Educate? Innovate!

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In this election year we continue to hear about “twenty-first century” skills. But what we should be talking about, IMHO, is what’s after the twenty-first century threshold. At the outset, the challenge seemed to be to simply be able to manage the data with which we are inundated. But as the tools to manage data have become more and more user-friendly, the next challenge is to find contexts for the pertinent information we encounter … context provided by the experience and expertise we bring to understanding information. When we have meaningful understanding of information, insight is created, the kind of insight that identifies opportunities for innovation. There is a shift from mere information management to insight.

Another major change we are experiencing is movement from the simple realization that we live in a global economy to actively contributing to a communal marketplace of ideas. The first decade of the twenty-first century kicked off with a celebration of the fact that we now have the capability to interact globally, and we have been doing that through various electronic communications. But with this capability now demonstrated daily, the next challenge is to use these tools to truly build communities across traditional geographic and political boundaries. It is slowly taking place as we bridge the challenges of time zones, language differences, and cultural differences. There is a shift from simple global awareness to collaborating communities world-wide.

There is a progression of four different stages in this thinking:

The Ideate Paradigm: Generating ideas based on global information. This is where the twenty-first century started. It is the result of norm-referenced standardized testing and the push to compare ourselves not only with local students, but students elsewhere. The institutional reaction to how students compare to others around the world generates entirely new initiatives to close gaps and document student achievement improvement. This approach is linear and sequential and focused on deficits. It is Zeno’s “racetrack paradox,” which states that if you keep advancing half the distance to the finish line, mathematically you never actually reach it. (Aristotle, Physics 239b11-13). This is the rut in which education sits today, and because it is statistically impossible to ever reach the finish line, public education has become politicized and polarized. No one wins.

The Automate Paradigm: Utilizing digital technology to complete a number of traditional tasks faster, more accurately and with greater ease than we used to be able to accomplish the same tasks in the industrial age. This has been a huge breakthrough in productivity and efficiency. Unfortunately it has also made technology a primary focus in-and-of itself. Automating our schools does not transform education; it simply builds on the ways we already teach with new tools used to complete traditional goals. Of particular concern is the role vendors are now playing in education decision-making; the lines have blurred and we are not necessarily making educational decisions based solely on the needs of the learner. There is now an insidious commercial influence that has the potential to move public education into the domain of private enterprise.

The Informate Paradigm: Using digital communications and learning tools, we can create new ways to empower every family to support their children as learners. Instead of focusing on the technology, transform education by building capacity for all family members, students and parents, to be ctive life-long learners. This paradigm transcends automating, looking past immediate task-focused instructional goals and focusing on a global destination for public education: the more school-aged families become acclimated to using information portals, electronic communications and online learning communities, the more we will realize our mission in public education to provide a free, appropriate education for everyone. In this paradigm we elevate the impact of education by engaging all stakeholders using the tools we have at our disposal.

The Innovate Paradigm: Beyond generating ideas, automating tasks and informating electronically, innovating is the ultimate goal: generating original knowledge, new products and novel solutions to problems that are valued across learning communities. To innovate is to push the envelope, take risks, gain insight and eventually break new ground that contributes to the greater good. Risks that do not produce innovation are not considered failures, but opportunities to gain insight for future risk-taking, as well. This is the growth mindset in action. Find a point on the horizon where you know you and your students must be and then use the insight you possess to figure out how to get there. As a result of reaching that point on the horizon, the worldwide economy is infused with energy and ideas and new possibilities. This is the future today’s children will inherit, and we must prepare them for it.

So, rather than fixating on twenty-first century skills, identify where you are now in this 4-stage progression on the grid below and then figure out your next steps to help your students and school and community move forward toward innovating. Do you have to go through each of the four stages listed above to reach innovation? No. The matrix is simply a high-level snapshot of where we are and where we are headed. Instead of trying to match the matrix step-for-step, practice true innovating by finding the point on the horizon where you know you need to be…a model innovator…and then work to gain insight on how you will get there. Take risks based on your insight, and learn from your journey.

innovategirdHow do we summarize the journey to innovating? From an education perspective, we need to transform the ways we work, the ways we teach, and the ways we learn. We cannot simply reform the old model. We must transform public education into a new, global, innovating enterprise that becomes the engine for a revitalized economy.

Technology is integral in both converting raw data (information) into understanding (insight) and bridging the gap between comparing ourselves to other cultures (global awareness) to participating in new societies (collaborating communities). Although the focus can’t be on the technology itself, we as educators must be looking for the ways the technology can open possibilities for our students to learn.

Of course, the focus always comes back to student learning. Melding our understanding of how the world is changing, how technology is providing opportunity, and a sound understanding of intelligence is a roadmap that can lead our educational system not only deep into the twenty-first century, but well beyond.

CT Supts: Education Needs Clearer Vision

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Reposted from the Connecticut Mirror:

The following commentary represents the views of 12 Connecticut superintendents of schools:

The journey of education reform, which has at times moved in a deliberate direction and at other times wandered in many directions, is currently at a very important and, potentially exciting, crossroads. At this moment, a narrow window of opportunity has presented itself. As the federal government debates renewing the failed No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB), our state is set to submit our latest plans to be held harmless from the sanctions of NCLB through a federal waiver, last done in 2012, and due for renewal on March 31, 2015.

Any effective system is best served by knowing when an important juncture presents itself and identifying, at that precise moment, the changes necessary to travel down the road of continuous improvement. Our public school landscape is littered with initiatives, while the vision for learning in Connecticut lacks clarity and coherence.  In this “vision void” our measures (i.e. test scores) have become our goals, confounding the purpose of schooling and perpetuating yet another round of piecemeal initiatives.

The path we should avoid taking is the one that implements the NCLB waiver plan as the de facto vision for the education of Connecticut’s children. Instead we should identify a clear and compelling vision for education in our state and employ all of our resources to achieve it. Staying the course of current reform efforts without a deep analysis of the effects in actual classrooms across the state will further cement the system of compliance and “one size fits all” that grips our very diverse school districts like a vise. One way to clarify the vision is to answer the direct and simple questions:

What are the most worthy outcomes of our public education system?

Are we preparing our students for the world they will enter when they graduate?

Is our public education system positioned for continuous improvement, as opposed to ranking, sorting and punishing?

To what extent do our laws increase conformity at the expense of innovation?

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Innovation as Freewheeling Collaboration [INFOGRAPHIC]

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When it comes to great ideas, intuition is “more powerful than intellect.” That’s according to the late Steve Jobs. Many experts would agree that truly transformative ideas rarely come from one individual with a high IQ. Instead, these researchers, executives and entrepreneurs believe that innovation is largely the result of freewheeling collaboration – with just a few guidelines. Bluescape organized a few of these experts’ insights into four main steps in the above infographic on creating an effective idea strategy.

View the original post here.

Further Explanation of the Transformational 6 Questions on Technology Use

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Reposted from November Learning:

In a recent webinar, more than 90% of school leaders responded that they were leading an innovative school as a result of the implementation of technology. At the end of the webinar, when polled again, only one leader claimed to be leading an innovative school. The complete reversal was due to a presentation of the Six Questions that you will read about in this article.   This list of questions was developed to help educators be clear about the unique added value of a digital learning environment.

Test your own level of innovation.  If you answer no to all Six Questions when evaluating the design of assignments and student work, than chances are that technology is not really being applied in the most innovative ways. The questions we ask to evaluate implementation and define innovation are critical.

(Beyond SAMR: Special note to those of you applying SAMR. Many educators who believed their assignment to be at the highest level of SAMR have discovered that the answer can be NO to all six of the transformation questions.)

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Are You Technology Rich, But Innovation Poor?

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Reposted from eSchool News:

At the start of a webinar Alan November recently conducted for school leaders, he asked attendees if they felt they were leading an innovative school as a result of the implementation of technology. More than 90 percent responded that they were. At the end of the webinar, when polled again, only one leader claimed to be leading an innovative school.

The complete reversal was due to a presentation on the six questions that you will read about in this article – a list of questions that were developed to help clarify for educators the unique added value of a digital learning environment, and whether their assignments were making the best use of this environment.

Want to test your own level of innovation? If you answer no to all six questions when evaluating the design of assignments and student work, then chances are that technology is not really being applied in the most innovative ways. The questions we ask to evaluate implementation and define innovation are critical.

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Your Innovation Investment

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Innovation is generative. It finds solutions where there are no conditions or preconceptions. It is selfless, often born from collaboration and cooperative effort. It is creative, seeking new ways to solve existing problems.

So when businesses start up based on an innovative idea, solution or product, it’s fresh, new and exciting. People have found their way “outside the box” to new ways of thinking and looking at the world.

But when businesses launch fueled by innovation, they eventually feel the forces of the marketplace pushing them to shift, to sustaining and maintaining business interests. This is a problem. Business self-interest undermines continued innovation.

We have seen this over time, again and again. Businesses founded around thinking differently eventually become part of the corporate landscape. The same people who were once shaking things up with new thinking are now towing the company line. Business culture is “the box.”

As consumers, we contribute to this phenomenon. Brand loyalty becomes an inhibitor of innovation. Not for the companies in question, but for us, as players in the marketplace. When our brand loyalty feeds the status quo, we’re part of the problem. How many companies to which we are loyal have the same kind of corporate bottom line as their competitors? And why would you want to support that company exclusively, when their priorities are no longer the ideals that founded their existence?

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a place for corporate leaders in the free marketplaces of ideas and commerce. They create stability. They set standards for product excellence. They finance numerous philanthropic initiatives. But they also create inertia. They resist change and they protect their self-interest. In short, they unintentionally but necessarily grow to join the establishment culture.

My point is this. If you are truly a human potential professional, dedicated to learning, critical thinking, creativity and innovation, be aware that the choices you make spending dollars should be consistent with your calling. Blind brand loyalty goes against everything we are about as educators, by definition. And the more of us who betray that calling in the marketplace, the more we thwart innovation.

It doesn’t take some cynical, deliberate plot. Blind brand loyalty is as easy as lazy thinking and old habits. On the other hand, walking the walk takes effort and a mindful self-awareness. Am I supporting innovation in deciding from whom I choose to buy? Am I conscious about how my economic choices either enhance or undermine my educator creed?

Each of us…enough of us…choosing not to just follow blind brand loyalty, create ripples, waves and currents that influence corporate giants and how they operate in the marketplace. Sending the clear message that we support innovation…that we are constantly reassessing where we invest our time, energy and money…that we don’t buy into yesterday’s ad campaign slogans…that we won’t mindessly line their pockets with our money…that we make deliberate choices to invest in the future.

12 Ed Tech Companies To Watch In 2015

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Reposted from Forbes:

Education technology, known as EdTech, is taking by storm schools, students and the process of learning across the globe. Tech companies from Silicon Valley to Tel Aviv have begun providing solutions to problems ranging from cost efficiency of schools to adaptive learning and global access of high quality education.

EdTech companies are among the most innovative players in the world, and here are 12 companies to watch in 2015 in the space…

This list is presented by Shama Hyder, Founder & CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, an author and keynote speaker. Connect with her via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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