innovation

No Internet? Just Use Cell Phones

The Learning 203S0 Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how mobile technology is making a difference in Ugandan school systems. Image © mejymejy by Geoffrey Ssembajjwe, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor Access to information can transform lives and livelihoods. This is particularly true in places where access to information is hindered by economic, geographic, or social barriers.  Today, the rapidly growing reach of cell phones and other modern communications technologies holds tremendous potential to overcome some of these obstacles. A school system that runs on cell phones Creatively and innovatively including teachers, parents, pupils, local leaders and local education authorities in school governance can go a long way in creating schools where children actually learn.  It is widely acknowledged that good quality schools can only be created through inclusion of all stakeholders in school governance. But, how you can effectively include all the stakeholders in the governance of schools without burdening the system? An effective (and cheap) solution that allows for participatory school governance as well as improved school administrative systems and educational programming in developing nations is mobile technology.   Image © kiwanja Showing up with SMS One area where this could prove especially vital is in monitoring school attendance for both students and teachers. At any given time, 27% of Ugandan youth are not in school, and a lack of follow-up on students who are missing classes by teachers and school administrators does little to encourage attendance.  High rates of teacher absenteeisum (20-30% in some districts) costs the Ugandan government the equivalent of $30 million (USD) annually for services that are not delivered. Attendence can be easily managed using mobile phone-based technology by all stakeholders and leads to greater accountability in the system. And that's it’s just one segment in the school administrative system which can effectively incorporate such technology. The list of uses for mobile phone technology is practically endless and can prove important in changing school systems for the better with minimal resources, especially in areas that don’t have reliable access to phone lines and the Internet through traditional means.  Simply creating a pathway for information between the schools system and parents will give parents and the wider community the ability to become more involved in what is happening locally in education. Using this novel system for communication and organization can transform schools in the developing world by 2030. Geoffrey Ssembajjwe works for Plan International in Uganda setting up school administrative systems and educational programming that use only mobile phones.

‘Design Thinking’…and Why We Should Have a Course on Learning to Work in Groups

The Learning 2030Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how a Canadian student views the importance of design thinking and effective collaboration. Image © neurmadic aesthetic by Bryson McLachlan, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor From the start of our educational pathways we are presented with projects and problems that require us to form groups. Collaboration is a common theme that runs throughout elementary school, high school and into university. Eventually, it spills out of academia and manifests in other ways in the professional world. It is, simply, the process of working together to solve a problem.  The goals and tasks that groups must solve vary, but what remains the same is a manifestation of the old adage “two heads [or more] are better than one.” ‘Working Well In Groups 101’ Everyone has their own opinion about group work, an opinion usually based on personality types and previous experiences. The fact of the matter is that group work can be a very successful practice for solving problems and completing projects.  Why, then, isn't there a point during formal education – high school, university, etc. – where we are taught how to work in a group setting?  Time and again people are told to work together, but how many of us have actually been schooled on the nuances of how to work collaboratively? It wasn’t until I began the Knowledge Integration program at the University of Waterloo that I received any kind of formal education in how to work collaboratively. One method to improve collaborative work and solve complex problems that I have been introduced to is design thinking. Design thinking is not difficult to learn, and it is a process that I strongly believe should be implemented into high school – and even elementary school – curriculums.  Image © Gavin Topp   What is ‘design thinking’? Design thinking doesn't have a single, concrete definition. Its essence though it is a method of problem solving that, depending how you choose break it down, consists of four to seven steps. In the version I use, the steps are as follows:  1) define the problem you need to solve 2) create and consider different problem solving options 3) refine the options and create prototypes, and  4) apply the best possible solution.  Also referred to as ‘human-centered design’, design thinking is best applied to problems that directly involve people.  Design thinking aims to be a unified, holistic approach to solving problems, and is almost always applied through group work. Why should we use design thinking? Along with the four steps outlined above, design thinking has core principles that dictate how groups should function.  These principles involve: ensuring everyone’s voice is heard, leading with empathy, and being intentional when working collaboratively.  The process works best when everyone involved can put forward their ideas without worrying if they will be received negatively. There are no good or bad ideas; only different ideas that may or may not better suit the problem at hand.  A course (or at least a unit) on working in groups? Design thinking should be taught to students at a relatively young age, perhaps middle school or the beginning of high school: Starting young allows students time to hone and develop their proficiency with design thinking itself, and also with collaboration best practices.  It would allow them to graduate high school and be comfortable with applying their skills to whatever problems arise in their academic and professional lives.  Design thinking provides: a) an effective and flexible method for solving problems both in and out of school  b) a set of principals to guide effective group work.  The landscape of our world today is rife with large-scale, complex problems that span many different disciplines.  Climate change is an excellent example as it is a social, political, and economic problem for which we have yet to find meaningful solutions.  For these types of problems to be solved, students must be equipped with the necessary tools, to be able to work with people that represent vast and diverse interest groups.  Takeaways There is no one strategy that can applied to solving every problem; it is important to research and analyze a problem before applying a specific problem solving technique.  However, many of the problems we face today require group work. If people don’t know how to properly work together, the process of solving these problems is hindered.  Teaching students design thinking at a young age will produce individuals who know how to collaborate, to extract the best ideas from every participant. Design thinking and collaboration are means to an end. If used appropriately, they can be powerful tools for producing much-needed solutions to solve wicked, large-scale problems. Bryson McLachlan is a 4th year University of Waterloo Knowledge Integration student who has worked at Treehaus Collaborative Workspace using collaboration, innovation, and creativity to build and foster a coworking community.

A Dream I Had of Learning in 2030

The Learning 2030 Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how a young leader in Nigeria sees the future of high school education and what he thinks we need to do today to get there by 2030. by Fagbohun Omatayo, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor Image © UNNPride Dream, dream, dream... I dream of a high school where the ability to think critically would be encouraged rather than memorization. Where children can design effective solutions to address the problems that matter to them. I dream of a high school where learning would be fun, increasing the receptivity of students. I dream of a high school where children would be taught more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. A high school where creativity and innovation are emphasized. I dream of a high school where students would be “knowledge makers.” Where the classroom is a think-tank and the teachers expert resources. I dream of a high school in the next 20 years where skills in new media and entrepreneurial prowess would be nurtured and developed. I dream of a high school where the Internet would be fully utilized by the teachers as a source of learning tools. Image © carlagomo   Getting technology to students of the developing world In my view, there is no way that we can successfully separate innovation, the Internet, and technology from education in the next 20 years. The Internet is changing the way we work, play, live, even how we eat. It’s already changed the way many students learn in the developed world. Students in the developing world need access to these new tools to help tackle the complex problems they will face after school.   The world isn't static. If we are to have a dynamic future, teaching approaches and methods must change. Fagbohun Omatayo works to promote the UN's Millennium Development goals in Africa and is a Development Ambassador for Nigeria. He currently serves as a Google Student Ambassador after participating in Google Student Ambassador Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Question Everything, Think Outside The 011000100110111101111000

Image © saschapohflepp by Mike Maccarone, Learning 2030 Contributor As teachers (of science, in my case) we encourage our students to wonder (and wander) through school, through life, with a curiosity about how it all works. From the seen to the unseen, the intuitive to the head-scratching.   We aim to equip students with tools they can use to answer their own questions: make observations, collect data, develop a hypothesis, design new ways to test ideas, compare results with others.   We also challenge students to question common sense, to find innovative ways to solve problems, and to think 'outside the box'. But, are we practicing what we preach?    Skill vs. content In the age of digital information and social networking, where facts and equations are literally a click away, the need for memorizing content is far less important than it once was.   A traditional science classroom, where content lies at the center of teaching, learning, and assessment, is no longer enough.   Skills must be at the heart of the classroom and content the delivery system for those skills.   If we turn the curriculum inside out, students are more likely to think scientifically – with consideration, intent, and evidence – rather than merely remember facts.   Scientific literacy can then be more about global citizenship, giving our future leaders, voters, and activists alike the insight and intuition to think scientifically.  An outdated system Kingdom/Phylum/Class/Order/Family/Genus/Species   Red/Orange/Yellow/Green/Blue/Indigo/Violet   I can still recite them, though if you challenged me to explain the difference between Class and Order I might flee (or at least pretend to receive a phone call and check my smart-phone for the answer). Why do we still teach this way? Why are we holding on to these classification systems, these boxes?  For one thing, it's easier to test. I can ask a student to write facts in order, mark her paper, grade it, and tell if she is good or bad or just alright at 'science'. A lazy example, perhaps, but assessment has become a major player in educational reform. Without data, how can we know if we're doing anything right? Data can be a dangerous thing if we collect it improperly. Is it fair to use multiple choice questions and math problems to determine whether our students are thinking analytically? In order to truly reshape how we teach, we need to focus on how we assess. Measuring skills and growth does not have to be a numerical process. Educational data does not have to be quantitative to the extent that public schools might like and teachers' unions might loathe.   There is certainly value in assessment, especially in providing feedback to students. If we can shift our focus from easily gathered, shallow data, we can redirect our efforts towards giving students meaningful feedback that helps them improve their understanding of science and their approach to learning, regardless of where they may fall on the academic spectrum.   In order to shift the focus of schools from content to skills, we need to consider what we are asking our teachers to do and what support they need.   We also need to agree to measure student success in a more meaningful way.  Thinking outside the 011000100110111101111000* But what if we take it one step further?   What if we begin to think of science the way a scientist, and not a test-writer, would - accessing and encouraging all of the different connections to the concept we are studying when it fits best in the classroom, and not when it shows up in Chapter 12. If skills rather than content are brought into focus, if assessment is about feedback and growth rather than facts and percentages, and if sparking curiosity in students is the real nature of a science classroom, how can educators begin to think differently about what and how to teach?   For one, we should acknowledge that the lines between physics, chemistry and biology are blurry – if they exist anymore at all – and that without building in Earth and space studies, engineering and sustainability practice, and technology and its impact into our schools, we will be doing an injustice to the next generation.   For teachers this is can be an uncomfortable idea: I am trained in physics and though I have some background in other areas of science, I couldn't begin to teach a biology class effectively without help. Collaboration is certainly key in developing new, enriching, and exciting cross-curricular ways to innovate the classroom.   Image © CERDEC Students don't think in boxes unless we tell them to If these students can study the physics of a battery in connection to a circuit, explain the chemical process behind alkaline batteries, and use this as an analogy to understand the role of the central nervous system, develop an appreciation for batteries as a means of storing energy using sustainable resources, and design a system that implements a battery as a power source – well, why wait?   Why take four or five years and four or five teachers to connect the dots?   Students are ready to make connections, to be creative, to apply their knowledge to new ideas. Their lines haven't already been drawn.   We can do much, much better than boxes if we work together as teachers, within and between our schools, if we utilize technology as a global network of collaboration and resources. If we question our methods and practice what we preach.       Learning 2030 Forum Peer Advisor Mike Maccarone is the Science Curriculum Specialist (Upper School) for Avenues: The World School in New York City *“box” in binary language

Are Student-Run Schools the Way to Go?

by Samuel Levin, member of the Learning 2030 Forum Three years ago I designed and implemented a school-within-a-school at my public high school in Western Massachusetts. We called it The Independent Project. This school within a school was entirely run by its students. The pilot edition was only one semester long. And, in that first year, there were only eight pupils.  Those eight high schoolers spanned the academic spectrum from high-flyers bound for the Ivy League to students assigned special needs tutoring. Right now, I only want to talk about one of them: Marco.  Even if it just worked for one student… Had it not been for the Independent Project, Marco would have dropped out of high school. He failed most of his classes, struggled to read, and towards the end of his junior year, he often just didn’t show up at all.  He was pushed by his guidance counselor into trying The Independent Project in its pilot semester, and, even though he thought it seemed a little stupid at first, he enrolled.  Half of Marco’s day was dedicated to his Individual Endeavor; a singular enterprise that could be anything he wanted, as long as it could last him the whole semester and it was something he was excited about.  Revealing a talented learner He balked at first, telling the other students that he didn’t have a passion, but ultimately admitted he had always wanted to learn an instrument, and settled on learning to play the jazz piano.  Starting with learning to read music, he worked at it every day, and at the end of the semester, he performed a concert to a live audience. By then, he was skilled enough to improvise during the performance; a strong sign of a true jazz musician. Teaching each other what matters Although he had dyslexia, and had never actually read a book in his time at high school, he became committed to reading the novels that were selected each week by the other students.  He struggled at times, and once or twice became frustrated with the other students for reading too quickly. But he read all nine novels, by authors such as Faulkner, Vonnegut, Auster, and Wilde.  He almost dropped the program when he found out math was a requirement. But, after pushing himself, he discovered the equations behind poker, and realized that math was a part of his world.  He’ll never be a mathematician, but he now has a deeper understanding of the language of mathematics and its role in his life.  30,000+ YouTube viewers can’t be wrong At the end of the semester, for the Collective Endeavor, Marco helped the group make a short documentary about The Independent Project, which received over 30,000 views, and led to schools all over the world working to create their own version of the Project. This is a success story, and I could tell similar ones for every other student in program.  A lesson for 2030 That’s one thing I’d like to do in Waterloo during Equinox Summit: Learning 2030: talk about how The Independent Project’s successes show us that giving young people more agency and authorship over their own education can unleash the hunger, curiosity, and passion for learning that is currently dormant in most students.  I also want to talk about some of the failures – what didn’t work about The Independent Project, and how that can inform our attempts to design better schools for the future.  Mission-accomplished (?) Finally, I’d like to mention that Marco graduated high school, much to the surprise of some of the teachers in the school.  Shortly after that, he formed his own jazz band.  For me, that’s a clear measure of success.  But “number of new jazz bands formed” is not a national measure of success we can use to hold schools accountable.  I think that’s going to be one of the biggest challenges on the way to the future, and I hope we can tackle this problem in Waterloo this fall. In the school of tomorrow, how are we going to create standards that measure the things that really matter? Samuel Levin is a student at Oxford University and founder of The Independent Project at Monument Mountain High School and is a Forum member for Waterloo Global Science Initiative's upcoming Equinox Summit: Learning 2030. Watch Samuel's keynote address at Cornell University’s Youth Grow Summit

Fixing a Learning Disconnect in the Digital Age

by Dr. Kristiina Kumpulainen, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor The relationship between in-school and out-of-school learning has been the source of robust scholarship since the early 20th century. One conclusion that has been drawn from many of the studies of formal and informal learning is that school curriculum and pedagogy should learn from the ways in which learning takes place out-of school. Several researchers have argued that bridges should be made with informal learning practices and learners funds of knowledge with formal education as a way to promote authentic and meaningful engagement that can support identity development. A growing disconnect with digital learning Concerns about the growing disconnect between the digital learner and the school have revitalized public conversations and academic research on the mismatch between in-school and out-of-school learning. Today, there are varied and conflicting views about young people's use of technology, ranging from grave concerns about lack of socialization and poor interaction skills, Internet addiction and cyber bullying, to idealizations of a new generation of highly motivated, highly technologized learners. (Image ©hackerNY used under Creative Commons License) Can we make schools relevant to 2030 and beyond? Efforts motivated by the need to make schools relevant for 21st century learners and — on the other hand — to make learners ready for the 21st century, have resulted in explorations of the ways in which to meaningfully and powerfully bridge between cultures, literacies and social practices of "digital natives." The techno-enthusiast voices of "smart schooling" describe a vision of future school as a fluid, self-fashioning digital learning arena that is increasingly network-based, spanning boundaries between school and out-of-school sites and formal and informal spaces. Here, individuals’ interests guide the learning activity towards educational, vocational and civic goals. At the other end of these optimistic views, there are voices that seriously question whether digital technologies and youth media cultures can legitimately enrich the key tasks of the school, envisioning scenarios in which digital media might hinder, distort or even destroy what the school is and should be about. Media overload? No matter where you stand on these debates, it's clear that the growing diversity and fragmentation of today's media ecology means that young people have a greater range of and choices in media and communications. What is also clear is that (currently, at least) it is generally educationally-privileged youth with productive learning supports at home who are able to take full advantage of the new learning opportunities that the digital world has to offer and to translate these opportunities to academic and/or career successes for themselves. A divisive distinction In my own research work, I am interested in contributing to ongoing discourse, debates and research between the encounters of informal and formal learning in the digital age. My research goal is to offer a conceptual framework via which separations between formal and informal learning (and between the digital learner and the school) could be re-framed so as to overcome the traditional divisive distinction between the two.   Cross-context learning for 2030 Students have always engaged and learned within and across contexts, operating in different spaces and places via different tools. However, creating hybrid spaces of learning that authentically harness the funds of knowledge embedded in the life worlds of digital learners is a key challenge for research on learning and education in the 21st century. In my view, the role and position of the school in the digital age should not be seen as opposing youth culture nor as digital enrichment of traditional schooling, but rather conceptualizing school as an important part of a network of contexts of learning. A hybrid ecosystem for today's learners Together with other learning contexts, a hybrid learning ecosystem can optimally support engagement and identity-building for today's diverse learners. I am suggesting the creation of spaces in which formal and informal meet, creating a third hybrid space for authentic and transformative practices in school and out. Here, formal and informal learning with digital technologies would reciprocally transform one another. Dr. Kristiina Kumpulainen is a Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at the University of Helsinki and former Director of CICERO Learning She will serve as a member of the expert Quorum for the Waterloo Global Science Initiative (WGSI)'s upcoming  Equinox Summit Learning 2030 from Sept 29 -Oct 3, 2013 Selected Publications: Kumpulainen, K., Mikkola, A., & Jaatinen, A-M. (2013). The choronotopes of technology-mediated creative learning practices in an elementary school community. Learning, Media and Technology. DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2012.752383 Kumpulainen, K., Krokfors, L., Lipponen, L., Tissari, V., Hilppö, J. & Rajala, A. (2011). Learning Bridges – Toward Participatory Learning Environments. Helsinki: CICERO Learning, University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-952-10-6046-5 (paperback).