“Infusing Education with Disruptive DNA”

drawing of plane dropping letters

They must have been feeling brave to take on such a huge topic. Because the innochat innovators tackled education in their weekly Twitter meeting.

The topic of much hand wringing in most English-speaking countries, education is often portrayed as failing children, gets engulfed in more than a few firestorms of controversy, and is routinely buffeted by politics of all kinds.

The innochat followed the usual pattern this week. A framing post with food for thought and the week’s questions was posted on the Innochat website. Today’s session was moderated by Wanda McClure (@WandaMcClure) and her sister Renee Hopkins (@Renee_Hopkins).

My guess was that the topic was too big for a single innochat since many of the questions were answered by questions as the innovators sought to clarify meanings and definitions.

Solutions from Associations & Analogies

The first question was, Where to look for associations and analogies that might help illuminate potential solutions for education?

Jenny Neill (@jennyneill) suggested looking at how children acquire skills prior to formal schooling and incorporating those methods as part of education. She also noted that kids learn through games and role playing.

Stacy Leidwinger (@StacyLeidwinger) said “teacher-taught classrooms are a thing of the past” and suggested collaboration where students take a bigger role in teaching each other.

Harvey Briggs (@OBX_Harvey) asked if we know what the objectives of education are? And should they be redefined? Is a baseline necessary for everyone?

My own two cents was to draw on psychology and childhood development studies. Also to remember that learning can be auditory, visual, kinetic, emotional, or some combination.

What Questions to Ask?

So what questions need to be asked about how education works now? McClure wanted to know.

Seth Godin says current education’s sole purpose is to teach the compliance required for an industrial world which has passed,” John Lewis (@JohnWLewis) said.

Leidwinger said to look at consumption of education materials. “We need to go beyond texts — hands on is key.”

“My kids were pretty expressive from a young age. The feeling of control connects [but] you still have to cover a curriculum,” said Nick Kellet (@NickKellet) in Canada.

McClure suggested looking beyond a curriculum to teach critical thinking and collaborative skills.

Matt Recio (@mattbrat1) asked about the main role of education. “Is it just to get a job?”


How do we experiment to see what works since we cannot throw out the whole system? Hopkins asked.

“Are the decades of experience of Montessori, Steiner, etc., not experiments?” Lewis asked. Cathryn Hrudicka (@CreativeSage) said rather than disrupt the educational system, it would be better to introduce incremental innovation.

A few tweeters drew on personal experience to say how much they have learned outside of school. Natasha Gabriel (@Natasha_D_G) drew a distinction between formal and informal learning techniques. “I haven’t been in a classroom for years but am still learning,” she said.

“I learned more about managing myself through learning to fly aircraft than through decades in the education system!” Lewis said.

“So maybe explore how people are trained to fly aircraft? And other places where successful training is critical?” Hopkins mused. “Maybe we should study how we really learned, especially those like me who had spotty formal schooling as kids.”

Schawn Thropp (@Sethropp) suggested a TED talk where Sugata Mitra studied how kids teach themselves. (In his talk at the Science Gallery in Dublin, Ireland, Bill Liao (@liaonet) recalled the failings of his own education in Australia and spoke of his admiration for Mitra’s work).


“Did we learn or were we taught?” asked Achim Mueller in Germany. “Awesome at its existential best,” Briggs replied.

Teachers as Innovators

“Empower teachers to experiment and take risks. Don’t scold when trying something new,” Leidwinger said. Hopkins agreed. “Reframe failure — learn to learn from it.”

“Is training the issue or does the current system prevent teachers from being innovators?” Briggs wondered. “From stories I hear regularly from teachers, the school system keeps them down,” Hrudicka said.

Dan Keldsen (@dankeldsen) didn’t buy that. “Teachers are empowered, just like any employee. To state otherwise is an alibi,” he said.

“It’s not that simple. We talk often here about the need to have culture that fosters innovation. Teachers need no less,” Hrudicka replied.

Hopkins noted that teachers are rewarded when kids get good test results, and not for innovating. “A system of rewarding anything can be dangerous,” Thropp said.

On the subject of test scores, Briggs noted that employers never asked about grade point averages. Lewis joked that it is important: “I heard A students work for B students and C students run companies!”

Illustration, Letter Bombs, courtesy of Hiking Artist Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig on Flickr.


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