One of the joys of living in Silicon Valley is the wealth of meetings and conferences available to us. Today I had the privilege of attending 2 fabulous events related to innovation. The first was Changing the Game, a day-long conference organized by Churchill Club. Then, in the evening, I attended a panel on The Anthropology of Innovation at the Computer History Museum.
I was struck by how much conversation there was at both programs on the need for innovation in education. There was a great deal of concern about how ineffective most educational practices are- and a great deal of passion to change that. Previously, I wrote about the way our education system destroys the innate curiosity and creativity of kids. The push in this country to teach to the test is making things worse. It was interesting to hear how some groups are trying to change it.
One of the best stories on this topic came from George Kembel who co-founded the D-School at Stanford. Originally started for graduate students, it is now moving into grades K-12. This is happening because the faculty realized that half the time they are breaking the D-school students of the bad habits they were taught in school. It would be easier to simply not teach the kids back habits in the first place.
He described the experience of a grade school teacher focused on reading literacy. After attending a 3-day session on design thinking, she couldn’t wait to apply what she learned. The following Monday, the assigned book was a story of a man in prison. Instead of having the children read the book, she asked them to do a project: find a way to increase privacy for inmates. The book was not the end point- it was a source of information to help the students understand what it is like to be in prison. In design terms, it was a way to develop empathy for the prisoners to be able to provide them with a better solution. Using this approach, by the end of the term the children had improved their learning ability by more than double the usual amount. Why? The children were actively engaged in a series of projects that allowed them to use their creativity; they needed to read more to learn more for their projects. Gotta love it.
There was so much more that I learned throughout the day- perhaps I’ll write some more tomorrow. But felt compelled to get this out while it was fresh on my mind.
What do you think can be done to make schools more relevant and effective in this world of rapidly changing information?