As many of you who know me are aware, I’m heading into my dissertation phase….so guess what? No more writing. Not for a while anyway. I’ll be writing for the next 18-24 months – so between work and teaching and my doctorate, I need to concentrate heavily on that piece of paper! I hope you’re all with me…sorry if you were a regular reader. But priorities are priorities See you in a couple of years!
August 10, 2009
June 15, 2009
I just got back from Australia…what a confusing place that is! They use dollars, but not the same dollars as the US (obviously). They are 16-18 hours behind my beloved Mountain time zone, depending on the time of year. Australia uses centigrade, so when I asked what the temperature would be one evening and heard, “10-15″…I was hosed. I was asked several times if I was staying in the CBD, to which I incorrectly answered, “No, I’m staying at the Hilton…”
But at the end of the day, all of the differences aside, one thing seems to be universal – even down under. Education is in trouble. Talking to educators ended up in the same conversations I have in the states, just counter-clockwise. They’re worried about quality, outcomes assessment, education dollars, and authentic curriculum just like we are in the states. Australian teachers have problem students, problem parents, and problems with administrators just like teachers in the states. Administrators have difficulty with rogue teachers, consumer minded students, and whether to go online with all programs, just like the states. In fact, it seems that we’re all in the same boat for just about every major, educational trend I know of.
So I have to ask…WHY? Why do so few countries seem to get it right? Why are there so many problems? Why aren there so few innovators and visionaries leading the (correct) way down a path towards enlightenment?
Luckily, I have an answer. It’s simple, really: argumentum ad antiquitatem is what it’s all about. Yep, a simple fallacy in reasoning is the culprit behind decades of inaction and fearful speculation. The appeal to tradition is paralyzing education around the world…
Ok, so maybe it’s not just that simple, but listen for a moment to my reasoning. If you look at most scholars who gauge educational relevance, they’ll put it somewhere between 3 and 5 decades late. In other words, educators still teach out-dated theories, practices that nobody uses anymore, and terminology that few “real world” practicioners understand. On top of that, most teachers use methods that are years behind, we force students to learn the ways in which we learned, and we ignore brain research instead focusing on antiquated learning theory.
So you may be sitting there getting frustrated by these comments. If so, odds are that you are 1) a teacher guilty of this (99% likely are…) or 2) an innovator who wants desperately to change things. Well friends, I’m with the innovators. For example, it still amazes me how few, traditional teachers accept the Internet as a viable way to educate. Is it best in every situation? Of course not. Is it better than on-ground teaching in many situations? Absolutely. I can show you rich, authentic, meaningful digital assets that will measurably enhance learning. Of course it’s scary too. It provides a level of accountability that educators aren’t necessarily used to. Data mining is changing the face of online education and the measures / assessments brought with it are going to cause tremendous angst for some instructors. I’ve been in meetings where teacher’s union representatives have flat out denied the viability of online education explaining, “…we’ve never needed to teach that way before…” (yikes)
So you want a fix? Ok – here’s one. Call your Congressman – talk to your local school board – write our President. It will take a small portion of the education budget and some guts. But here we go…
Offer X grants per state for innovative education ideas. Something like 3 schools per state would likely work. One should be elementary, one should be high school, and one should be at the college / university level. The key is in the proposal – it has to be “out of the box” and it has to be adopted institution wide. What would “innovative” look like? Well, I don’t know exactly. The beauty of innovation is that it draws from the collective brain trust. BUT, one key aspect of the proposal would be measurement. How do you measure success? That question has to be answered farily and justly in order to receive consideration. For the opponents of NCLB, this gives them the opportunity to create their own measures. For the proponents, they can use the metrics already in place if desired. But real measurement must provide the outcome.
Let me give one example to get the ball rolling. How about the New City School in St Louis? This is a school where every student has a DEEP understanding of HOW s/he learns. As a result, diversity is embraced without being forced. Collaboration becomes second nature to these kids. And all the while, they see how they BEST learn, while figuring out how to mitigate their own lack of learning styles. In other words, they learn practical application of authentic tasks & assessment – what better way do we have to prepare students for the real world? THAT is innovative.
So, we get 3 schools per state to “pilot” a program for 1, 2, maybe even 3 years. Do you know what we get when we’re done? 150 case studies. We get 150 stories of success or failure. We see what might work, what likely wouldn’t work, and what we should consider rolling out to dozens…heck, to hundreds of schools. It might involve new ways of designing curriculum, different textbook configurations, innovative projects, new uses for technology, providing students with unique tools, or a myriad of other ideas.
We have always been a country that embraces innovation and creativity. While that’s not easy for big business or our government, as a country we still idealize the concept that a new way of doing something may be effective. (Obviously we have to be cautious of the fallacy of novelty…that’s another blog.) So let’s put our money where our mouths are. Let’s let educators put up or shut up. I believe in my heart that there are some creative, innovative educators out there with some potential solutions to our education crisis. Let’s give them a stage to present their ideas and potentially shine.
So would this “fix” education? Probably not. We’re talking about a system that has problems from top to bottom. Just look at the problem with cafeteria foods as it correlates to learning, obesity, and focus (http://www.jamieoliver.com/school-dinners). But, might this start the ball rolling to get more and more of our students educated in a system that creates a more competetive employee! At least I think it might.
So let’s see. I read article after article in INC., WIRED, NEWSWEEK, FORBES, and dozens of other publications about how to tap into innovation and creativity. Why don’t we start modeling and (therefore) teaching it to our students right now? It could lead to education reform that helps us financially, academically, and systemically. Creativity could lead us to a system of education that prepares students for a real world future…whatever continent of our world they may happen to reside in.
Would you like to talk about innovation in education? Want to learn how to both teach and assess creativity in your students? Contact jborden@jeffpresents for more information!
February 22, 2009
What is your favorite, dramatic, uplifting “school” movie? Is it the one about the young teacher who goes into a group of underprivileged students and shows them how to learn in a way that’s meaningful to them? Or maybe it’s the movie with the stranger who teaches students to use tools they didn’t know they had like dance, martial arts, or painting to find in-roads to learning. Ok…so you probably realize that I just gave the basic plot for most every school-based drama in the past 100 years!
(Notice I said drama – while I enjoy the work of Belushi & Farley, those comedies are another blog – probably one about togas. And movies about school sports don’t qualify this week either. By the way, what’s the best school sports movie? If you said Hoosiers, give yourself an A+)
So who is ready to fix education? I know I am. Unfortunately, I don’t get to waive my magic wand anytime soon. But I strongly believe one road to fixing education is along the path of innovation. Let’s start planting the seeds of creativity and innovation and see what springs up!
A Youth Movement: How many educators have been at it for more than 20 years? Too many, right? Whether it’s that high school biology teacher who taught you, your brother, AND your mom or the college professor who has had tenure longer than you’ve had a driver’s license, some teachers have been through enough changes to beat the fight out of anyone! I’ll be the first to admit that MOST (not all) innovative ideas come out of youth. You could argue it’s naivety, but often it’s that lack of “understanding” (read: cynicism) that is what propels someone forward down a path of originality.
It’s hard for me to write this. I’m not “young” anymore. I stopped getting looks from teenage girls when I was still a teenager! But I will admit as a new father, while I love the wisdom and security that comes with being an almost-40 dad, I sure would like a few less aches & pains and a bit more energy. Our young teachers with ideas based on their RECENT experiences and new theories in educational thinking should be given a shot here. Teachers who embrace technology, new ways of thinking about assessment, and who connect with students in a paradigm-breaking new way should be allowed to innovate within our educational walls.
Old Dogs / New Tricks: But innovation isn’t just for the young. While there may be less creativity and passion for change in seasoned veterans, that doesn’t mean we’re dead! Some of the most innovative professors I meet are older than I am and loving the “revolution” (that’s what they call it) of technology based education. They’re the ones who have longitudinal data to suggest ways to bridge major educational concepts like variance, curriculum integration, and collaboration.
I will point out that much of this innovation can (and should) come from OUTSIDE the education community. The ideas for new thought and creative process would often be best served by people who haven’t been indoctrinated already. Disrupting Class is a great example here – some non-academics used business technology and assessment to identify areas of change and need in classrooms. Brilliant. Where else could education get a boost? Imagine how scientists could change science curriculum to be more interesting and more practical? What about a Chief Operations Officer teaching business process to Freshman? (Andy…you know you should do this…) Or what about professional speakers changing how communication is taught in public speaking classes?
It’s time for a change. This of course means it’s time to put our money where our mouth is. Put out the call and have people compete for creative, innovative ideas with the goal being real money, real schools, and real kids. And by all means don’t blow it with a judging committee of old school educators! We’re talking about challenging the norms here! We don’t need anyone with terminal PP (paradigm paralysis) clogging up the works. While it will be important to monitor closely and I’m certainly not suggesting a blank check with no measures or objectives – but let’s not stop the process before it even starts. Get a healthy mix of experts, radicals, conservatives, parents, students, and non-educator types to help pick a winner.
Let’s jump start a new paradigm in teaching. Can you imagine 1 of these programs per state? Let’s say that 10% work (although I’d bet on more than that). Now we have 5 strong models to look at for adoption in other areas. If we had this contest every year, we’d eventually have a generation of learners having been touched by some form of innovation.
And now that I have a 2 year old…I want her to get the results of that innovation. Here’s to a world of change Addie girl. I hope we can embrace it for you.
Want to hear more about online education? Interested in real solutions to cheating and plagiarism? Contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!