Teaching innovation and innovating the system. #BothAnd

From Thom Markham, as read on MindShift, April 1, 2013

One overriding challenge is now coming to the fore in public consciousness: We need to reinvent just about everything. Whether scientific advances, technology breakthroughs, new political and economic structures, environmental solutions, or an updated code of ethics for 21st century life, everything is in flux—and everything demands innovative, out of the box thinking.

The burden of reinvention, of course, falls on today’s generation of students. So it follows that education should focus on fostering innovation by putting curiosity, critical thinking, deep understanding, the rules and tools of inquiry, and creative brainstorming at the center of the curriculum.

This is hardly the case, as we know. In fact, innovation and the current classroom model most often operate as antagonists. The system is evolving, but not quickly enough to get young people ready for the new world. But I do believe there are a number of ways that teachers can bypass the system and offer students the tools and experiences that spur an innovative mindset. Here are ten ideas: (emphasis added)

Read the full post here.

I think Thom’s post is excellent. The three intro paragraphs are profound and thought-provoking – and, hopefully, action-provoking. Also, I appreciate his willingness and ability to empower teachers and classroom practices. Thom’s thinking and examples resonate strongly with me and with my experience co-designing and co-implementing Synergy – a transdisciplinary, community-issues, problem-solving course for eighth graders.

But I am also left wondering about and wanting more concerted efforts to actually affect the system purposefully and intentionally, rather than feeling that our only, or most practical, choice is to bypass the system.

How are you and the schools with which you are involved systematizing the learning of innovation? All of us – in education, in for-profit business, in non-profit organizations beyond education, and in our personal lives and families – should be more focused on such questions, issues, and solutions. The citizens can affect such change and impact current and future quality of life – if we commit to doing so. Of the people, by the people, for the people enables us to do so. We can affect the system. The system is made from us, by us, and for us. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

What if we stopped underestimating what children could do in school? #WhatIfWeekly

What if we stopped underestimating what children could do in school?

  • We might have better classroom furniture as the norm.
  • We might have better bus stops in our cities.
  • We might have better patent-approved medical devices.
  • We might have better… everything. Now and in our future.

And more students might be engaged at deeper levels.

And more students might see greater purpose in their learning.

And more students might develop the problem-solving muscles that we need more of in our world.

For those schools that have stopped underestimating what children can do in school, all of the above – and even more – is already happening.

Here are two examples…

From KQED’s MindShift – “Video: ‘The Future Will Not be Multiple Choice,'” February 4, 2013 | 9:59 AM | By 


1st Grade DEEP Design Thinking Bus Stop Challenge @MVPSchool

And…there are countless more examples.

PROCESS POST: Seeing the pedagogical master plans on a pin-board. #PedagogicalMasterPlanning

Why has campus master planning developed as a field of work?

  • Is it because we put such high value on land use, and we realize the scarcity-of-land dilemma…so we want to plan and plan and plan most carefully before we commit land and resources to construction?
  • Is it because campus master planning makes thinking visible? By constructing campus master plans, we can better visualize the way that academic centers, athletic complexes, art studios and theaters, and green spaces relate and complement and supplement each other?
  • Is it because the construction of buildings and hardscapes and landscapes seem so relatively permanent that we want to make sure that the engineering systems of plumbing, electrical, air, etc. are well-conceived so that we minimize future issues of wishing that we had put “that there and this here?”
  • Is it because we recognize the wisdom of soliciting input from the wider community about our use and intents with space and architecture?
  • [Fill in your good thinking and hypothesizing here…]

In Melanie Kahl’s October 1st MindShift article, “Recasting Teachers and Students as Designers,” Kahl wrote:

The design field covers the gamut of industries in art and science of making ideas, mindsets, and methodologies tangible. (emphasis added)

In my mind’s eye, I can see comparable graphics and imagery for pedagogical master planning. I can see bubble diagrams that relate a methodology like project-based learning to various assessment-feedback systems. I can see these in my mind – moving from hazy, grey images to sharper, clearer pictures – just like I can see on a campus master plan how the academic center and athletic facilities relate to each other. I can see how a school technology plan “fits” or doesn’t with the school’s move to integrating the Maker Movement into it’s STEM-STEAM-STREAM plans – just like I can see on a campus master plan how the systemic, infrastructure engineering schema optimize the flow of water and gas to the various buildings on campus.

What if we pursued design-based planning in the pedagogical and instructional domains at the level of detail constituted on campus master plans? What if we thought of standards, assessment, curriculum, pedagogy and instruction, professional development, and learning environments as the integrated and interrelated sub-systems that they are?

  • Would we value the systemic construction of minds and hearts to a more comparable degree to that of buildings, hardscapes, and landscapes?
  • Would we be more able to make our thinking visible and reveal such epiphanies as “our assessment model is misaligned with our plan to move to more challenge-based learning?” Would we realize that our selection of tech tools and furniture is not optimized with our habits-of-the-mind philosophies?
  • Would we re-think the design of the “school day” appreciating that faculty would HAVE TO HAVE TIME to collaborate on the overall scope and sequence of wisdom-and-understanding formation amongst our student learners? Would we re-imagine the flow of the “school day” to optimize what we are learning about the brain and neuroscience? Would we re-consider our existing definitions of what constitutes a “classroom?”
  • Would we enhance and improve the partnerships and teams we could have with parents, businesses, NGOs, and other people and organizations of the surrounding community…because our children’s educations are THAT important?
  • [Fill in your good thinking and hypothesizing here…]

Yes, I can see it in my mind’s eye – a beautiful set of detailed, designed, customized plans that SHOW VISIBLY the intersections and surrounds of standards, assessment, curriculum, pedagogy and instruction, professional learning, and learning environments. And I believe we are going to figure out how to create and optimize such plans at Unboundary. Then, we could place such plans on a pin-board wall and work to make certain that the construction phases, blueprints, engineering schema, and contracting notes are well-understood by the entire team – in this case…students, parents, faculty, business and social innovation partners, administrators, alumni, receiving colleges and universities, etc.

I can see it plainly. Can you?