Monthly Archives: July 2015

Edtech on the Horizon Proves Both Promising and Challenging

It is difficult to change a tire on a moving vehicle.  Educators are asked to do this every day, week, school year.  Adapting, flexing, reacting and responding are key to effectively serving every learner every day and ensuring everyone is moving forward on a personalized path to realizing full potential.  Let’s not also forget the need to be current with research and best practices and apply those concepts ‘just in time’ on the job.  It is exhausting to think about.  Having a network and the camaraderie to support everyone in this community is important.  An ever-updated playbook is also important, and now, the technology uptick in schools is accelerating on many fronts.  How can schools harness the tech tools to make sure that tire gets changed, and at the speed of motion, while not missing a beat in the learning process?

The NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition says, “Schools are not yet adept at moving teaching innovations into mainstream practice. Innovation springs from the freedom to try out and implement new ideas, yet schools generally allow for top-down changes that unfold in prescribed ways. Current organizational promotion structures rarely reward innovative approaches and improvements in teaching and learning, much less allow these breakthroughs to be scaled and replicated. As a result, many educators become frustrated by the rigid confines of a school that is in desperate need of transformation. Scaling pedagogical innovation requires the removal of restrictive policies, adequate funding, capable leadership, and strong evaluation practices — a tall order for the majority of K-12 public schools, which are receiving fewer resources.( The reality is that many teachers are not prepared to lead innovative, effective practice, and there is a kaleidoscope of systemic factors that must be addressed to resolve this complex issue.(8

The report further notes that this is one of the ‘wicked challenges’ because many required systems to make this happen are not in place.  To achieve this ‘challenge’, scaling teaching innovations and teaching complex thinking need to be solidified practice. Both, the report says, are needed for the longer term impact of ‘rethinking how schools work’ and ‘shifting to deeper learning approaches’.

Our experience at One-to-One Institute shows that fully re-invented learning ecosystems are elusive…even when robust technologies, emerged best practices, etc., are adopted.  Retrofitting inventions (based on innovations) into an existing, traditional systems set doesn’t get to the desired transformations.  Unless all systems are transformed, the inventions are merely worked around disruptions…and not in the sense of a disruption replacing former systems.  One example:  for educators to engage in learning communities for just-in-time professional growth experiences, the lock-step daily schedule and episodic professional development contract language need to be re-imagined.  How can time and language be re-invented to accommodate consistent, ongoing adult learning?

An analogy I often think about is the adoption of the Affordable Care Act.  We’ve all been touched in some way(s) because of this new, national plan.  The whole system is affected…that means you and me…and how we do business or used to do business with our medical providers.  All of those changes have affected how I plan, organize, make appointments, check diagnosis for services, prescriptions, etc.  It’s also caused me to spend hours on the phone trying to resolve issues that never existed in the services I received or sought. Now, all this time later, I’ve got a new playbook for everything I do that is medically oriented.  Am I better off?  Probably not. Is the country better off? It depends on what metrics you’re using, but this systemic overhaul has rocked my world in the hopes of providing healthcare to all Americans, which I believe is a lofty goal.  It makes me imagine what the country’s education system would experience, if the same dramatic overhaul were to happen to all of its current components, structure and outcomes.

Food for thought, discussion and debate.

Invent, Please

Language means a lot – especially when seeking real results.  I’ve been thinking about ‘innovation’ vs ‘invention’ since reading the Back Page story in ‘Entrepreneur’, June 2015.  We frequently hear that education, as a whole, needs to be innovative. What does that mean?  Any definition or thought provoked around ‘innovation’ seems soft to me.  What we can’t seem to do is define ‘results’ or ‘obligations’ of innovation.  Does innovation inspire actions that lead to ‘results’, something tangible as outcome?  It’s pretty amorphous but sounds so 21st century. We can keep saying, ”let’s innovate” and do nothing, see nothing emerge as outcome. As the Back Page article notes, “Innovate. Please. The future depends on it.  But Also: invent.  Because the future depends on results, too.  Things we can touch and walk through.  Things we can smell and experience.  Services that will change our lives.”

If we shift the emphasis to ‘invention’, a different perspective is created. Innovation seems amorphous, hard to define, see or touch.  Innovation that leads to invention is different.  The end result is ‘something’, a product of some sort, probably different or unusual from what has or has not previously existed.  When we invent we are committed to producing something….at least, we keep trying.  Innovating – one may be working on something but when inventing one is committed to creating.  Something will be actualized; there will be a result. Inventing can fill a need, a void, or be an effective strategy for desired results.  Innovating?  Not so much.

Roshan Choxi didn’t learn all he wanted to know about software development in his 4 years at a top rated engineering school.  He was amazed at how much he learned that was actually relevant to the industry at a young web start-up company. He wanted others to benefit from his same experience.  He and colleague, Dave Paola ‘invented’ Bloc in 2011.  They engaged veteran/expert designers and developers to provide experiential apprenticeship, online boot camps in web, mobile and software development.  Students have one-on-one mentorships with experts to build products.

Students emerge from the program having produced actual, viable products.  These creations become the foundation of a viable portfolio as they launch into the job market.  And, by the way, the program includes a job-prep feature to help students create an online profile and prepare for the interviewing process.

This all comes at a cost of $5K per boot camp.  It is self-paced, online, mentor-nurtured (100 soon to be 500) and includes collaborations with fellow learners who leave ‘work ready’ and postured for higher salaries than non-Bloc fellow job seekers.  This program has more than 1000 students enrolled.  It is growing.

There’s not a direct parallel between Bloc and K-12 education.  The latter has no venture capitalists or the like.  So the ‘invention’ concept also needs to be addressed in the financial, retooling aspects of how education is grounded.  There are numerous K-12 education inventions (aka disruptions?) afoot that seek to provide learners with knowledge, skills relevant to a global economy and being successful as adults in a hyper-connected world.  These inventions are elusive in too many systems across our country.