The ever elusive “AHA” moment. It struck me again, the wily little rascal.
The ATA’s Council on School Administration had the wisdom to bring in Simon Breakspear for their annual conference last week and I knew it would be a great event. Having seen him the year before at the CAPP conference, I knew we were in for a compelling day, stressing the importance of changing the educational landscape of schools. He spoke of the student as the driver of learning, the teacher as the activator of learning and technology as the accelerator of learning, a powerful image was formed. That being said, that wasn’t my AHA moment.
He spoke of Project Based Learning, looking at real world problems that were deep, connected, collaborative, authentic and multi-dimensional. His talk was compelling as he sited High Tech High in San Diego as a real beacon for High School innovation, stretching the norms of learning. This was insightful and motivating but wasn’t the gem that struck me the most.
It was when he talked of innovation being something as simple as prototyping in industry that I really got excited. Rather than coming up with some grandiose idea for reforming education, working out the bugs and glitches then throwing a heap of money on it, Simon suggested that perhaps a more simple approach should be taken. In industry, when a problem arises, prototypes are developed at a very low cost, trialed in a small setting for a short span and then decisions are made. If the prototype is successful and shows promise, then the company puts a little more money in to it to retune it and bump it up a little in the test market to see how it works in a larger space. This testing continues until they have a very well oiled prototype that is ready for a mass launch. If the prototype is disappointing and does not solve the problem it was meant to solve, the testers pivot and try a different solution. Not much is lost as not much was invested.
Simon suggested that the same may well work best in education. When we see something is not working in our school, rather then jump into problem solving mode with huge budgets and school wide buy in, why not come up with a basic solution that may work and test it in a classroom for a couple of lessons. Revisit the practice and, if it showed promise, retune it and try it in a few more places for a short trial period. Work out the bugs and glitches and let the practice arise as it is ready to be tested more. It just seems to make a whole lot more sense than jumping in fully, doesn’t it? AHA!
So, let’s try it out. What are some problems in your school? What can you try and how long can you try it to give it an honest look. Where is the smallest market you can try it right off and where may it grow to naturally. Give it a try, I’d love to hear how it goes.
Keep on learning.