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Education innovations span from global to local

Published: Monday, Aug. 5 2013 9:04 p.m. MDT

The movement to optimize learning outcomes via innovative teaching methods can take on all different shapes and sizes, and the media’s recent reporting about education innovation reflects that reality.

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The movement to optimize learning outcomes via innovative teaching methods can take on all different shapes and sizes, and the media’s recent reporting about education innovation reflects that reality.

Over the weekend, the Associated Press published a feature-length article, “From recession's wake, education innovation blooms,” that explained how new strategies like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) could redefine education on a global scale. Associated Press reporter Justin Pope wrote, “What does this (ongoing) wave of educational innovation entail? To be sure, it includes the MOOCs and all sorts of ‘adaptive learning’ software that promises to teach and measure some things better and more cheaply than a human teacher. … But in some ways, the innovation is broader than the technology itself, which many call cool but not yet revolutionary. It's what the technology is doing — breaking down higher education across two dimensions: time and distance.”

(The New Yorker thoroughly dissected the pros and cons of MOOCs in the May 2013 article “Laptop U”: “Many people think that MOOCs are the future of higher education in America. In the past two years, Harvard, M.I.T., Caltech, and the University of Texas have together pledged tens of millions of dollars to MOOC development. Many other élite schools, from U.C. Berkeley to Princeton, have similarly climbed aboard. … But MOOCs are controversial, and debate has grown louder.”)

On Friday, the British publication The Guardian published a piece, “Social enterprises aid innovation in education,” that examined how education innovation can take root on a much more local level.

“A new breed of innovative social enterprises are emerging that can help on both counts,” Tim Smedley wrote for The Guardian. “New technology is an area that is arguably easier for a small social enterprise to innovate than an entire school or local authority. … As well as offering something to schools that they are unlikely to be able to produce internally, (entrepreneur and former teacher Julia) Bateson believes the work she and other social enterprises are doing are pointing towards a new model within education. ‘I see the future as being one of partnerships developed between schools and social entrepreneurs. … If social entrepreneurial partnerships are to flourish to the benefit of children and their families two things must happen: social entrepreneurs must clearly demonstrate their social impact and schools are going to have to spend.’ ”

In terms of local thinking about education innovation in the United States, last week the North Idaho Business Journal reported about recommendations from Idaho Business for Education (“a statewide think tank of sorts”) about how higher education can better prepare college graduates with the technical skills businesses value in new hires.

Writing for the North Idaho Business Journal, Sholeh Patrick reported that Idaho Business for Education “has adopted a mantra: the U.S. needs to refocus education on skills and application, rather than the old pure knowledge model of memorize-and-regurgitate. … Grade rewards create far less innovation and critical thinking than do rewards for curiosity and innovation. That breeds passion and passion breeds purpose. Parents/teachers of innovators encouraged children to play and learn in more exploratory ways.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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