Diving into a new book is always a time of great anticipation and curiosity. “What can I learn? What ideas are out there? How does it have an impact upon my day to day?” are all things that I consider as I launch into the unknown of a new reading. Having participated in the George Couros led Innovator’s Mindset IMMOOC last year, I knew that his recommendation of Katie Martin’s Book Learner Centered Innovation would inspire and challenge me. I have not been disappointed.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” –Jessie Potter, page 10 #LCInnovation
What a quote. It speaks volumes of the current state of education in my experience. As we sit upon the precipice of a major paradigm shift in education, there is great reluctance to let go of the industrial model of compliance and conformity. In a world where EVERYTHING is different than it was when I attended school, the model of education looks exactly the same. What if my doctor used the exact same techniques from 1987? Or my dentist? My contractor? My automobile? My forms of communication? It would be unacceptable to us as consumers. Yet, we are asking our children to consume from a model that has moved at glacier-like pace for 30 years. Katie Martin offers the inspiration to “be the change” to our students, and move this model into their world. A world we are woefully slow at adapting to. To move our model into one of relevance to their futures. She tells a story of students at Starbucks on page 6 that can be repeated at all student conversations around the country. I have personally watched students go from “explorers” and curious learners to drones that copy knowledge into their spiral notebooks. All while the 21st century tools our district has afforded the campus sit in a backpack.
I recently was asked by a 5th grade daughter of a dear friend to look at her science project with her. The instructions clearly dictated that it MUST be presented on a tri-fold cardboard display, and include encyclopedia references as her sources of information. It was heart breaking. NO mention of innovative exploration, wonder, or learning of something that she is interested in. Just a rote list of items to be displayed the same by all students. A true compliance model for the 1950’s Cold War Era. We all know of projects like this, and they do nothing to prepare our students for the world which awaits them. The references to Kodak, Blockbuster, and Sears that Katie and George make are numerous and accurate. WHAT IF we actually inspired creativity and innovation in the 5th grade? What could our world look like if we didn’t focus on preparing them for a world that no longer exists? Katie has done a fantastic job offering up these questions and challenging us as educators to make that leap of faith and dip our toes into the world of Learner Centered Innovation.
Why is it critical to spark curiosity and ignite passions in learners?
I believe this to be simple. We owe it to our future. In a world which will be predicated on Theory Y organizations (p57-58 #LCInnovation) we are training Theory X, compliant based Industrial workers. If our true mission is to prepare students for the “real world”, don’t we have an obligation to look past our imagining of what that meant 20 years ago and focus on what is reality now?
Ask the students. The 2016 Gallup poll on page 21 makes their thoughts clear. All key indicators decline as they move on through their education. What are we doing to reverse this trend? To make them WANT to be in our classrooms? Katie sums it up best: “When school is characterized by compliance and mandates, opportunities for creation, exploration, and developing connections between people and ideas are limited at best.” (Learning Centered Innovation, page 22)
Participating in this IMMOOC is a fantastic way for us to light a spark in our individual schools. Let one innovative classroom become 2, which becomes 4, then 8… and a movement begins. Let us be on the forefront of that movement in our districts.