I’ve really been thinking about this. Our school systems in the United States formed with local boards of education so that the community’s education goals direct what happens in their school. Of course, the State Departments of Education mandate curriculum and their goals, and the US Department of Education and its purse strings mandate their own policies. With the State and Federal mandates determining funding, our schools focus on those goals and mandates, which in this time period include standardized testing, teacher evaluations, and various curricular requirements. This tangle of mandates strangle any true purpose of education, which must focus on the students, and I’m not sure the local community has much say, since the school board of directors usually focuses on improving those test scores as well.
What are the tests testing? Do we need tests to discern whether or not a student can read, do math, or communicate clearly? Do we really need tests to see where students are in the development of their thinking processes — to tell fact from fiction, and to synthesize ideas in discussion and debate with others to reach a set of understandings?
I don’t think so; I think teachers could observe, assess, guide, and scaffold learners to move successfully from where they are to where they could be successful as critical and creative learners on their own.
Because what is the purpose of education? Our public education system accepts all students, and our purpose must be to guide them to discover who they are, to know what their strengths are and could be, and to enrich their world with choices in possibilities through authentic group and personal goals. This is a process of living and working together to discover the understandings of how the world works by doing the work.
The purpose of education is to support and enrich the learners so they can learn on their own, no matter what the situation. As Seymour Papert says, “The good way to learn is to use it now.” Education must be doing what is needed by students as they choose and work through an authentic, relevant, and beneficent interest or inquiry.
In the doing, we learn. We learn more than the objective specific to the curriculum; we learn to investigate, share, discuss, debate, share, design, provide feedback, organize, determine relevance, create and remix, present, etc. Not everyone is learning the same things, because individuals or teams are focused on what each needs to reach their purpose.
Innovation breaks through patterns of routine and encourages attainment of essential goals through better strategies, processes, and tools that engage learners as active advocates and architects of their goals, learning, and life plans, working with peers to make the world better.
Innovation isn’t a big thing, although it could be. Innovation can simply be choices in what and how to study. The choices are the innovation. Innovation can be stepping back and thinking, “Does every one have to take a test to show what they know?” — and providing or asking students what that would look like. Innovation can be simply just that: making decisions with students.
It can be strategies: how to turn uncivil arguments into civil and respectful debates.
It can be tools: social bookmarking, YouTube Live debates
It can be processes and protocols developed together with participants.
Innovation takes the usual or mundane, reinvigorates the purpose, and creates better engagement to meet that purpose.
Big or small, innovation moves people and education forward for the better, as each student moves forward knowing his/her strengths and goals while building the knowledge and skills to meet their goals.
What has been one of your best “innovations”that have broken through the usual to better focus the team’s goals?