I want to be the Chief Dreamer.

IMG_1570Wouldn’t it be fun to have the job of “Chief Dreamer” or “Chief Innovation Officer“? I, for one, would love that title – and the opportunity that it would afford. Not long ago, I received a phone call requesting a reference for my colleague, Bryan Setser, 2Revolutions. The person inquiring was from the department of education in a neighboring state. His title was Chief Innovation Officer. “Wow! I want your job,” I told him. I was so intrigued and impressed that a state would dedicate resources focused solely on innovation in learning. We need more innovators in education.

Check out this story published today in MindShift, Employers’ Challenge to Educators: Make School Relevant to Students’ Lives (Katrina Schwartz | June 23, 2014). In the piece, Tony Wagner is cited as calling for something, or someone new, to lead schools in a new direction. Wagner seeks,

“Dream Directors” in schools, whose job it would be to help students identify their dreams and scaffold tasks to help students obtain the skills needed for that dream.

A long line of thought leaders have raised their voices in a ground swell of similar sentiment. Thomas Friedman, Sir Ken Robinson, Stephen Heppell, and others are pushing schools toward reform, but many aren’t listening or at least aren’t acting swiftly enough. Featuring one such innovative program, Schwartz shares about the new direction Olin College is heading, aimed at producing innovators.

It’s time to wake up, shake off our traditional thinking, and give way wholeheartedly to innovation in education from pre-school through college. Our students deserve nothing less.

How do schools foster innovation?

Thomas Friedman’s op-ed column, Need a Job? Invent it!, in the NY Times (3.30.2013) surfaced again today in my LinkedIn group, 21st Century School Design. In the piece, Friedman shares insights gleaned from an exchange with Tony Wagner, Harvard education specialist, author of “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.”

Reading this piece again is timely as I am working with a county-wide group to implement a career and college-readiness system. Friedman reminds me that a good education isn’t everything.

Students need a host of personal traits – among them resilience, ingenuity, problem solving and persistence. These don’t line up well with the traditional curriculum of most schools.

Enter innovative approaches some schools – or some teachers – are implementing to inspire innovation and creativity. Among them:

Genius Hour - “a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom” (geniushour.org).

Maker Faire and the Maker Movement – “Maker Faire is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth—a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement” (makerfaire.com).

There are many voices urging educators to find ways to foster student creativity. Among them, Sir Ken Robinson. Robinson’s mission is,

“To transform the culture of education and organizations with a richer conception of human creativity and intelligence.”

I continue to wonder: where would our country be if we could unleash the power of student creativity.

Get the word out: Explore engineering and computer science at OU

February 1, 2014 is Engineering and Computer Science Day at Oakland University, Michigan.  OU is a partner to St. Clair County KnowHow2Go. I proudly share this opportunity in hopes you will make sure a young person has an opportunity to learn more about engineering and computer science through this experience:


My apologies for our profession

I feel I have to apologize for my profession. In a day when we have the tools at our disposal to help children be successful in school, we – the collective “we” – still resist making them available broadly to students who would benefit from them.

Let’s imagine a similar scenario in the medical field. Suppose you had been in a terrible accident and lost a limb. You pursue a course of treatment with your doctor. One day, you walk into the doctor’s office thinking that he/she is going to recommend a prosthetic limb that will enable you to walk again, live a “normal” life again. How shocked would you be if, when you arrived at the doctor’s office, you were told,

“I know you could benefit from this artificial limb, but I’m not choosing to recommend it for you. It just wouldn’t be right to give you the same advantage as those who already have legs. Your artificial leg would be stronger, and would potentially give you an advantage in some cases. I don’t think that would be right.”

How long would you maintain that physician to treat you? Unfortunately, this scenario happens in schools daily. For this, I apologize. It’s not as if we don’t have solutions to address many of the needs preventing students from being successful today. We do.

Many of these solutions are featured in the videos listed in the ”AT” – Assistive Technology post on Edutopia today. The lineup helps paint the picture of what assistive technology is and does for students.

Included in the group is a video that call us out as educators. I encourage you to view the line up and let me know what you think.

Learning from the Workplace

Today I met with a group of St. Clair County educators to refine components of our Career and College Readiness Continuum. The plan integrates academic, community and work-based experiences to help students identify their talents, skills and interest. Our desired outcome is that every student will exit their formal education experiences prepared for a viable career.

This video from Edutopia shares a work-based experience that provides students an opportunity to learn more about themselves, their talents and skills.


Plans are underway to engage business and community members in identify sites for such experiences.