Education & Innovation: why not?

1_room_schoolImagine the possibilities if we could harness the collective intelligence of those educational leaders whose innovative uses of technology are transforming their classrooms and engaging their students.

A recent visit to Waterloo by TV Ontario’s cutting-edge current affairs program, The Agenda, hosted by Steve Paikin, got me to thinking about how Ontario has never fully realized the vision of collaboration between government, private industry and the education sectors as called for in For the love of learning, the 1995 Ontario royal commission report on learning.

In 2006 I wrote an op-ed piece in my local newspaper, Step up to the cyber-learning plate, about how some of the royal commission’s goals stated in the chapter entitled Learning, teaching and information technology have, for the most part, not been realized.

Though there are pockets of technological innovation occurring in some schools, most classrooms in Ontario still reflect a nineteenth-century model of education where the teacher contains controls and dispenses information which students then consume and regurgitate back up again on paper and pencil tests. This cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to learning does not even begin to meet the growing needs of or engage the average 21st century media saturated, techno-savvy learner.

During the recent live broadcast of The Agenda’s program, Waterloo’s Innovation Economy, host Paikin asked what I believe was the most important question of the evening. His question went something like this: when in the education curriculum should we begin to teach our youth to be innovators and risk-takers? Because it was a difficult question involving multiple issues that demanded more than a 30 second ‘sound bite’ response, the panelists basically dodged it.

But I would argue that Paikin’s very important question needs to be addressed by all stakeholders – now. As we hesitate and wring our hands, the gap between the existing outdated educational model and the lives of today’s students (many of whom have ample access to the latest camera-equipped cell phones, MP3 players and social networking web sites) continues to widen.

What if The Agenda were to devote an entire program or better yet, a series of programs on innovation in the Ontario education system? What if cutting-edge leaders in innovation and educational technology from across Ontario were invited to share their vision of education in the 21st century or how they are leveraging tools like cell phones, interactive whiteboards, podcasts, wikis and other technological web-based resources?

Discussions between educational leaders are busting out all over Twitter as networks of teachers across the globe, genuinely concerned about the digital divide – engage in conversation after conversation.

And who knows, if we act now, ‘what if’ just might lead to ‘why not?’

Photo: Michael D. Martin

Labels: Education, technology

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