key
Seeking REAL improvement in education? Want VASTLY improved schools? Learn about a STARTLING BREAKTHROUGH process in innovation. A new paradigm & culture of respect is the key.
Why do we need true, innovative change in how we educate our young people? For this reason: while the existing system of education in the United States has many good aspects to it, elements of it are entirely outdated and the performance of American students reflects that problem.
Amid the current cutbacks and layoffs in our schools in Portland, Seattle and many other places, we need to search for system solutions that enable us to work smarter at educating the next generation. By "educating" I mean to draw out students' abilities to understand and deal with the problems THEY are facing now and will face in their future.
I spoke about educational innovation to a group of people in Portland, Oregon in June, 2010.
Here is the less-than 10 minute speech I gave:
Kelly Speaking on Educational Innovation Portland, Oregon—June, 2010
Here's my written version of understanding of what we need to understand and do to help our young people to learn.
Ideally, education is the process of transferring the knowledge and wisdom of one generation to the next. Education happens to students, as most of us know, through the process of a system. This system arose from one person—Horace Mann in the 1840s. He was the first Commissioner of education of the state of Massachusetts. He was impressed with the then highly advanced training in the Prussian army. So he went over there and studied their training and saw things there that now are very familiar to us here—the elements of the system.
That system involves desks in a row, hourly classes, learning, discrete specific subjects, being tested on the subjects, and being rewarded or punished, as the case may be, for our performance.
Now how is this going?
In some respects not well. And anyone can look up the statistics what our kids know compared to other kids around the world in terms of knowledge and skills, will find out that we don't do too well compared to most advanced or up-and-coming advancing countries.
How important is this?
H.G. Wells said that the future is a race between education and catastrophe.
By catastrophe, from our present vantage point in the second decade of the 21st century we see there are crises on multiple fronts—environmental, economic, military and political.
What is the solution to improving education?
In a word, the answer is innovation.
We know innovation from companies like 3M who gave us PostIt notes. And from younger companies, who more recently who gave us things like small computers and the Internet, Google search engines and iPhones.
"The future is a race between education and catastrophe."
We know innovation from Dick's Fosbury giving us the Fosbury Flop in the 1970s, which became the standard for high jumping in the decades that followed. He invented an entirely new way to do something.
So what would innovation in education look like?
I'd like to summarize that into two categories: new forms of governance and new processes of learning organization.
I and a team of other educators put together this book called Creating Learning Communities. It outlines new processes of governance and new forms of learning organization. One variation is student decided, student led small group projects. Students form teams pursuing the design and implementation of projects which they as individuals are excited about. This is innovative in terms of governance—students decide what they learn, instead of adults. And it is innovative in terms of the process of organizing their learning—they learn through projects and problem solving, rather than subjects.
This is amazing to see--students so excited about learning that they vote to lengthen their school day. No kidding. I have witnessed this miracle in a community school in nearby Vancouver BC.
This business of educational innovation is exciting—and if we focus on this, if we work hard, if we are diligent and persistent, and if we win the race between education and catastrophe, future generations will not curse us for the problems we failed to solve, but will sing our praises for the lovely sustainable world we gave them.
And that would be heart-warming.
My own consulting and facilitating experience includes working with educators, administrators and entire schools to seek solutions—solutions from the key stakeholders, from teachers, administrators, educational specialists, alternative educators, parents, AND students.
I ask you this:
What can you and I do to assist in bringing about innovation in education?
Please contact me if you'd like to have such a discussion for your school, or school district, or you child. The generations of tomorrow depend on people like you and me today!