With all the talk of innovation in education, wouldn’t it be best to simplify the discussion down to a few key points? John Merrow makes that attempt.
I’ve just returned from Doha, Qatar for the first-ever WISE, the World Innovation Summit for Education. For three days we talked about innovation. Is technology an essential component of innovation? I found myself wondering what produces innovation in education—in teaching actually. And it occurs to me that, unless one happens to be sadistic or off the charts antisocial, all of us are, on certain occasions, innovative teachers. At those moments, we are wonderful role models of what our education system ought to be striving to emulate. And our motivation is a combination of self-interest and basic human decency.
Driving DirectionsYou’re not a teacher, you say? OK, neither am I by profession, but sometimes we are put in that role. Imagine you’re walking in your neighborhood when a stranger stops her car, rolls down the window, and asks for directions to a local restaurant. You know the place she’s asking about, so you immediately begin figuring out how to explain it to her.
You are, for the moment, her teacher, she your pupil.
**We ran into some snafus with live posting, so some of my report backs didn’t make it up. I think you’ll enjoy them anyway, so here’s one from the WISE Awards ceremony held on the second day of the conference.** Here in Doha at WISE, the World Innovation Summit for Education, six groups were recognized [...]
Dr. Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani is the Chairman of WISE and Vice President for Education of the Qatar Foundation. Dr. Abdulla knows the United States well, having gone to graduate school at Colorado State University. I spent a few minutes with this soft-spoken, focused and optimistic leader on the first day of WISE. He was [...]
**We ran into some snafus with live posting, so some of my report backs didn’t make it up. I think you’ll enjoy them anyway, so here’s one from the first day of the conference.** About 1000 delegates from more than 120 countries are represented here in Doha, Qatar, at WISE, the World Innovation Summit for [...]
I’m headed to the first World Innovation Summit on Education in Doha, Qatar. Hundreds of education innovators, policy makers and experts will be gathering there and I plan on recording video, audio interviews and filling you in on what’s happening there as it unfolds. This week, expect a post a day from me until Thursday, [...]
What produces innovation? Why does there seem to be such an abundance of it in serious fields like medicine and computer technology and trivial ones like online dating, but so little in education, arguably the most important of human activities?
First, let me support my premise, that schooling is largely bereft of innovation. A doctor or an auto mechanic from the 1950’s, if dropped into today’s hospital or garage, would be baffled. A teacher from the 50’s, however, would feel pretty darn comfortable in today’s classrooms. Maybe the desks wouldn’t be attached to the floor, and perhaps the blackboards would have been replaced by whiteboards, but there’d be bells every 50 minutes or so, attendance to be taken, and interruptions by the principal. I rest my case.
InnovationBack to why: The thirst for money, prestige and fame are reliable spurs of innovation. Living in Silicon Valley as I do, I’ve seen plenty of evidence of that. Unfortunately, public education is not the road to travel if your goals are money, prestige and fame.
Another spur to innovate is a supportive but challenging environment, one in which failure is seen as an opportunity to learn, not a stain. Does that describe most schools? I don’t think so.
John Doerr’s New Schools Venture Fund is working to recreate in education some of the conditions that have spurred Silicon Valley’s growth. That’s an uphill battle with a number of hurdles standing in the way, including a ‘one size fits all’ mentality and a glut of ‘experts’.
Education’s ‘one size fits all’ approach to evaluating and paying teachers has to dampen enthusiasm for trying new approaches. Why bother if you aren’t going to be rewarded?
About the Author
The Why I Teach Blog
The Influence of Teachers
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