Sunday, February 13, 2011

Where would you go and who would you speak with if you sought out innovation in education?

If I were going to visit the most innovative schools and educational places in the world where would I go?

What characteristics do the most innovative schools / sites / communities share? What are the traits of visionary the visionary leadership, the pedagogy... the exploration and use of technology, creativity? How about the sense of community? Here are a few places on my radar in no particular order:

  • Boston Arts Academy, Boston MA
  • High Tech High, CA: Geri and Anne Jacobs HTH, San Diego CA
  • MIT Media Lab, Cambridge MA
  • Minnesota High School for Recording Arts
  • Reggio Emilia and Early Childhood Education, Italy
  • Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia
  • Singularity University, Moffett Field CA
  • Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, VA
  • Virtual Florida: Talk to the folks who run the program... in person and tour how they do it.

... and I just realized I wrote them down alphabetically. Strange feat for a Sunday morning, pre-coffee thinking.

If I were going to talk to the game changers, the visionary educators, the shapers, the creators, the folks who have their pulse on the needs and shifts in education, who would I speak to?

Here are the folks I'd like to chat with below. I'd like to hear their thoughts on what education should and shouldn't be. I'd like to explore their thoughts on learning, on what our schools should look like in the near future. How do they seek innovation? How do they stay fresh? What are their thoughts on creating programs, on leadership, and on inspiring people?

Listed in no particular order:

Linda Nathan: Boston Arts Academy
Larry Rosenstock: HTH
Mitch Resnick: MIT Media Lab
Dave Ellis: HSRA
Alfie Kohn: Author
Chris Lehmann: SLA
Gary Stager: Author, Educator
Will Richardson: Author, Educator
Karl Fisch: Author, Educator
Anya Kamanetz: Author
Yong Zhao: U Michigan, Author
Sugata Mitra: Researcher, Educator
Eleanor Duckworth, Harvard University

For many years I've relished the idea of sitting down with Seymour Papert and discussing learning. I'm not sure if Dr. Papert does such things these days after his accident though. I've read Papert's books, papers, seen a good number of videos of his speeches here and there and think he's quite a visionary. I saw a video of Papert some years ago, in Maine I think, speaking about rigor in education, of the need to create things rather than simply use them. I'd love to ask Dr. Papert about his thoughts today on these matters. How can we create better learning environments and more meaningful projects for kids?

For years I've always wanted to sit down and talk with Ray Kurzweil as well. Transhumanism, singularity, the concepts behind creating Singularity University, the work (play) environments there, our interaction with technology in the future, his thoughts on technology in public education in the main: The good the bad and the ugly... and what we could do to better serve students.

I've followed the work of the folks above for some time, books, blogs, and seen many of them speak on the web and at a few conferences. They've inspired me. I'd like the chance to sit with them, to discuss the questions above and to pick their brains about the scope of what I do in a classroom and how it could improve.

As for conferences / seminars:

I'd like to go participate in the main TED conference in Long Beach CA. The price of the event (some 6k in admission alone) takes the event off the map for me. The scope of the conference, the vision, the thinkers assembled are most intriguing though. Sounds like a fine way to spend a week, something that would inspire me.

I attended the EDUCON conference in Philadelphia a few weeks ago (an event I highly recommend). Can't wait to head there again. I'd like to head back to SLA at some point and see teachers in action, be a fly on the wall during a faculty professional development session and talk with Chris Lehmann.

While roaming the hallways at the EDUCON conference in deep thought I found myself buying a raffle ticket to help the school raise money. Lo and behold, I won admission to the Constructing Modern Knowledge Conference this Summer in NH. There are some grand folks there. Can't wait.


What other places or educational systems should I see?

Who should I speak with?

What questions should I ask?

What other conferences should I attend?

This all sounds like one hell of a sabbatical idea... now I just have to convince my school it is too.

Many thanks for tuning in. Looking forward to hearing from you. Adam


  1. I feel like part of the problem with the educational system is that it's become an echo-chamber.

    Someone outside the normal educational system you should talk to would be Raph Koster

    Also I would talk to Paul Lockhart

    The third person I would talk to would be Dr. Phil Tyler who is the best teacher I ever had in my educational career. His expectations are high (sometimes brutally so) for his students, but he also ran the most engaging, impactful, and satisfying courses I took in college.

  2. Definitely go visit the MIT Media Lab and see how the smartest folks in the world think, learn and create. (saw it was on your list... but I wanted to second it.)

    I'd like to go see Olin University as an institution of higher ed that's trying to do stuff.

    I'd talk to two educator/authors - Daniel Koretz (author of Measuring up) and David Perkins (author of Making Learning Whole.)

    And I really want to find the time to go see the iSchool in NYC. The two co-directors are thoughtful, smart folks and I want to see what they're building.

  3. Many thanks, Chris. I'm fascinated by MIT and the Media Lab and my curiosity has only been magnified since they announced the creation of the OpenCourseWare initiative. Mitch Resnick is slated to be at Constructing Modern Knowledge this Summer and I couldn't be more excited for the chance to chat with him on those fronts and to take part in the tour of the Media Lab. I'm hoping to throw the project based courses on the table at the conference and get everyone's feedback.

    I saw your latest post on what's brewing in Finland as well. I've been studying the movements in FInland for about two years, beginning when they announced 'broadband internet as a right.' I'm not sure where to go precisely, who to speak with there but am actively searching.

  4. Excellent tips, Friar Nick (disclaimer: Nick was a student of mine back in the day as we forged out a Tech Internship program... and I still call him Friar Nick). I've looked up the folks you mentioned this morning and am going to add them to my list.

  5. hey adam
    a school i hope to visit sometime - maybe we could go together - haha
    is quest2learn - Q2L in NYC

    it is the game based learning school founded by katie salen.
    learn by playing
    it doesn't get any better than that!


  6. Mmmmm, as I observe school environments and students become more violent, and I see more and more unmotivated individuals, I find myself wanting to talk with the people that have more to do with the education of the human condition, people who help create strong souls, education of how to learn to live with your heart as well as your brain. I want to talk to people that are creating the life of their dreams and how they did it and how we can help students in a school environment to do that. I would love to ask them, "What was good in your school environment?" "What do you wish was there that was missing?"

    Dr. Christiane Northrup
    Dalai Lama
    Thich Nhat Hanh
    Deepok Chopra
    Grace Potter
    Jeff Bezos
    Ree Drummond
    Kathy Shrock
    Michael Franti

  7. I'm in George! Let me know when you want to go to Q2L or to the pub... Or both ; )

    Jean, I here what you're saying! It's my hope that many of these people I've listed already will do just that. I'm going to research some of the folks you've listed and add them in. Great perspective. Many thanks for chiming in. Looking forward to catching up some day soon.


  8. Had an interesting reply come in via email as to why I'd even think that Michelle Rhee or Arnie Duncan would even consider speaking to me. In a nutshell, I doubt they would. It's interesting to ponder the idea though, of meeting them and anticipating that both of them and I would come to the table with an open mind. I'm not sure any of these folks I've listed would entertain a conversation. My hope is that the scope of a journey like this, the perpectives and conversations from the folks I've met with along the way would intrigue them into participating. Compelling idea.

    Just had a person send email as I write this that said they'd like to sit with Socrates. That they'd like to summarize the current state of education in the world and get his input. Can't say I'd thought of that!

  9. Jean, Looking at some of the folks on your list for this new course development too:

  10. Hey Man, this is the internet! Never before has it been easier to communicate with people that you never thought you'd be able to communicate with. I have no doubt that you will find and meet more of these people than you ever expected. I have had online convos with people I would never otherwise talk with.

    Your class looks cool, I would take it no problem.

  11. Adam,

    Should we not be looking to Vita-Learn to fund some way to visit and collect data from these places, and or models that have been mentioned? Who else is going to do the research on how we bring excellence to Vermont Schools, if not us... Great thought, ideas and information from you, as always. Shared the with our high school admin. Our school improvement plan actually calls for us to do this kind of research.... purposeful. We actually wrote this plan with the students… not the laws , or test scores as the a mark of achievement.

    KD, ARSU