If the recent iPad debacle in Los Angeles teaches us anything it’s that no amount of money and technology will change anything without a modern vision of what teaching and learning looks like when every student and every teacher has access to the Internet. As many of us have been saying for far too long, our strategy to deal with the continuing explosion of technology and connections can’t be to simply layer devices on top of the traditional curriculum and engage in digital delivery. Unfortunately, far too few develop a vision that sees that differently.
Enter the Scarsdale, NY school district which has chosen to lead the conversation around change in a powerful way. This week, the district provided a first-year overview of the work done in the Scarsdale Center for Innovation, the brainchild two years ago of Superintendent Mike McGill. If you’re an educator or a parent who is looking for a real vision for teaching and learning in the future, take the time to read the pdf or download the iBook.
Here’s just a taste of what Scarsdale is doing:
- Makerspaces in elementary school
- A teacher’s collaborative focused on inquiry for modern learning
- Reggio Emilia practices in the classroom
- Game-based learning
- Service learning
- Authentic global learning experiences
- Physical education for the future
- Interdisciplinary innovation spaces
Please note: Technology is integrated throughout these initiatives in ways that serve the vision, not the other way around. This isn’t “let’s give everyone an iPad filled with a lot of textbook and personalized learning apps aimed at improving test scores and then figure out how to manage it.” This is about having important conversations around complex, difficult questions:
- What will schools look like in the future?
- What kinds of spaces do we need to support instruction and collaborative work in 5-10 years?
- How will technology transform curriculum, instruction, and assessment?
Only after that come the decisions of what technology serves the vision best, how to prepare teachers and students to use it, and how to thoughtfully move forward.
And the best part is that the overview documents go into great depth around how each idea was developed, researched, and implemented.
Please, read the whole thing.
But here’s my question, especially to school leaders:
What’s stopping you from doing the same thing, from starting your own Center of Innovation?
I know, I know…Scarsdale is priveleged. Scarsdale has money. Scarsdale teachers are probably among the best paid in the world. Scarsdale has community support. Etc. I get it; there is room there for innovation. But Scarsdale has also chosen to be bold. (Remember, Scarsdale was also among the first schools to junk the AP program and write their own higher level courses. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, other area superintendents wondered aloud if their own districts had “the guts” to follow suit.)
Bold leadership is about ideas first, and ideas cost nothing. But by and large, we seem bereft of big ideas at scale in education, especially considering the blistering changes that are occuring with learning and technology right now. Adding iPads so kids can take more AP courses so schools can move up in the rankings in the (Insert Your State Name Here) Monthly Magazine is not quite what we’re talking about here.
So, kudos to Scarsdale for being a model not just in innovation but in transparency of process.
And I’m serious; what’s stopping you from taking this type of step in your own school, in your own communities?