The White House recognizes that technology based innovation is making its way into classrooms across America but, “we’re just not taking enough shots on goal,”says Kumar Garg, an assistant director for learning and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. There are many ed-tech programs or apps out there for teachers; the Education Department is also working on a “developer’s toolkit”, a handbook for entrepreneurs interested in creating technology specifically for the education market. The real problem is that teachers don’t know how to sift through the myriad options and find the best ones to use in their classrooms, or how to implement them effectively. It’s critical that teachers have training in these programs and how to respond to data in order to maximize student achievement.
Ben Wilkoff asks: what trade-offs are you making in professional development? He asserts that people and interactions are chiefly important in bringing about meaningful and impactful change in schools. Far more than focusing on products or content, schools should leverage their people and community. When teachers drive change and feel supported by a team to improve student outcomes, the potential results are maximized.
Butler addresses what he sees as the lack of true transformational partnerships between schools and their partners. He pushes schools to imagine partnerships that go beyond transactional relationships focused on funding to relationships that include key stakeholders working across organizations to develop real innovation. Butler asserts that greater levels of change can occur when partners work together to change how things are done and have tough conversations about drivers of culture and achievement. Transformational partnerships represent an untapped opportunity for school redesign and school improvement.
Levitt shows that teachers and innovators share similar habitual core traits. Clayton Christensen’s book The Innovator’s DNA describes five traits of innovative thinkers: associating, questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting. Levitt pulls on her own experience as both a teacher and the founder of a startup to show that each innovative thinking competency is used frequently in the classroom. Great teachers = great innovators.
What story are students learning about themselves at school? Steve Hargadon explains that our current school system is built to produce students who are excellent at following. He believes those practices are dissonant with the narrative we tell students about valuing their creativity and potential. Parents and communities could step up and drive the change for a new school system since the small number of people in power may not have an incentive to change it. Hargadon imagines a world where parents and students are able to choose how they learn and their opinions are valued in building schools that respond to their needs. Hargodon’s ideas support an empathy-driven approach that incorporates all stakeholders into the school design process.
Tom Vander Ark writes about TrueSchool Studio as a leader in the redesign of not only schools, but also the way we learn. TrueSchool is one of the early organizations figuring out what this new kind of education will look like through three main areas of development: in-school accelerator, technology micro-pilots, and design thinking skill building and application.
In partnership with Stanford University and ThinkImpact, TrueSchool will research and design an action platform curriculum to be launched on the Unleesh app. The app will include two possible pathways: one pathway open to the public and geared towards anyone seeking to design/build/launch a social enterprise (“Explorer”) and a private pathway for Stanford students and alumni with a focus on later-stage social ventures (“Pro”). The Pro pathway will also include opportunities specific to Stanford students/alumni around social entrepreneurship (such as Stanford classes, student groups, speakers, and competitions).
From October through November 2013, TrueSchool Studio teamed up with the 72 teachers at Grace King High School to run a Studio geared towards developing team-designed and teacher-led prototypes. Beginning with an understanding of available resources and assets, 10 teams of between 5-8 teachers then identified a challenge and a potential solution to test.
Ideas ranged from improving student nutrition and incentive/rewards systems to personalized learning for English Language Learners and special education students.