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04/10/2012

Comments

As always, Kevin, you pose a challenging question--one that we really need to conisder.

I'm going to begin my answer with an analogy. People often use the excuse, "I didn't have time." My response to that is (often unstated, but not always) "You have the same amount of time as anyone else. It's just how you chose to use your time."

I see this not as a matter of title, but as a matter of prioritization. As a head, I obviously can't spend tons of time doing innovative things in the daily life of the school. But I can set a clear tone and expectation in many ways. Do that, and then people slowly begin to move that way.

I'll add another twist to your argument. I know you focus on life in schools, and the culture within them makes this a very challenging issue. But what I find adds to that challenge is that when schools do experiment, very often families will respond with the idea that we shouldn't use their kids as guinea pigs. So it's not just the internal culture that has to be shifted.

I think the word "school" is inherently non-innovative. I think school -- the industrial model we've had since the late 1800s -- is the problem we need to innovate away from. So I'd say that in the "learning community" I'm opening in fall 2013 -- http://trianglearning.org -- every community member is in charge of innovation.

That sounds like a cop-out, I'm sure -- but I want students to take more responsibility for their own learning, and I want parents to take more responsibility for their own learning (not just their kids' learning -- their own learning -- parents should learn as well).

I want to create a culture of fierce learners who constantly question the best way to do things and constantly learn more about the world.

My learning community will have only six full-time adults (I'm calling them "learning facilitators" rather than "teachers") at full size (and only two the first year), so quality control should not be an issue. I expect those six folks to be the lead innovators who figure out the best way for students to learn to the best of their ability. I envision that they will take Triangle Learning Community in directions I never foresaw.

There's no getting around the need to learn to wrestle with difficult texts and sophisticated processes (and I'd argue that learning to read in all sorts of different situations is a skill/process that students need to work on), but "school" was a place where we came to get information in a world of scarce information. That's not the world we live in today. And there's no reason students have to do the same things at the same time every time a bell rings. I might do some of my best learning at 6 a.m., for example. There has to be a better way to be a 21st century learner, and to make sure that time we spend together is mostly time when we're doing things we could not do on our own.

Who determines the curriculum and pedagogy at your school? Ideally, they should be in charge of institutional innovation, or else change may be relegated to the margins of the instructional program.

Since (referring to your earlier post) only 5% of people have an instinct for innovation, then the next best thing is for the instructional program decision-makers to partner with the innovators in one's institution. Good partnership requires trust, delegation, direction, and adoption.

It's important to get on the same page. If senior admins institutionalize systems for modest program changes, and innovators simultaneously organize a more ambitious agenda, friction and discouragement can result.

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