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comes from staff decisions based on
their understanding of their students.
There will always be obstacles for
educators. But we still have power to
make choices about what happens in
our classrooms, libraries, and schools
and to try new ideas, with the chance
to fail, reflect, and even blog or tweet
about it. We can add value to education by moving beyond the obstacles
to invent and implement different and
more effective ways for our students
—Selena Ward is a technology integration teacher
at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie,
Maryland, USA. She is also a Discovery Educator
Network Star, Google Certified Teacher, professional development chair for the Maryland Society of
Educational Technology, one of ISTE’s 2012 Emerging Leaders, and @thetechtiger on Twitter.
something that can be taught with a
single project or class.
The American celebration of individuality, the nation’s intellectual
and cultural diversity, and our admiration of those who try, fail, and
try again has made the United States
the world’s most innovative nation.
And yet, as we turn our educational
focus toward more efficiently creating “standard” students learning
“common” knowledge, we work directly against a culture that develops
—After a successful career in the software and
startup world, Pete Welter co-founded The
Cooperatory ( thecooperatory.com), where he
coaches teens in starting businesses and becoming entrepreneurs.
Producing Innovators’ Assistants
The principal thrust of current school reform efforts is
taking us in the wrong direction. We are directing our
efforts at producing a group of graduates who would
make good assistants to innovators—not the Steve
Jobses we need, but those who could do grunt work
for them. Not inspired creators and explorers, but their
support staff. The pity is that our policies seem to be
set by those who don’t understand the difference.
Jupiter, Florida, USA
Evidence of Innovation
It is difficult to say that the U.S. government doesn’t
support innovation when it is constantly trying to
improve our education community. The i3 Innovation
Fund is a prime example. Schools as we know it
are embracing lectureless classrooms and bringing
students to the forefront to create more individualized
learning tracks. Many school systems are also leaping
forward with the use of BYOD and mobile devices.
Houston, Texas, USA
Revolutionary, Not Evolutionary
Significant change in U.S. education is constrained
by politics, money, parent expectations, teachers, administrators, and other factors (see my
blog post: bit.ly/Uq YT98). Innovation that is game
changing is revolutionary, not evolutionary. The U.S.
education system is not set up to encourage or accept revolutionary changes. Only by acting outside
of this system can real innovation occur.
San Francisco, California, USA
Scale the Pockets
American teachers are losing control of what they
teach to the standards movement, but there remains
great freedom in how they can teach. In every school
and district are pockets of innovation where teachers
are using new technology to imagine new ways of
learning. The challenge is in scaling these pockets.
Ed Tech Teacher and Researcher
Arlington, Massachusetts, USA
How We Train Students
We do not support innovation. Instead, we train students to follow clearly marked paths of predetermined
pseudo-thought. We train them that there is one correct answer that is known by the teacher and/or test
grader, and that there is a simple formula for reporting
that answer—a process to solve a given problem, an
essay written by formula, lists of memorized terms
to bubble in or click. We train them with worksheets,
one-answer textbook questions, and lots of tests.
JD Ferries Rowe
CIO, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Innovate in Spite of the System
There is innovation in teaching, but that is because
of the resilience and courage of our human capital,
our teachers. I have witnessed excellent teachers
give to the system what it values—improvement
on test scores—while devoting as much of their
time as possible to truly educating their students.
But they do it in spite of the system, not because of
it. That, in itself, is an indictment of the system.
Coach Mentor, Pennsylvania Department of Education
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Teach for Life, Not Trivia
After reading Steve Jobs’ biography, I am confident
that a student of his caliber would have folded his
standardized test into creative origami rather than sit
obediently bubbling in answers with his number-two
pencil. These types of methods teach our students
one thing: endurance. They are not asked to produce, but to consume. Consumption may help students succeed at Trivial Pursuit, but not at life.
Technology Integration Specialist
Houston, Texas, USA
The Problem with Grade Levels
Our nation’s education by grade structure artificially
limits innovation. It does not accommodate individualized learning, differences in development, unique
learning challenges, or learning rates. It is individuals
who need educational focus, not entire grade levels.
Ed Tech Specialist
Parker, Colorado, USA