Economics, yes, though I know this bothers people. But what I love is that the things I want for our students anyway, creativity and innovative problem solving, are what the economy wants too– what a win-win combination. Dan Pink’s book Whole New Mind first revealed this to me, and I am forever in his debt.But not just for economics.
Hate the phrase? Many do, I am not sure if I do. But hate the phrase or not, Obama and Friedman are right– We are in a battle (we always have been, and probably always will be), a battle fierce challenges to making the world a better place– and the only way we can possibly win this battle, and win a more positive future, is by identifying better ways of doing things– by innovation.
We know from Chick sent me hi that flow is the greatest source of happiness and fulfillment, and we know from him too that creativity and innovation is a terrific source of happiness.
But independent schools are often not innovativeJust show the quote
It was my own experience, visiting 21 schools in the fall of 2008, that the independent schools were far less innovative.
We can daunt ourselves if we think it only something that happens in the most expensive R&D labs–
What is exciting is how many great and accessible thinkers there are right now to inspire and inform us: including Dan Pink, the Heath brothers, Carol Dweck, and for me especially Steven Johnson and Chris Anderson of TED. However, we can’t teach it. We can only create cultures which make it more possible.
It lies instead in the “adjacent possible.” SJ
I want to share with you 7 “existing parts” we have available to us in our schools by which we can better build good ideas. These 8 are not at all limiting; there are certainly many others. I should warn you that only a few are specifically technology related, but that is OK, because I think technologydirectors are, more than anyone else in our schools, our innovation directors generally, even if they lack that name. I am only going to offer a few specific suggestions, but I am going to ask you to consider for yourself applications, and then on my blog I am posting a set of slides of the implications.
Anecdote of Maybeck Teacher
When asked what is most important in defining creativity: In fact, for school superintendents it was dead last, but employers had it tied for third.
David Brooks recognize this in his new book the Social Animal.
Embrace “ill defined problems” For schools:Share ideas widely, and put them in tension with each other.Promote faculty action-research, testing theories of learning ourselves. Challenge regularly sacred cows and assumptionsFor students:Teachers can model uncertainty, as in the David Brooks example, and avoid the word actually. Teachers can frequently “teach the controversy” as Gerald Graff calls for in his writing. Ask questions, in class and on tests, with no single right answer.
Dan Pink’s Drive talks about Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose I think more autonomy makes sense in many situations– but not necessarily in independent schools. I don’t think we need more autonomy. It is not that we need a lot less, but autonomy needsto exist within a tight symbiosis of purpose and mastery– and I think that autonomy by itself, long a hallmark of independent schools, is not serving us well.Mastery, Autonomy, Purpose, as I understand it, is not an a la carte menu– it has to be a tight package. Purpose first. Purpose: I think High Tech High and New Tech Network are more clear about their purpose. providing students the learning experiences whichcultivate independent thought, applied problem-solving–Buteven more, Mastering is the key, even more than purpose: the growth mindset of Dweck is so central, for educators and students. We are all students now, more than ever.
Discuss Dweck– invite groups to discuss with each other
For Schools: More team teaching. More departmental and interdepartmental collaborative planning. Promoting the growth mindset and understandings of Dweck as widely as possible. For students: Ask them what they want to master. Give them more opportunities to pursue their passions.
Something I am very passionate about– we need to be better networked.
Some disagree. This essay in the American Scholar last year received a lot of attention, and has been much cited. Read the quote. I think he is so wrong– not to say that solitude is a bad thing, but to say that the answers can only be found within– I can’t begin to accept.
This is clearly Steven Johnson’s greatest passion: All innovation happens in a network– previously in cities, such as in ancient Athens, on trade routes, in Enlightenment coffee houses, in Parisian cafes, always urban until now online via Twitter. Twitter, an an exemplary online social network, in an extended metaphor, is the coral reef of innovation.This idea is SO resonant for me because I have been living it.
Kevin Kelly writes very simj
An example of networks and innovation among us
Action Items: Open the Networks for our Students and Faculty: Johnson: Environments that block or limit those new combinations– by punishing experimentation, or by obscuring certain branches of possibility, will, on average, generate and circulate fewer innovations than environments that encourage exploration.Urge online network development for all constituentsHelp our teachers and students find networksBaker/Burns article: “At PDS, we have restructured faculty meetings and retreats so that the focus in on provocative questions and sharing.” Knock down the walls and build windows.High Tech High
Johnson citing research by Dunbar: the most productive tool for generating good ideas remains a circle of humans sitting around a table, talking shop.
Consider whether homework policies discourage group-workAllow “Phone a Friend” options on TestsTeach kids Group Study skillsGroup Work, Group PBL in our schools– NTN, define the structure, assign responsibilitiesShared Reflective PracticePLNS and CFGs
How many people have done the marshmellow challenge? It so fascinating.
I think our schools have a problem with perfectionism. Get the right answer, do it right, or die. This is one of my big reactions to Race to Nowhere, the movie: we, parents and educators both, have sometimes communicated to too many students, particularly girls, that school years are a do or die proposition, and that they can’t get anything wrong. But it is so sad.
In Drive, Dan’s emphasis is less on error over perfectionism, but rather against rewards as a motivator– in the Ted talk video that many of you have probably seen, he shows how raising the incentive actually inhibits and diminishes innovative success, and this is also true of the marshmallow challenge: the times they have tested with a $10,0000 award for highest marshmellow are the times they have had zero successfully completed structures. But notice the connection: when we tell people, teachers or kids, that they will be awarded for best grades or best whatever, we pressure them to focus on perfection, and actually diminish their creative and innovative abilities.
This is a great one, I think, to apply the Heath brothers’ strategy of Find the Bright Spots. Whether as a school leader or a teacher, let’s be careful about who we spotlight and affirm. It is so natural to highlight the highest achievers and the greatest accomplishments, rather than the greatest risktakers and the most interesting mistakes, but when we do, realize we are ultimately dis-serving innovation– not just by the risktakers who are not being affirmed, but by reinforcing the perfectionist complexes of those who we do affirm. Keep Testing and embrace new forms of AssessmentTime for Processing and ExperimentationMessy Classrooms: “Good ideas are more likely to emerge in environments contaminated with noise and error.” SJ. Get it on the table! Open the Network even for testing: Blogging as a tool for experimental thinkingShine a Light (Heath) on the Experimenters and Risk-taking: Don’t just Give Permission to Fail, but Celebrate FailureAsk whether “awards cultures” diminish risk-taking cultures.
The sharing of ideas in general is often best done through direct speech—we’ve evolved over eons to subconsciously grasp the subtleties of a face-to-face conversation. In all these cases, for remote audiences video is the killer app. Don’t write me. Tell me. Show me.
On an ending note, I want to share a short video from a new course we are offering at St. Gregory, Design Build Te ch Innovation.
"Please stop waiting for a map. We reward those who draw maps, not those who follow them.“ Seth Godin, Poke the Box Innovative Schools, Innovative Students Jonathan E. Martin Head of School, St. Gregory College Preparatory School (AZ) www.21k12blog.net