We need not just educational innovation, but education for innovation.   Our problems are too great, and our global competitive challenges too significant, for us to feel successful unless we educate our students to be effective innovators.

We know too that innovation happens in clusters, it happens in open societies which value and affirm innovation and create communities of inquiry, experimentation, and practice.   Let’s help our schools be such places.

Two articles I encountered just today offer valuable insight into what I like to think of as the Ed2In project.

The first came from Harvard University’s Gazette, in an article entitled Innovate/Create: Innovation, Creativity power fresh thinking at Harvard.   What is the formula, simplified?  “Harvard’s combination of questing minds, passionate spirits, and intellectual seekers tackling society’s toughest problems fosters a creativity that has produced a stream of innovations.” (more…)

Perhaps my greatest professional passion these days is promoting innovative schools cultures, and particularly ones which facilitate our students in becoming innovators.   So I am especially taken with a new article in Wired Magazine (January 2011), by TED founder Chris Anderson, on “How Crowd Accelerated Innovation Can Change the World.”

As Anderson says: “This is big.” I think it may not be saying too much that the ideas contained within are genuinely transformative to how we think about innovation at present and  in the coming years.

In the piece, which is terrific and highly recommended, Anderson focusses especially on the value of on-line video in promoting this powerful new phenomenon, Crowd Accelerated Innovation (CAI henceforward), but CAI is facilitated by Web 2.0 technologies generally, and video particularly and especially.  Below I discuss CAI and reflect upon its implications for education. (more…)

St. Gregory’s new mission includes the commitment to create innovators and to develop innovative mindsets for our students, and having read this book recently, I know of few more inspirational stories of innovation among youth than is demonstrated by William Kamkwamba.  I shared this video with our student body this morning.

I highly suggest Kamkwamba’s book for schools seeking new titles for school-wide summer reading, and I know I am intrigued by how we might at St. Gregory do more with this book, including summer reading,  building our own windmills, and perhaps seeking to support ingenuity and innovation by and among youth in developing nations.

Solitude and Leadership, the title of William Deresiewicz’s much circulated American Scholar article intones.   Solitude and Leadership:  one cannot help but lower one’s voice and slow one’s enunciation as the title is enunciated.

This piece has been shared with me by many, the estimable David Brooks recently cited it as a top essay of the year: there is indeed much wisdom to be found in it.    But before I relay that wisdom, a caveat:  Deresiewicz creates a false dichotomy which simply isn’t supportable: solitude and concentration are valuable elements of leadership and independent thought, but they do not exclude, in any defensible way,  the possibility or even as I would argue the probability that there is great parallel and synergistic value derived from an immersion in the crowd and the stimulating, creative, multitudinous energy of our contemporary Forum, Twitter.

The piece, which indeed everyone should read and discuss, is in two parts. (more…)

St. Gregory, as is often discussed here, is very excited about its initiatives in education for innovation; our students are having many new and terrific experiences developing innovative mindsets and exercising their innovation skills.     Innovation isn’t always about new technologies; it can be terrific practice for students to develop skills of collaboration, design, problem-solving and ingenuity even with old-fashioned technologies, such as catapults.  Enjoy the videos from our students in their excellent Design/Build Innovation Tech class.


RSA Animate offers us a visually compelling view of an important talk by Robinson, who continues to emerge as an incredibly valuable global voice for new forms of education.   The video speaks for itself, in many places; the history is familiar, but still informative.   The 75 second digression upon ADD/ADHD I find less well informed, and less illuminating, than other parts of the video.  Robinson’s questioning of age-level groupings in school also leaves me conflicted; of course he has a point that it is is odd and problematic to group kids by age rather than ability, but he doesn’t acknowledge either the incredible social value of age groupings, nor the dramatic downsides to ability grouping.

But there are many essential points.    One is that as the world becomes more stimulating and fascinating, (and distracting), and as there are more and more “channels” by which students can acquire and process information and learning, school is going to become duller if it stays the same.   It mustn’t stay the same.

Robinson’s discussion of divergent thinking is intriguing and disturbing.   It adds to many other voices in making the point that young children are indeed already fine scientists and thinkers, and that schooling must advance, not retard, those strong young minds in a way that is not now often enough the case.   Standards and testing which compel children to search for the one right answer may well diminish the power of divergent thinking, and we need more (many more) tests and assessments that ask students for many right answers, and analysis of each, rather than one right answer.

I like his discussion of the centrality of collaboration in growth and learning: “most great learning happens in groups.”   School cultures which view collaboration as cheating, or don’t actively act to advance student collaboration, are setting us backward.

Finally, a big appreciation here for his argument that separating out the intellectual from the practical is a myth.   We need to embrace more practical learning in our classrooms where students can apply and reinforce their academic learning.   I love it all: I love to see students discuss symbolism and imagery in Shakespeare, and I love to see them building robots in Tech Design class.   (more…)

Very excited about Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation: it offers great stimulation about the nature of contemporary innovation, and inspires us to think further about how our schools can be sites for innovation in our teaching and in our student learning.  (The book is released next week; I am quoting the reviewer’s advance copy)

Johnson’s book, I think, belongs right next to another recent favorite, Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus, in its enthusiastic embrace of the value and power of the internet to unleash and unite creative and productive energies from around the world as forces for good, for reform, and for innovation.   Johnson argues persuasively that the web, (and Twitter particularly) is our new coral reef where diversity of life is phenomenally abundant, and is our large metropolitan cultural crossroads, where good ideas meet, merge, and reinvent themselves. (more…)

Jim Collins justifiably is renowned for his book, Good to Great; his book previous to that, Built to Last, is also terrific.  In it, he explains that the most successful and lasting companies reconcile two competing values:  they preserve eternally the core of their organization’s core purposes while still also stimulating progress by adjusting, updating, and refreshing their mission.   This becomes then one of the book’s strongest principles: Preserve the Core, Stimulate Progress.

This I think we have done; last week the St. Gregory Board of Trustees updated its mission of the past four years with a revised statement that most certainly preserves the core, promoting excellence in student development of character, scholarship, and leadership, while stimulating progress in the critically important area of 21st century innovation, and also by adding in the importance of our being a diverse learning community.

(I have put in at the very bottom of the post the previous, for those who wish to compare).

We did one other thing: we sought, admittedly in very general terms, to answer the question to what end?   Yes, it is our mission to challenge (and now also to support!) our students to excellence, but for what greater purpose?  So that they can make a positive impact in the world by pursuing their passions, appreciating and creating beauty, and, in what may be my favorite, by solving problems!


St. Gregory College Preparatory School, as a diverse learning community,

challenges and supports students to achieve excellence in character, scholarship, leadership, and innovation

and prepares them to make a positive impact in the world through pursuing their passions, appreciating and creating beauty, and solving problems.


St. Gregory honors the development of student character built on personal integrity, compassion, and respect.   (more…)

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We have a Creativity Crisis in America, Newsweek reports: our children’s creativity is declining, and is doing so exactly when it is most important for it to improve.  The Newsweek report comes from the excellent Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, who are double-handedly transforming the way we understand children and learning via their fine skills at popularizing scientific research on these topics.

At St. Gregory we speak of Creating Leaders and Innovators; the Partnership for 21st century Skills puts creativity as one of their four critical C’s for our era, along with critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.    Fast Company recently reported that the single most important trait of successful CEO’s is creativity.

Dan Pink cracked open this idea for me so powerfully six years ago, with what I think is his still compelling Whole New Mind.   As automation, and outsourcing overcome the workplace, the value we all can add is in our creativity and our ingenious, inventive, problem-solving.  We ourselves, and our students too, must adapt to survive, must move with our times, must think anew how to make a difference, knowing that simply fulfilling an already defined role is not going to be enough to be valued and employed.

Newsweek’s Bronson:

The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. Yet it’s not just about sustaining our nation’s economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care.

But, there is a crisis in this critical area:

Creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. (more…)

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This is great.   We know that more than anything else, we want our students to be effective problem-solvers and creative thinkers; this project is a way for students to work with the simplest of materials, collaborate, innovate, and measure the results.   By its bare simplicity, then, it can be deployed again and again and results compared, so that we can learn, as this video demonstrates, what is, and what is not, effective group process for problem solving and innovation.

The full Marshmallow Challenge site is here, and I am eager to bring this to my students soon, and then again and again as a tool to both prod and measure their ongoing growth as innovative problem-solvers.

It’s not about the computer; it’s about the learning.  Our students today both want and need to be active, engaged, collaborative, on-line, vigorous, empowered, creative,  solvers of real-world problems.   They need to be skilled and informed
to do so, but they need to be challenged, motivated, and engaged in doing so.
The best learning has always been, since we were chimps, about practicing, experimenting, mistake-making, and overcoming obstacles as we have used the finest tools available in doing so.  Aristotle wrote that we learn best by doing, and it has always been true.

Yes, it is wonderful sometimes for students to listen to a compelling lecture told with passion and perceptive insight and compelling interpretation and anecdote and a story.    Yes it is dynamite for kids to participate in intellectual discourse and debate, sharing and discusing ideas and appreciating fine dialogue.   And yes, there are fine pieces of writing that can still happen on paper. We don’t need to end, abolish, or abandon any of these things.

But as our “digital generation” comes to school, entirely familiarized with the use of digital tools on a daily basis to communicate, research, collaborate, plan, organize, investigate, create and publish, how dare we say to them they cannot use these same tools in school as they use outside of it?  Just as importantly, knowing that in their college and adult careers they will be expected to do so in nearly every work-place, how can we deprive them of developing mastery in their skilled use of these tools? (more…)

(Spoken remarks to the student body this morning)

Creative, Inventive, Ingenious, Original:  All four are thesaurus-provided synonyms for “innovative”, and these four are the words I shared with our students today to help illuminate the significant goals to which we aspire when we now say we are “creating leaders and innovators”.

Happy New Year.   It is a time for replacing the calendar, and entering into the next chapter of history, and here at St. Gregory, as I know you have seen, we have made a change in our motto for the school to what is now “Creating Leaders and Innovators” … and I know the change may be a bit jarring.

Character Scholarship Leadership, our former school motto and slogan, is certainly a wonderful expression of our school’s great traditions and foundational qualities.  Our school mission is unchanged—as always, we are here to challenge students to pursue excellence in character, in scholarship, and in leadership.

I want you to know that though I may not talk very frequently about character and scholarship, I am working behind the scenes to strengthen them further as the core components of a St. Gregory education.   For character, I have worked with the Academic committee to ensure we are reporting to you and your parents in the “Egg” (Essential Goals for Gregorians) how well we think you, our students, are growing in the Essential Goal of integrity, compassion, and ethical decision making.  I am also working hard to develop for next year a new advisory program: a structured way for you and an advisor-teacher to work together to support your growth in character.  In both ways, I am working to make character growth not less but more important than ever here at St. Gregory. (more…)

Global Achievemnent GapA colleague asked me recently to share the ways in which we are using Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap with our faculty this fall; this post is  my answer.    The book has been hugely valuable for us this year as a guide and foundation as we seek to further advance St. Gregory as a 21st century school and as a “School that Works” to teach the “new survival skills.”   I think that often schools assign faculty summer reading, and then do very little with it– maybe a meeting/discussion or two– but we have deliberately erred in the other direction: I am seeking to infuse the ideas of the book into many different arenas of the educational work we are doing at St. Gregory, even at the risk of overdoing it.

Some of the ways we are using it  include, with full explanations after the jump (more):

  1. Rich reading discussions
  2. Describing the St. Gregory Wagnerian Classroom.
  3. Respecting and applying the four principles of Schools that Work
  4. Implementing new Measurements of student learning: the Egg, CWRA, HSSSE, PISA, and dashboards. (more…)