The Magic Roundabout of Education and Innovation: How should schools prepare for the future?

What does innovation in education look like to you?

magic roundabout

Traffic Innovation 1972. The Magic Roundabout, Swindon

This question and What does innovation in education look like around the world? were posed to the first cohort of  28 TED-Ed Innovative Educators a global program that connects leaders within TED’s network of over 250,000 teachers.

You can read their ideas at the link but perhaps before you do it might be a good idea to think how you would answer the question.

What elements come to mind? Shiny new tools and great new spaces? Or changing mindsets about new ways to tap into the infinite capacities and strengths of all children?  Is it about bunkers of excellence or wide open prairies of possibility?  Or perhaps what was then will be the way forward only with greater access for all?

What changes? What doesn’t? What must change? What must not? That’s one way to start thinking but I’m not sure it opens up the cranial super highways of imagination and innovation. And values are the driver for it all.

Would love to hear your ideas. I’ve started working on mine. And one thing they won’t include is more – and greater availability of –  TEDTalks interesting and eye-opening though they can be. Learning by listening to monologues – however well presented – is not innovative. 

QuoraMeanwhile do you know Quora?

It’s a simple question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. Anyone can sign up and ask or answer a question.

You can follow people, questions or topics and get email alerts should you choose. You can assess the quality and stature of the answerers via their public social profiles on Twitter and Facebook. This focus on reputation and transparency means a blessed absence of anonymous trolls, flamethrowers and abusers.

It’s a fun and interactive crowd-sourced tool for exploring ideas and pursuing opinions and information. Answers get up or down voted and can generate further commentary or get noted as irrelevant. One of the topics I follow is Education.

So here is an actual Quora question:

The infrastructure of Schools is modern today and it is not the same as it was some twenty years ago. Today, Schools move towards technologies like smart class, language class, 3D class & many more wonderful technogical inventions which makes learning and teaching easier than before.

What do you think as the best thing a school should have in modern era?

It has generated some terrific responses from some very thoughtful people with all kinds of qualifications and from many different backgrounds.
Few are more interesting that this from a 17 year old high school student whose Quora profile is:
Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 7.10.44 AM
She writes:

I didn’t see any actual students answer this, so I thought I’d speak up. I’m 17, and a senior in high school. I know that education seems to be moving towards technology. Technological advances are always welcome (I’m a computer geek), but they’re not the only steps we should be taking.

There are major flaws in the system itself.

Here are my two cents:

I taught myself to code when I was 8, and started my web development business last year. Soon after, I was recruited by Microsoft as a part-time web designer. In my free time, I also love to do my oil spill research, which was recently patented and published in an international journal. I’m currently funded by the EPA and have access to four labs at Tulane (I’m not trying to gloat, you’ll get my point shortly)

But guess what?

Oops, I was so busy doing what I love and changing the world with my research that I have what some would call a “mediocre” GPA (if you think a 3.7 is mediocre).

The problem is that most high schools have a culture that brainwashes students into thinking that perfect academics (GPA, scores) are the only way into a “good college.” This is a flaw because it teaches us how to cheat the system; we learn how to get straight A’s in order to look good on paper, but we’re not actually learning anything. School is teaching us to memorize, regurgitate, then dump. We need to be learning  how to manage successful businesses, turn our thoughts into ideas, and put those ideas into action. School is also teaching us how to pad our resumes. “Because I’ll totally get into Harvard if I play nine sports, become the president of 20 clubs, take a mission trip to Africa, join Honor Society, and get a 6.2 GPA, right?” is a (paraphrased) question that I hear frequently among my peers. And it makes me sad.

In November she added an update with an anecdote from a classroom where for a moment everyone forgot the silos of subjects and launched into the thrill of seeing and making interdisciplinary.

Update 11/1/2015:

It would be pretty hard to put my vision into words without writing an entire book. I’d rather share an anecdote that sums it all up pretty well:

 I was in Statistics the other day. We were learning about “randomness.” I thought it was interesting and made connections to calculus and chemistry. I turned to everyone and said “whoa, can’t we use [blah blah] from calculus combined with nuclear [blah blah] from chemistry to model randomness?!?!” Let’s just say I ended up standing on a desk mimicking electron orbitals with my arms. I loved it. People were genuinely excited. They briefly forgot about GPAs and focused on how they could apply things to the real world. We were breaking the artificial barriers between subjects.  Picture an entire high school like that.

And by the way in January NASA named an asteroid “Keianacave” in her honor. Formerly known as the orbiting rock “2000 GD136” it was first observed in 1979 and lies between Mars and Jupiter. It takes about 4¼ Earth years to complete a single orbit around the sun.

She’s also a member of an XQ Super School team taking up the challenge to design a high school of the future. That will be interesting!

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It always was a white knuckle ride.

The pic in the header and the road sign are of a famous traffic circle in Swindon. A little more complicated than the speed taming roundabouts on Raymond Avenue, by Vassar College in Poughkeepsie.

The Magic Roundabout was built in 1972. Some years before that I cycled through the same intersection on my way to school.

They say it’s a white knuckle car ride now.

It was even more scary back then on a bike.

photo-1421218108559-eb1ff78357f5Photo: Jesse Bowser


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