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Reform or Innovation in Education?


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Lecture given at Microsoft's Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum, held at its Heardquarters in Redmond, WA, on Aug 1st, 2005

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Reform or Innovation in Education?

  1. 1. Reform or Innovation in Education? Eduardo Chaves Redmond 01 Aug 2005
  2. 2. Outline 1) Change: Nature and Types 2) Change in Society and in Education 3) Why We Need Innovative Change in Education 4) Technology and Change in Schools 5) Conditions for Innovation 6) The Reconceptualization of Education 7) The Reinvention of the School 8) Innovative Teachers 9) Innovative Leadership
  3. 3. – 1 – Change: Nature and Types
  4. 4. Change: Its Nature • Change can be negative or positive: we can change for worse or for better • Change can be involuntary and voluntary: we can undergo changes or make changes • Change can be individual or organizational: both persons and institutions can and do change • Positive, voluntary organizational change is the process through which an organization moves from an old, established way of doing things to a new one that will bring positive outcomes
  5. 5. Change: Focus • The focus here is on positive, voluntary change in organizations and individuals responsible for education • Organizational change: What changes are needed in present educational organizations (mostly schools) • Individual change: What changes are needed in us as educators (mostly teachers and school administrators) • Effective change is a product of both: individual and organizational change
  6. 6. Change: Types • Changes can be incremental or radical • Positive incremental changes lead to improvement • Positive radical changes lead to transformation • A series of improvements leads to reform, a process in which present form is maintained but perfected • Transformation means transcending present form and can only be reached through innovation – a process in which there is search for a totally new form
  7. 7. – 2 – Change in Society and in Education
  8. 8. First Thesis • The world in the West has undergone drastic, radical, transformative changes over the past 60 years 1945 1960 1975 1990 2005 • Invention of Atom Bomb • End of WW II • Beginning of the Cold War • Invention of the Computer • Beginning of the Counter- Culture • Invention of the Personal Computer • Collapse of Communism • End of the Cold War • Commercial use of the Internet • Microsoft’s School of the Future Summit • Microsoft’s Innovative Teachers Forum
  9. 9. Second Thesis • The catalyst agent for most of these changes was technology – technological innovations: the atom bomb, computers, personal computers, Internet . . . • (Many consider the US Star Wars project to be the last drop that broke the resistance of Communism)
  10. 10. Third Thesis • Education is a social practice and so, whenever society changes in radical and transformative ways, education is likely to need to go through important changes as well (even though the educational establishment may resist them)
  11. 11. Fourth Thesis • The changes that we need to make in education so that it keeps pace with the changes in society are not mere improvements in the system: they must involve its transformation • They include: • A new vision: a reconceptualization of education • A new tool: the reinvention of schooling • A new role: the redefinition of our function and identity as educators, teachers, school principals
  12. 12. – 3 – Why Change in Education Needs to be Innovative
  13. 13. Three Reasons • Quasi-universal availability of information and ease of access to it • Globalization of communication and ease of travel • Learning taking place anytime, anywhere, anyhow (All of these reasons have to do with technology)
  14. 14. Information and Knowledge • Information, today, is easily available, to be acquired as needed, and access to it is simple and easy • Knowledge (differently from information) is seen, today, as something to be built or constructed by each person • So, information need not, and knowledge cannot, be transmitted, transferred, delivered • This is the collapse of the view that education is content delivery, transmission of information and knowledge from the teacher to the student
  15. 15. Globalization • Not only is access to information easy but access to experts anywhere in the world has become possible, costless and easy (from a technical point of view) • If an urgent face-to-face encounter is necessary, technically it can take place within 24 hours • So, the teacher is far from being the only expert to whom the student can resort, in case of need
  16. 16. Learning • Anyone can now learn anytime, throughout one’s entire life, whenever one needs it • Anyone can now learn anywhere, wherever one has access to the Internet • Anyone can now learn anyhow, in tacit, non-formal and formal ways • So, learning need not, and perhaps even should not, be concentrated in a given period of life (school age) and in a particular place (the school) nor ought it to be “standardized”, “one size fits all”
  17. 17. Bringing it All Together . . . • These three reasons (and there are others) force us to conclude that the changes that need to take place in education today are drastic, broad, profound, far- reaching, transformative – in other words, innovative
  18. 18. – 4 – Technology and Change in Schools
  19. 19. Technology and Change • Technology can be used • To sustain and support what we are already doing (conservative use – does not lead to change) • To supplement and extend what we are doing (leads to improvement and reform) • To subvert and transform what we are doing (leads to transformation and innovation) (George Thomas Scharffenberger, 2004)
  20. 20. Reform or Transformation? • As the quality of a given school or school system goes down, the degree of radical innovation that is acceptable in it goes up ! • As the quality of a given school or school system goes up, the degree of radical innovation that is acceptable in it goes down ! (Nicholas Negroponte, 2005)
  21. 21. – 5 – Conditions for Innovation
  22. 22. What is Innovation? • Innovation has to do with what is new, with searching a new form • The new is not the old, refurbished, warmed over… • Innovation is more radical than mere improvements that lead to reform: it is a true transformation, that leads to transcending present form • New and old are context-bound terms – and the context, in this case, is defined by the changes that have been taking place in the last sixty years
  23. 23. How does Innovation Come About? • Creative people • Open environments • Resources and tools
  24. 24. Present Schools and Innovation • There certainly are creative people in our schools • There are resources and technology in our schools • But there is no culture of innovation, that is, the right kind of environment is missing • So innovation is rare and difficult to sustain (and technology is not used innovatively)
  25. 25. The Environment for Creativity • Creative people, even when they have a fair amount of resources and powerful tools (technology), have difficulty generating sustainable innovations if the environment is not right . . .
  26. 26. The Environment for Innovation • Is open, relatively flat, non-bureaucratic • Stimulates initiative and risk-taking • Requires and promotes continued learning • Views mistakes as an integral part of learning • Rewards competent, successful innovation (This kind of environment attracts creative people: see Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class)
  27. 27. What Innovation in Education is NOT • Teaching technology to students • Integrating technology into the present curriculum • Using technology to improve teaching
  28. 28. Real Innovation in Education • To reconceptualize education • To reinvent schools • To transform ourselves (educators, teachers, school administrators)
  29. 29. In Other Words . . . • How can we reconceive education, so that it goes beyond (transcends) the present paradigm? • How can we reinvent our schools, so they can become open environments that stimulate initiative, require continued learning and reward innovation? • How can we recreate ourselves, so we can become truly creative and innovative in facing the demands and the expectations that the 21st century places upon education?
  30. 30. – 6 – The Reconceptualization of Education
  31. 31. Education and Human Development • Education has to do with human development, with realizing human potential • Human beings are born totally incompetent and dependent • But they are also born with an incredible capacity to learn • Education is the process by which incompetence is translated into competence, dependence into autonomy • This process takes place through learning
  32. 32. Learning • To learn is to become capable of doing that which one was not able to do before • To learn is to build one’s competence to act with autonomy • The learning that is essential to human life has two sides to it: • To become able to freely define one’s life project • To become competent to transform it into reality
  33. 33. How do we Learn? • Observing expert or acceptable behavior • Desiring to do the same (motivation) • Attempting to do it • Generally failing • Receiving feedback (collaboration) • Attempting to do it again • Succeeding in a limited way • Receiving incentive and more feedback (collaboration) • Improving behavior until its performance becomes acceptable • Sometimes seeking to become experts
  34. 34. Education, Learning & Collaboration • “No one educates any one else. Nor do we educate ourselves. We educate one another, in communion, in the context of living in this world” (Paulo Freire, 1979)
  35. 35. – 7 – The Reinvention of the School
  36. 36. Personal Learning Environments • Living a life that is fulfilling and leads to personal realization is the most creative accomplishment anyone can achieve • Helping students to learn how to live this kind of life is the most challenging task of education • This type of learning requires rich and stimulating personal learning environments that are centered on the needs and interests of the learners and that are clearly focused on human development and on competence-building
  37. 37. A Learner-Centered Environment • Built into life (related to the learner’s life project) • Centered on the learner’s needs and interests • Driven by demand • Aimed at problem-solving (project-based) • Focused on building competence & autonomy • Learning is active, hands-on • Learning is collaborative and yet individualized to the level of personalization • Learning takes place when needed (just in time) & in small modules (just enough) • Learning is lifelong and always focused on the future Learning is deeply personal and yet it can always be enhanced and often mediated by technology
  38. 38. – 8 – Innovative Teachers
  39. 39. Innovative Learning Facilitators • The most innovative thing learning facilitators can do in this kind of environment is not to teach (unless students insist that they do so!) • Learning facilitators should listen and watch first, and then try to orient, advise, support, cheer, facilitate, instigate, ask questions (rather than give answers), open exciting new horizons, gently provoke, give incentive, be coaches, mentors, role models . . . • These roles for so-called teachers are more important than their role as content deliverers!
  40. 40. Innovative Learning Facilitators • Innovative learning facilitators are the ones that use their creativity in order to help students become truly creative in the living of their lives • They are the ones that use their creativity to support the building of this kind of “school of the future” (needed in the present) • Innovative learning facilitators are not the ones that learn to use technology well, but rather the ones that empower their students to use technology to learn effectively, at any time, in any place, in whichever way fits them best
  41. 41. – 9 – Innovative Leadership
  42. 42. Innovative Leadership • Leadership, to be effective, must be spread through- out the organization • A leader seeks to develop the leadership potential of others • Leader, therefore, is not only the manager or the boss: everybody should be a leader in their own sphere of action • The success of a leader is directly related to their ability to make other people successful • It is only this way that an organization can succeed
  43. 43. Leading for Change in Schools • An innovative leader is one that is capable of making the school the sort of open environment that is conducive to ongoing innovative change • An innovative leader is one that is capable of developing leadership in others on an ongoing basis • There is no other factor as important to creating and maintaining an organization culture conducive to ongoing innovation in a school as innovative leaders – be they principals, supervisors or, nor infrequently, teachers themselves
  44. 44. Thank you ! Eduardo Chaves