Saturday, June 7, 2014

What is Learning Innovation?

So you may wonder - what is learning innovation? To describe learning innovation let's start with describing innovation. According to Steve Jobs, "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something--your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." I have always been a dot connector, a person who disrupts the norm, questions the
stagnant and iterates in the present. In Stop Stealing Dreams, Seth Godin wrote how students today are educated in “...collecting dots. Almost none of it spent teaching them the skills necessary to connect dots. The magic of connecting dots is that once you learn the techniques, the dots can change but you'll still be good at connecting them.”

Innovators connect dots and others either don't see them or are not equipped with tools, methods and resources to see them. To help both teachers and students learn to see the dots, of innovative thinking, the Learning Innovation Institute at The Ellis School seeks to

generate a groundswell of forward-thinking pedagogies, people and research on how students learn best and provide their teachers with resources to re-envision their classrooms. Innovation Fellows at The Ellis School will join with me to spread the research, gather with like-minded educators and set new paths for learning.

The Learning Innovation Institute at The Ellis School focuses on five priorities:

  1. Exploring how maker education, learning-by-doing, agile learning spaces, and active learning serve as launch pads for improving learning outcomes in K-12 environments.
  2. Studying how girls learn and leading meaningful research and discussion about improving learning outcomes for girls. STEM and its intersection with the humanities will be a major focus.
  3. Offering professional development for educators and administrators regarding innovative learning practices, particularly in the area of design thinking and blended learning.
  4. Cultivating community partnerships and connected learning opportunities that empower girls and foster collaboration, communication, creativity, and connection.
  5. Fostering global exchange of ideas, problem-solving, and dissemination of findings to benefit girls and young women worldwide.
The Learning Innovation Institute will provides services and workshops that bring a human-centered perspective to learning, innovation, technology, and creativity. While our work focuses specifically on girls learning, these innovative approaches are not solely for girls and can be applied in any classroom or school. In addition to conducting original research, like our Active Classroom for Girls project, STEM Summer Institute and another major study we will announce this fall around girls' confidence and risk-taking capacity, the Learning Innovation Institute will offer three main services to teachers, administrators and leaders in education:

Consulting on Infusing Learning Innovations into Existing Curricular Programs 
Working with schools both independent and public around the world to strengthen individual and group skills in innovation by using design thinking, active learning, maker education and the flipped classroom to create the best learning outcomes for students. My approach is to do observation, interviews to understand a school's goals and mission, and prepare a report of findings and suggestions to chart a course for re-envisioning curriculum. We will use the LUMA Institute System of Innovating for People as the framework for this process.

Workshops on the intersection of learning and technology design thinking, and connected learning where partnerships across the globe are a part of the classroom experience. We have also led workshops on robotics, specifically the Hummingbird Robotics Kit. I envision programs that explore topics such as leveraging social media for learning, creating globally-collaborative courses, bringing design thinking to education, and designing learning spaces. Audiences can include both students and instructors from elementary through graduate school, non-profit organization leaders, and information learning organizations. Workshops will be in-person and online through a monthly Google Hangout webinar.

Learning Spaces
Working to design learning spaces that promote learning innovation like the Active Classroom at The Ellis School and our CoLaboratory Maker Space. The Learning Innovation Institute can share best practices and lessons learned in the design, operation, and evaluation of learning spaces. We help leaders and educators articulate specific goals for spaces that can be communicated to architects and planners.

I am most excited that we will be able to use some of the revenue from the Learning Innovation Institute to provide scholarships for our workshops for schools that need it most, provide mini-grants for classroom teachers to try out some aspect of learning innovation and form a council on innovation - made up of innovators from across the region that will act as an advisory, work on design challenges with our students and provide insight on the changing world around us. 

Read more about the Learning Innovation Institute:

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