Thursday, October 10, 2013

Change and Coleridge*

One of the K-12 organizational innovations, appearing in the more specialized education journals for some time, has now gone mainstream.  Appearing prominently in The New York Times yesterday, that is the "flipped classroom," story linked here.  

The report is timely, coming on the heels of the just issued report from the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), of a cross-national study that revealed material deficits in the competence of U.S. adults.  

Drop however briefly the denial and hypocrisy that permeate too many public K-12 bureaucracies -- the adult deficits cited are the product of U.S. public K-12 education that for decades either fumbled or ignored coherent self reform.  Sickening irony, those same schools, boards, and administrators now lemming-like are in lock step with ideologically-driven state bureaucracy and corporate reform, where testing obsessions and increasing focus on trivia and methods mumbo-jumbo are destroying real learning.

Pathways away from even more U.S. public educational mediocrity are problem solving and creativity that work in the real world of business and science and other settings where its practitioners are motivated to create innovation.  The isolated education example above is just a snippet.

An example that may not be familiar to many of you, but is rooted in the site of this blog, is the innovative materials handling equipment manufacturer, Crown Equipment Corporation. This industry leading producer has massively innovated by employing fuel cell energy technology, and creatively combining digital technologies with their fork trucks to change the face of supply chain execution and optimization.  Should our public K-12 schools be at the tail end of creative change in our society, its "late adopters" in sociologist Everett Rogers' model of diffusion of innovation?

Soaring beyond the flipped classroom, and out there in pilot form, is what might be termed the one-to-one classroom; curricula, lesson plans, MOOC, constructivism, homework, and even day-to-day assessment designed for the individual student, implemented with advanced computer and software capabilities.  Clearly this innovation, that depends on a major increase in the digital competence of present teacher education, and equally a wake-up call to public school oversight and administration, won't see exposition in the NYT or The Washington Post or Education Week for some time.  But it is indicative that public K-12 education will face disruptive change.

Part of that change will manifest itself in demands for more effective physical infrastructure, new school buildings that reflect a departure from almost a century of stagnation in design concepts.  Education civilian and parental eyes tend to glaze over when this form of K-12 innovation is broached.  But those same eyes gain sharp focus when, for example, they're informed a school system will hang around their neck and on their school tax bill a three decades' albatross of tens of millions of bond dollars for an obsolete structure. Attitudes and choices can quickly change when boards and educators are revealed educationally retro, or reactionary, or too bureaucratic, or lack the skill to improve platforms for learning coming out of taxpayer pockets.

Bricks and mortar are only part of the downstream need for change, and they interact with K-12 organization and technology.  Below is just a brief sampling of some ideas recently floated for our future schools and their leadership needs:

Schools' leadership should be making the charge to identify, create, and pilot test these and related concepts.  New facility and technology investment in turn should reflect the future, not obsolescence and pedestrian housekeeping.

* For those who have forgotten, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," and the infamous albatross.

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