Thursday, 22 February 2018

Why we need to be teaching innovation in schools

The World Economic Forum recently reported that the “digital revolution is not only here, it is accelerating every day”. Not rocket science I know but their main point is that the scope, scale and ubiquity of these advances, for example in automation and digitalisation of information, is truly unprecedented.       


This unprecedented digital transformation will drive major economic growth and societal change in the next several years. The potential economic impact will be between $14 trillion and $33 trillion a year in 2025! For this reason, many universities around the world are now embracing an ever-expanding role and are driving innovation leading to greater economic development. (

 Carnegie Mellon University reports that universities are driving innovation by:

·      Fostering entrepreneurship (200+ colleges & universities in the US have launched centres dedicated for innovation or entrepreneurship)
·      Encouraging collaboration with the private sector which helps to prepare students to be citizens of a rapidly changing world
·      Promoting diversity and inclusion by ensuring that diverse perspectives (racial, socio-economic, geographical, gender …) are incorporated in their programmes
·      Exploring the nexus of technology and society, that is, provide the ethicists, artists, philosophers, policy experts, economists, cognitive scientists and sociologists who will help ensure the digital future is designed for people as well as machines


So, how are schools attempting to teach innovation?

A favourite blog is Mind/Shift:

They offer articles and podcasts on “Big Ideas” and the future of learning. Back in 2013 they posted a forward-thinking article titled:
10 Ways to Teach Innovation
1.     Move from projects to problem Project Based Learning (inquiry learning)
2.     Teach concepts not facts
3.     Distinguish concepts from critical information (find the right blend between open-ended inquiry and direct instruction)
4.     Make skills as important as knowledge
5.     Form teams not groups (groups co-operate, teams are better collective thinkers

6.     Use thinking tools
7.     Use creativity tools
8.     Reward discovery (not just rewarding for known information)
9.     Make reflection part of the lesson
10.  Be innovative yourself, as a teacher

All of the above is already happening in many schools but whether all elements are consistently applied is debateable. The main point is:

Teaching innovation in primary schools will be enhanced by including the above elements

As well as those key elements, we can follow the wisdom offered by universities and include:

·      A makerspace, tinkering space, hack space, creator space for all students so that innovative thinking can flourish naturally

·      Harness, nurture and encourage the excitement of kids developing something new, innovating, that could potentially help others, the planet etc.
·      Develop partnerships with community experts (business, universities, medicine …) so that students have REAL opportunities to not only learn from experts but partner with them to work on a real problem
·      Incorporate activities/opportunities for students, no matter how young, to understand different perspectives, to hear diverse opinions and to gain a picture of inequalities and minorities throughout the world

·      Teach philosophy (P4C), Socratic Method, De Bono Thinking and ethics especially in relation to the emergence of robots and artificial intelligence

·      Explore possible jobs of the future so that students understand that the workforce is changing rapidly (e.g. growth in automation) and they can help shape what those jobs may look like through being future ready, informed and innovative.


Final points from the experts:

Students of today already seek to make a difference in society through startups, social entrepreneurship, and other ventures of their own creation

Everything is in a state of flux but the ability to be innovative and think outside of the box should be at the centre of the curriculum!

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Death to National Standards! Long live reporting on the whole child!

Death to Nat Standards!
Long live reporting on the whole child!

Finally, we can concentrate on real time, in-situ reporting to parents/caregivers on all aspects of their child’s progress and achievement. This transition from a focus on narrowly defined academic achievement to one that shows long-term academic, social and emotional development will take a serious investment of time. However, the end result will finally provide parents/caregivers with authentic, accurate information about their child’s growth and development in all areas, in real time. No longer will parents/caregivers wonder how their child is progressing or wait months for an update at student-led conferences or a twice yearly written report.

Steve Job’s Schools, introduced in 2013 into the Netherlands and South Africa, fulfils this aim of real time reporting on the whole child:

Differently from a regular primary school, where you have to distil the progress of your child from periodical report cards and an incidental parent-teacher conference, at our school you not only are permanently informed about the progress of your child, but also in much more detail.

 Many schools are well on the way to helping students and teachers develop
individual e-portfolios but now, given a mandate to focus on formative assessment and reporting on the whole child, schools will re-visit their assessment policies, procedures and foci in order to capture learning in all its facets to fully inform parents/caregivers.

Each school will form a shared understanding of what the e-portfolio will look like, consist of across the school community. Schools know the importance of developing shared understandings, consultation, including parents/caregivers, teachers and students, and transparent decision making.

Each student’s individual e-portfolio will show a holistic picture of each students learning journey and may include goal setting, reflections, academic test results, self and peer assessments, teacher, parent and peer feedback, units of inquiry, rich tasks, a daily learning blog, multi-media artefacts of learning, soft and hard skill development (key competencies) and interests and passions.

Jenson and Trever (2014), see below, have developed a graphic of the e-portfolio as a learning tool which emphasises the important point that an e-portfolio is not just a curation of snapshots or artefacts; it is a life-long learning tool.

 Schools will choose their e-portfolio platform according to their needs and preferences. Student/teacher usability, that is, ease of use, is paramount.

I believe students from year two are able to develop their own e-portfolio, not just a learning blog but a personalised multi-media portfolio full of snapshots of their learning over time including reflections and next steps.

                                 Bird (2016)

Student agency means not just giving students a choice and voice in their learning but more importantly giving them the opportunity to personalise and take ownership of their learning. Taking ownership of their own e-portfolio offers students power, control and autonomy of their learning.

Basken (2008) states:

ePortfolios are effective learning tools because they support students’ own knowledge construction, make otherwise invisible aspects of the learning process visible, and place agency in the hands of students, which fosters learners’ motivation.

Students will form a deep understanding of their abilities, their growth as a learner, their passions and their needs and will become self-regulated learners. The following is a synopsis of research findings on the long term impact of e-portfolios:

 Teachers will direct teach and model the skills and tools, provide information and quality time for e-portfolio development. E-portfolios need to be owned by the student and teacher through a shared understanding of learning intentions, success criteria and feedback, that is, an essential agreement. Teaching students to reflect on their work, their progress and achievements will be paramount. As Basken so wisely states:

With ePortfolios, the process of reflection originates as a solo activity, but becomes social through a feedback loop, as the student’s instructor, peers, mentors, and even family members respond to and provide commentary on those reflections. Making and then sharing an ePortfolio with others is somewhat like telling a story: the story of one’s learning journey.
Invisible learning will finally become visible!