Years ago I was invited to a private screening of “Waiting for Superman” where teachers in the audience were free to express their true feelings. This was before I started speaking on innovation in education. What I learned from the teachers in the audience is still a problem now that I hear from teachers and administrators. Innovation is a buzz word that’s thrown around, but rarely implemented.
It’s not that unusual. I hear it in the corporate world too. What I hear from teachers and employees is that bureaucracy makes creativity and innovation almost impossible. Creativity doesn’t fit neatly into a box that always has a definitive outcome. And failure isn’t a positive trait in that industry. As I found out when I got all A’s except an F in math.
But there are schools out there that are embracing creativity and innovation and outperforming the competition. One such school was the Rialto school district in CA. I was hired as their innovation keynote speaker for their school district business conference. Employees were encouraged to get out of their comfort zone and be willing to fail in order to generate new business ideas using improv and creativity games.
Innovation starts at the top, and if education leaders want to get new, fresh ideas from their employees, they have to be open to them having some bad ideas along with the good. The more ideas you have, the better the chance of getting a good one.
Here are 3 schools that are implementing innovation in education:
Carpe Diem Schools: The Carpe Diem classroom is designed like an office setting, with students learning from their computer in a cubicle. Part of the day is spent doing online work, but at their own pace. If a student is blazing ahead of the rest of the class, they aren’t held back, but are put into the next grade level of work. An example is that a student may be in 6th grade math, 7th grade English, and 8th grade history. Where they’re falling behind they can get more help from the teacher to catch up, and actually graduate early if they want to. The kids have said that it’s incentive to work harder and ask for help where they need it.
Clintondale High School: Clintondale High School has one of the most innovative ideas I’ve heard in education innovation. It’s an example of not falling into the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mode. So, the typical way of doing homework has always been that the teacher gives a lecture at school and then gives the students homework to take home. The problem is that many students who need help with homework may not have parents there who could help them. Also, one of the main things kids hate about school is the homework. So, Clintondale decided to flip things around. They do the homework at school where they have access to the teacher if they need help. And then watch the lecture at home online. This has reduced the failure rate in English by 33%, reduced the failure rate in math by 31%, and reduced the failure rate in science by 22%. This is a brilliant example of why you should always look at things from another angle.
The Steve Jobs School: The Steve Jobs School is self-guided instead of having everyone learn at the same pace. Rather than feeding the students knowledge, teachers, who are called coaches, actually coach the students instead. Parents and coaches meet every six weeks. The lessons take place on an iPad and technology, math, science and engineering are taught alongside creativity and problem solving.
Waldorf School of the Peninsula: The most interesting school on the list is one that is innovative because it uses the techniques of the past. You would think the tech giants in Silicon Valley would send their kids to the most tech savvy school, but most of them actually fork over a huge amount to send their own kids to a school that doesn’t allow technology. No computers, tablets or smart phones are allowed. Subjects are taught using creativity, arts, games, and exploration – use knitting to teach math, and games to teach language. Topics like resilience, problem solving and social and emotional intelligence are favored over rote learning. They equip students with the skills to navigate a fast-changing future.
The future of education will be more diverse and personalized. The more choices students have, the more innovative education will become. Parents will always want the best education possible for their kids, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more money. It does mean thinking outside the box for a better way to learn.