Monday, September 15, 2014

Inspiring An Innovation Generation- A Re-Visioning of E-Learning--Part I

Education has been called the great equalizer. The truth is that it is not! In fact it is the great divide! Access to education in the past was determined by the dictates of government which determined which social classes to invest in that would give the greatest ROI. Although education was a great equalizer, its fullest benefits were reserved for those who would be the leaders of industry and members of the social elite in our societies. The tragedy of this type of model for educating the masses was that it was extremely difficult if not impossible for a promising intelligent student in the lower classes to better his or her station in life through education. Economic and social barriers were erected to prevent such a student from developing their full potential. The problem today is that those who benefited most from this arrangement are not willing to give it up. This was the industrial model of education.

If we accept the premise that this model is dysfunctional when it comes to meeting the needs of a new generation then what should we use as a replacement for it? We can't operate from a vacuum! Given the seismic shifts in technology, the Internet and the connectivity of today's digital learners, a new mindset and guiding vision is needed in order to harness these forces for the enrichment of a learner who can connect to others globally and collaborate on whatever issues that present themselves. A culture of innovation in all aspects of life requires a different set of skills from those who would be the innovators and digital entrepreneurs in this new and evolving culture.

Credit: Arztsamui
Tony Wagner (2012) in his work titled: "Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World", suggests that in order for a culture of innovation to develop we need to foster those skill sets required for innovation in the education systems of our societies. The change in the way that we do "schooling" needs to be systemic and not a patch work attempt. He suggests that there are seven survival skills that need to be nurtured in young people. Some of these many educators will suggest that they are already working on. These seven qualities are necessary but not sufficient in themselves for us to truly accomplish what needs to be done. They are as follows:

  1.  Critical thinking & problem solving
  2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
  3. Agility & adaptability
  4. Initiative & entrepreneurship
  5. Accessing & analyzing information
  6. Effective oral and written communication
  7. Curiosity & Imagination

In order to nurture innovation in the innovation generation, other qualities such as those that follow are required:

  • Perseverance
  • Willingness to experiment
  • Take calculated risks
  • Tolerate failure
  • Possess a demonstrated capacity for "design thinking".

If we see the roles of educators and students as agents of change in society that are in synch with developing a culture of innovation then we will also discover that the characteristics of a design thinker are in harmony with what is required for young innovators to be, as Tony Wagner expresses it, young people who will change the world.

In the next post, I will describe the nature of design thinkers and how it is the right mindset for educators, students and administrators who act within a new education models, as agents of change in this digital age.......

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