Creating an Engine for Breakthrough Innovation in STEM Education


Reposted from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement:

Just as we created DARPA to keep the United States at the forefront of technological advancement, we must pursue advanced education research projects to create breakthrough innovations to ensure that future generations of Americans have the skills and abilities they need to compete in and lead the world. Advancements emerging from this process would create the next generation of innovative, highly trained scientists and engineers to sustain a significant technological lead. It would also help to create an education system that promotes lifelong learning to enable U.S. workers to continue to adapt to rapidly changing technology environments and remain competitive.

Projects created within a DARPA model — like those necessary to win the race to the moon — do not fit well within traditional research management structures in which basic and applied research are separated. Typical applied research programs require specific milestones and clearly defined deliverables. Project details remain fairly static over the course of a project or program. In the DARPA model, by contrast, every project is a mini-moonshot. The final goal is clear, but the process for getting there remains nimble to account for what is learned during the research process and what new challenges may arise.

How do we use this process to create innovation in education? We bring together interdisciplinary teams of world-class experts with proven track records of innovative thought and action. It requires a balance of expertise, flexibility, discipline, collaboration, and creativity along with a visionary program officer to lead the work of these experts according to a rigorous program plan. Performers are given plenty of room to be creative while progressing toward the established goal.

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Seven Strategies for Changing the World


Reposted from Psychology Today:

Bob and Michele Root-Bernstein were recently honored by the Korean government with an invitation to provide the keynote address at the 2014 TECH+ conference, TECH+  standing for Technology, Economy, Culture and Humanity.  The goal of the conference was to highlight how these four fields can be integrated to foster open innovation, design, green growth, and the arts through innovation and entrepreneurial business practices.  Organized like a series of TED talks on steroids, the forum was hosted by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE), the Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology (KIAT), and the JoongAng Ilbo (part of JoongAng Media Network, a leading media group in Korea).

Bob provided a summary of many of their fundamental ideas about creativity in a talk entitled “Seven Strategies for Changing the World”. These strategies have been culled from Bob’s thirty years of personal experience as a management consultant for major biotech, pharmaceutical, and chemical companies as well as their ongoing study of successful innovators from every imaginable discipline.

Each strategy can be summarized with a single verb: 1) Imagine; 2) Question; 3) Doubt; 4) Constrain; 5) Train; 6) Match; 7) Act. And each strategy Bob presented can be learned and practiced separately, with benefits for everyday problem solving, so they are well worth keeping in mind whenever you undertake any new project. Together, they are far more powerful, representing a roadmap for transformational change. Here are more details on each strategy…

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8 Strategies That Nurture the Innovator Mindset


Reposted from Edutopia:

One thing that we always come up against, and I’m guessing it will sound familiar, is that students are often reluctant to engage in creative work because they fear making mistakes and are overwhelmed by open-ended design challenges. They can also be quick to give up when they experience a setback.

Dozens of practices and rituals come together to make our culture of creativity and innovation real for students. We find that, after just a few weeks in this setting, students are willing to imagine new possibilities, take risks, build off each other’s ideas, and keep going until they reach their goals.

The first step is to place the five elements of the mindset (or your own version) prominently on your classroom wall. Simply naming these attributes and teaching your students what they mean will emphasize that your goal is bigger than imparting knowledge. You’re making a statement that you see your students as people who have the power to chart their own course, rather than being victims of circumstance. Then, make it real by adopting practices and rituals that reinforce the Innovator’s Mindset…

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Moonshot Thinking [VIDEO 3:46]

Moonshots live in the gray area between audacious technology and pure science fiction. Instead of a mere 10% gain, a moonshot aims for a 10x improvement over what currently exists. The combination of a huge problem, a radical solution to that problem, and the breakthrough technology that just might make that solution possible, is the essence of a moonshot. See more about people attempting “moonshots” today at

Will Education Technology Be The Next Growth Sector?

apple cable

Reposted from the Boston Globe:

Massachusetts’ innovation economy is a well-recognized engine for economic growth in the Commonwealth. Its higher ed sector is world renowned, and its K-12 school system leads the United States in student outcomes. Education curriculum and program developers have long thrived here.

Now the education technology ecosystem is growing from the convergence of these unique Massachusetts’ strengths. It has the potential to provide major growth in jobs to the Commonwealth, and new time-saving or quality-enhancing products and services for learners.

The “ecosystem” is home to more than 250 early stage startups, several dozen venture-funded companies and dozens of growth stage companies, many private. The companies range from Doink, an app that students use to create their own videos using green screens, to Listen Current, which provides NPR content and lesson plans to teachers and students. They range from EverTrue, enabling colleges to connect with alumni over social media, to QStream, which was developed at Harvard Medical School and can be used to train sales forces on new products. New educational programs range from the Startup Institute, a post graduate program to transition college graduates to roles in the startup sector, to edX, with the potential to transform higher education.

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An Exciting New Kind of Learning is Taking Place in America

Neri Oxman laying in her Gemini Chair

Reposted from Wired:

Americans need to learn how to discover. Being dumb in the existing educational system is bad enough. Failing to create a new way of learning adapted to contemporary circumstances might be a national disaster. The good news is, some people are working on it.

Against this arresting background, an exciting new kind of learning is taking place in America. Alternatively framed as maker classes, after-school innovation programs, and innovation prizes, these programs are frequently not framed as learning at all. Discovery environments are showing up as culture and entertainment, from online experiences to contemporary art installations and new kinds of culture labs. Perhaps inevitably, the process of discovery — from our confrontation with challenging ambiguous data, through our imaginative responses, to our iterative and error-prone paths of data synthesis and resolution — has turned into a focus of public fascination.

Discovery has always provoked interest, but how one discovers may today interest us even more. Educators, artists, designers, museum curators, scientists, engineers, entertainment designers and others are creatively responding to this new reality, and, together, they are redefining what it means to learn in America.

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The Omega Point


I just got back from a successful trip working with our South Dakota affiliate, and I have to admit I was the most mindful I’ve ever been about not touching surfaces unnecessarily and keeping my hands away from my face as much as possible. Because even though I was traveling out-of-the-way domestic routes, I am painfully aware of how viral strains are carried far beyond initial hotpots to places like a Caribbean cruise ship and a hospital staff in Texas. So when our flight crew did not show up on my return trip yesterday, and the gate attendant announced one of the flight attendants was rushed to the hospital seriously ill, you can imagine the thoughts that went racing through my head. We live in a crisis-spiked culture, driven by media jumping on every next attention-grabbing story. There is no shortage of examples continually and repeatedly popping up in our faces: war, terrorism, famine, disease, and economic and political unrest. As detached as I try to be, I worry I can only afford to be so removed from the next headline. What might I miss that I should know?

This conditioning to be hyper-aware of everything that might possibly affect us has permeated our profession, too. We are currently all about innovation, breaking through the status quo to claim new wins, new value. Success stories of flash-in-the-pan innovation nicely parallel the phenomenon of news cycle sensationalism. When it happens, everyone is drawn to it, as it shakes up the pace and startles us back into the excitement of “what if?” But lightning strikes randomly and rarely in the same place twice, and innovation is much more hard-earned than simply being the right people at the right place at the right time. What if successful flashes of innovation happen, much like everything else in life, within a greater context? What if we reconnect with a greater purpose as educators and as people?


I love Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the Omega Point: the ultimate destination of human existence to which all humankind has been moving since the beginning of history. Building on Plato and Jung, de Chardin’s philosophy can stand on its own under scientific scrutiny, and it can reconcile science and theology without doing disservice to either discipline. Just as our physical selves operate in the biosphere, our thinking selves operate in the noosphere: the living, growing evolving world of human consciousness and aspiration. Essential to me in this concept is one crystal clear truth: if you believe that mankind is inching towards an optimal point of existence, then you have to believe that the world becomes a little better every single day of our lives.

Sure there are hiccups and backsliding, making this a difficult truth to embrace. It’s easy to get caught up in negative, knee-jerk reactions to the news of the day. Disruption is not always a good thing, especially when it distracts us from seeing our progress in the bigger picture. Education is continually improving human existence. We simply need to quiet our minds long enough to appreciate how far we’ve come. There is more tolerance for differences with each successive generation, even though intolerance is what makes news. There are more educated minds in the world today, even though it is ignorance that grabs headlines. The world is a closer-knit, more global community than ever before, even though acts that tear away at its fabric are disheartening. While ignorance and intolerance and hatred continue to bubble up, there are profound currents of hope for all of humankind just beneath the surface.


As an educator, it appeals to me to think of my work taking place in the noosphere. Not because it’s magical or mystical, but because it gives me optimism; it gives me a context in which I can work in faith that I am leaving the world a better place than I found it. It doesn’t matter if lightning ever strikes around you or me. All that matters is we are still standing and still making a difference, one learner, one colleague, one stakeholder at a time. Because more powerful than all the immediate actions and reactions of our daily lives is the belief that every day the world contains more good and less evil than the day before. Focus on the Omega Point, and everything else will find its place.

Listen to public radio’s podcast on “Teilhard de Chardin’s Planetary Mind and Our Spiritual Evolution” here (51:00).