Education Innovation Should Come From Educators

The education industry is famous for it's lack of innovation. But the tide is slowly beginning to shift and it's the educators, not the administrators, who are leading the charge for education innovation.

Education Innovation Should Come From Educators

"Education doesn't go on in the committee rooms of our legislative buildings." That is a quote from Sir Ken Robinson's brilliant TED talk on escaping education's so-called death valley. He goes on to say that by removing educational control from the schools and teachers and placing it into the hands of our government the effectiveness of our education all but evaporates.

As a country, that's where we are. For decades our education system has been in the control of federal and state governments who could not be more removed from what is actually happening inside the walls of our classrooms.

Couple that with the fact that Government is the only industry more resistant to (technical) innovation than Education and you've got yourself a nearly immovable dinosaur.

You've got "next-gen" technology solutions that look like they were designed in the late 1990's, curriculum that changes so much that students and teachers can't keep up and a system that would rather keep the status quo than attempt to change things for the better.

Sounds pretty dire.

But exciting things are happening.

At SXSW this past March, there were numerous education innovation and design related talks led by teachers - not administrators.

Conversations like this great back and forth between Richard Culatta (Technology lead at the US DOE) and Sandy Speicher (Managing Director at the design firm IDEO) are taking place and ideas are catching on.

So what can we do about it? In the final letter in the back and forth series linked above, Richard highlights five things educators can do to help pioneer innovation in education:

  • Celebrate past innovation - know of an educator doing great things? Tell people. Make them non-ignorable!
  • Let your students guide you - this should be a no-brainer. Talk to your students. Ask them questions about what you could do to help them out. They will tell you.
  • Get input from outside education - as we've said, education can be very comfortable with how things currently are. Getting input from people outside education, especially where rapid innovation is taking place, can be invaluable to moving that dinosaur.
  • Embrace failure - numerous successful companies have proved this over and over again (Facebook, Google X) that if you create a culture that accepts failure and sometimes encourages it you will be able to identify and then move on from bad ideas quickly. Education needs to fail and fail fast in order to find solutions that work.
  • Teamwork - this sounds so basic but it's so true. When you bring people together you increase the brainpower in the room and the group (or groups) come up with solutions that no single individual could come up with by themselves.

If you've got other ideas about how to kickstart education innovation, let us know in the comments!