School administrators are the driving force of the success of their teachers and their students.
Telling people you’re in the business of “ed reform” can set off a wide range of responses ranging from curiosity to skepticism to outright hostility.
It’s understandable, of course, that this would happen. That’s why at the Future Focused Learning Network, we much prefer to talk about transformation and how it can happen as painlessly as possible for the benefit of all. No matter what, there will always be ideas being brought forth for how we can continue transforming education.
According to the TeachThought article Want To Change Education? You’d Better Have These 6 Things by Terry Heick, ideas for the future of learning must have 6 things to make the grade, which we’ll summarize later on. The points in the article speak to the fact that the whole idea of transforming education requires more than just a desire for turning it around. Ultimately, what’s needed is both innovation and a plan for moving it seamlessly into existing practices, so that change can happen gradually and (somewhat) comfortably.
From Terry’s article comes an observation worth considering in regard to this:
“There are few mechanisms in the system of public education that emphasize innovation and forward-thinking … think of the most popular education technology out there and what it does. It’s almost never disruptive. It makes teachers jobs easier, or helps solve a common problem. Meh—do this for long enough, and you no longer see the system at all.”
In addition to this, we should remember that transforming education isn’t about change for the sake of change. It has to do mostly with evolution.
The 6 Things Needed for Transforming Education
- The ability to appeal to base human emotions
Organisms, systems, organizations, and most of all ideas, must be given the breathing room to evolve naturally. All of these things must be allowed to adapt to changing times in order to survive and exist. If they don’t, they will die, and education is no different. In fact, it is transforming as we speak to accommodate different learners with different needs for a different world, simply because we are finally allowing it to do so.
Nevertheless, wherever minds are there will always be new ideas. As transformation continues, new problems will arise and new needs will have to be fulfilled. If an idea for transforming education is to carry any weight, however, it can’t go far wrong meeting the 6 criteria below from Terry’s article. Here are 6 things that any idea for transforming education must have to its credit.
Our own vision at the Future Focused Learning Network is clear: we strive to help teachers develop values in their students to guide them towards a vision of creating a better world for themselves and for others. We do this in a number of different ways, but the idea holds true.
Transformation comes when you are presented with an idea that makes you forget what you’re experiencing right now, and guides you to look at the future. A vision makes you notice and wakes you up to possibility.
Think of the devices today that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago: all those inventions have led us to do things we couldn’t ever have imagined doing. Ironically, as soon as they appeared they caused immediate discomfort and distress by disrupting the way we did things before they came along.
Terry claims that effective ideas for transforming education “should probably be uncomfortable, messy, and annoying.” They should purposefully take us out of our comfort zone and force us to see what is possible beyond what just is.
3. The ability to appeal to base human emotions
Like real learning, you’ve got to be able to make the idea “stick.” If it has no relevance that people can latch onto, it will fade away into obscurity. What is it about your idea that will let people know you’ve arrived? It should be shareable, addictive, and give rise to other concepts and ideas that support its forward momentum.
The ideas we have for transforming education need to work on multiple levels—individual, classroom, school, district, and beyond. Next, they should translate across multiple cultures and systems so that any educational community in the world could understand and adopt them. Finally, this scalability should be able to be performed with no loss in purpose or effectiveness—meaning no matter how it’s used, the original reason for wanting transformation to happen in the first place is never lost.
In the book Literacy is Not Enough, we talk about creativity being “the currency of the 21st century.” In his book A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink says that the wealth of nations and the well-being of individuals now depends on having artists in the room when anything is created. Creative individuals and nations are poised to prosper, and industries and organizations of every definition are now valuing form as much as function in the modern business world.
This is perhaps the most fundamental yet overlooked criterion on this list. In the end, any new idea has to be appealing—it’s got to look good in print and practice. Also, the resources that support the idea must take into consideration the principles of design and functionality. These considerations will place that concept above all others.
Any idea that is geared toward transforming education has got to be built to last. It’s got to be something that people in the industry will be studying, following, and expounding on for a long time after its inception. In order to survive, its got to have a shelf life of more than just a few years. After all, real transformation takes time and is at its best when it happens gradually.
That’s how it becomes more than just a fix—in essence, it becomes a philosophy.
Read the full article Want To Change Education? You’d Better Have These 6 Things on TeachThought.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jul 27, 2018, updated September 19, 2021