Innovation Valued & Revered in Business, MIA in Education

Innovation must wonder why it is as cast as society’s bi-polar child. On the one hand it thrives in business, technology and health-care, domains to which we flock to see the latest gadgetry, invest in start-up opportunities, even volunteer to join beta-testing groups.

This past week’s Consumer Electronics Show  in Las Vegas was a perfect opportunity to see innovation in the most favourable spotlight. An annual event as revered as the trek to Mecca by Muslim pilgrims, the CES preaches the gospel that Innovation is a cause if not to die for, then surely to live for.

Good Innovation is the fertilizer nurturing capitalism, fawned over by the righteous defenders of the material life. Alas, in its 2013 ‘How Canada Performs Report Card’, the Conference Board of Canada assigned a ‘D’ in innovation to our fair country, citing the downside to this as poorer productivity, quality of social programs and environmental protection. So we’re doing bad at stoking Good Innovation.

What happens in Vegas shouldn’t necessarily stay in Vegas.

But there’s a foil to Good Innovation, an evil twin that lives in mainstream education where it is shunned, discredited and offered few opportunities to develop. I know this intimately as I’ve lived on the Innovation Bubble in education for most of my 25 + year career as a professional educator.

The predominant educational model – honed during the horse-and-buggy, whale-oil lamp era – remains entrenched. Innovate at your peril.

The recent fawning and obeisance over the PISA (standardized) test scores, the value of which to real world learning beyond supporting the dominant yet outmoded mindset of conventional education is thoroughly contested, attests to the schizoid world of innovation.

But, for a few seconds, imagine a world without innovation in business, technology and health-care. I’d sum that up with a word we all understand: medieval. And we left that period a long time ago.

What do oil lamps & horse-drawn buggies have in common with age-segregated classrooms & IQ testing? They emerged at the same time! And they all belong in a museum.

Now imagine the cultural fires that would ignite in education and its kissing cousin, learning, if we adopted the same measure of respect and value for Innovation in education as we do in business, technology and health-care. I am a firm believer that that time, suported by scientific insights into optimizing learning and exemplified by progressive measures adopted in adult education, corporate re-training and personal coaching, and also alive and well in the rough-formed but undisputed successes attributed to the grass-roots Makers and DIY movements, has come.

The veneration that followed Innovation in this past week’s Consumer Electronics Show is one Las Vegas secret that deserves to be amplified and replicated in education.

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