The schools we have do exactly what they were built to do—which is at odds with the society we inhabit today and the innovation we want to see

Only out-of-the-box solutions will fix the real problems in schools

The schools we have do exactly what they were built to do—which is at odds with the society we inhabit today

According to them, “The K-12 sector is not built to organically enable this type of paradigm shift. School operators generally do not have the design capacity to alone fundamentally reimagine learning particularly if that involves sophisticated uses of technology. Nor do individual teachers, who simply cannot be expected to design the classroom of tomorrow while also managing the classroom of today.”

This echoes my book, in that it argues that if there isn’t at least one person whose full-time job is to innovate, then it’s no one’s job. That’s because the day-to-day priorities of the organization will drain energy away from any efforts to create something new and different. In other words, the urgent and immediate tasks in front of someone—even if they aren’t important in the long run—will almost always drown out the important but less urgent work of long-term transformation.

Few sectors ask their practitioners on the ground to design next-gen breakthroughs. It wasn’t the doctors, for example, who created COVID vaccines, nor the railroad operators that gave us airplanes. Some of these people may be on the teams that design the new innovations, but it’s not expected that they do this as part of their day-to-day work.

This requires a new research and development effort around the creation of innovative model providers that design new learning models for different subjects and grade spans by drawing on the talents of educators, technologists, researchers, and the like.

The learning models they create, “Out of the Box” argues, won’t just include a new curriculum. They should include instructional design, of which content and assessment are a part; an aligned set of pedagogical practices; an operational design that reimagines how teachers do their work, the use of time, and a physical classroom design; and a technological design that embeds the use of tools to execute the model.

Such an effort would be new because it would bring a focus that’s missing to the country’s educational research and development efforts, but also because it would ask the country to commit to spending far more on research and development than it does today.

And by schools looking for solutions to specific problems from innovative model providers—organizations like New Classrooms, Valor Collegiate, Gradient Learning, and EL Education—they’d stimulate more demand for research and development.

Schools that seek out these innovative models will also be turning to autonomous entities that have had the freedom to rethink schooling—its purpose, its underlying experiences and use of time, and its systemic implications—to transform schooling and unleash student potential.

That would, at long last, not just deal with the tragedy of the present, but transform schools to deal with the deeper travesty: that our schools, designed long ago for a different age, weren’t built to optimize learning or serve anyone particularly well.

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