Posted by: crudbasher | August 15, 2012

Why School Systems Can’t Innovate

(cc) s myers

I found this really interesting list from Wired magazine about how they spot trends in technology. I have included full annotations below (press More) but I wanted to mention them as they relate to the education community.

When I look at education I see several different forces.

  1. Government – their goal is to get reelected. (not all, but enough of them)
  2. Administration – their goal is stability.
  3. Teachers – their goal is student learning
  4. Parents – their goal varies, some want their kids to learn, some just want them out of the house so they can work.
  5. Students – their goal is to survive.

I listed these in order of influence on the system of education. Note, this isn’t a linear dropoff of influence, it’s exponential. 4 and 5 have practically no influence.

Ok so these are the players. With that in mind let’s look at how Wired looks for future trends.

1. Look for cross-pollinators.

They are talking about taking ideas from one industry and applying them to another industry. The education system does not do this. In fact there are few more ideologically isolated organizations than the school system. If the idea doesn’t come from within, it (and the person who proposed it) are savaged.

2. Surf the exponentials.

This is about exploiting the exponential growth of technology. This isn’t really done in school for two main reasons. First, the time it takes to purchase equipment for schools means they are obsolete when they arrive or soon after. Second, every piece of technology is evaluated through the prism of the current pedagogical model of the teacher lecturing. If it doesn’t support that then it is resisted.

3. Favor the liberators.

Liberators in this case means disruptive innovation. This can only happen from people who are outside the system. Systems don’t disrupt themselves after all. Government and administration won’t allow it.

4. Give points for audacity.

Audacity means having a big vision. It also means taking risks. Big visions are welcome as long as they don’t change anything.

5. Bank on openness.

Ah open source. I have come to many realizations on open source over the years. It usually is not welcome in schools because there is no certainty in it. A school may adopt a piece of software only to have development discontinued which would be a big problem. I actually can understand this and don’t blame administration. What needs to change is schools need to be more decentralized so they can take risks and share the results around. This way, many different solutions can be tried so if one fails another is ready to be implemented.

6. Demand deep design.

Deep design is a focus on the user experience and letting that drive everything else. In this case it would be the student experience. I think the overall attitude is that students don’t know what is good for them so who cares what their experience is. (Students pick up on this by the way.) Also many people think that if you are having fun, you aren’t learning. (actually that’s when you are most receptive to learning)

7. Spend time with time wasters.

In this case Wired is talking about people who spend free time tinkering with technology. This is how Apple started and Google and many other tech companies. These are people at the lowest part of the organizational hierarchy. I think how this applies to schools is to let innovation come from the bottom but that is not how it is structured. I think a lot of teachers would like to be innovators but are told not to bother. It’s sad.

These reasons are why I think the school system will be disrupted by people who DO follow these rules.

Any comments?

  • How to Spot the Future | Wired Business | Wired.comNice article about how to spot future trends.

    tags: technology trends futurist list nell

    • After 20 years of watching how technology creates a bold and better tomorrow, we have seen some common themes emerge, patterns that have fostered the most profound innovations of our age.
    • This may sound like a paradox. Surely technology always promises something radically new, wholly unexpected, and unlike anything anybody has seen before. But in fact even when a product or service breaks new ground, it’s usually following a familiar trajectory. After all, the factors governing thermodynamics, economics, and human interaction don’t change that much.
    • So how do we spot the future—and how might you? The seven rules that follow are not a bad place to start.
    • 1. Look for cross-pollinators.
    • It’s no secret that the best ideas—the ones with the most impact and longevity—are transferable; an innovation in one industry can be exported to transform another. But even more resonant are those ideas that are cross-disciplinary not just in their application but in their origin.
    • 2. Surf the exponentials.
    • Just mentioning Moore’s law can cause eyes to roll, but that overfamiliarity doesn’t make Gordon Moore’s 1965 insight—that chips will steadily, exponentially get smaller, cheaper, faster—any less remarkable
    • Moore’s law has been joined by—and has itself propelled—exponential progress in other technologies: in networks, sensors, and data storage (the first iPod, in 2001, offered 5 gigabytes for $399, while today’s “classic” model offers 160 gigs for $249, a 51-fold improvement).
    • Each of these cyclically improving technologies creates the opportunity to “surf exponentials,” in the words of synthetic biologist Drew Endy—to catch the wave of smaller, cheaper, and faster and to channel that steady improvement into business plans and research agendas.
    • 3. Favor the liberators.
    • Liberation comes in two flavors. First are those who recognize an artificial scarcity and move to eliminate it by creating access to goods.
    • Sometimes, of course, the revolution takes longer than expected. Back in 1993, George Gilder pointed out in these pages that the cost of bandwidth was plummeting so fast as to be imminently free. Gilder’s vision has been proven correct, paving the way for Netflix and Hulu. And yet telcos are today—still!—trying to throttle bandwidth. But this is just biding time on the scaffold. In the words of investor Fred Wilson, “scarcity is a shitty business model.”
    • The second flavor of liberation takes a more subtle approach to turning scarcity into plenty. These liberators use the advent of powerful software to put fallow infrastructure to work. Think of how Netflix piggybacked on a national distribution infrastructure by having the US Postal Service carry its red envelopes.
    • 4. Give points for audacity.
    • Audacity is easily written off as naïveté, as overshooting your resources or talents. And that’s a danger. Plenty of would-be Napoleons have called for revolutions that never found an army. But you can’t make the future without imagining what it might look like.
    • These times especially call for more than mere incrementalism. Let’s demand that our leaders get in over their heads, that they remain a little bit naive about what they’re getting into. As venture capitalist Peter Thiel told wired two years ago, “Am I right and early, or am I just wrong? You always have to wonder.” This kind of willingness to take a chance and be early is what keeps the world moving.
    • 5. Bank on openness.
    • In 1997 Wired’s founding executive editor, Kevin Kelly, wrote a story called “New Rules for the New Economy”
    • Connected individuals with shared interests and goals, he argued, create “virtuous circles” that can produce remarkable returns for any company that serves their needs. And organizations that “let go at the top”—forsaking proprietary claims and avoiding hierarchy—will be agile, flexible, and poised to leap from opportunity to opportunity, sacrificing short-term payoffs for long-term prosperity.
    • Sure, there are Apples and Facebooks that thrive under the old rules of walled gardens and monocultures. But even they try to tap into openness (albeit on their own terms) by luring developers to the App Store and the Open Graph. And for all the closed-world success of these companies, the world at large is moving the other way: toward transparency, collaboration, and bottom-up innovation.
    • 6. Demand deep design.
    • Too often in technology, design is applied like a veneer after the hard work is done. That approach ignores how essential design is in our lives. Our lives are beset by clutter, not just of physical goods but of ideas and options and instructions—and design, at its best, lets us prioritize.
    • Thankfully, we are on the verge of a golden age of design, where the necessary tools and skills—once such limited resources—are becoming automated and available to all of us. This timing is critical. “Too much information” has become the chorus of complaint from all quarters, and the cure is not more design but deeper design, design that filters complexity into accessible units of comprehension and utility. Forget Apple’s overpraised hardware aesthetic; its greatest contribution to industrial design was to recognize that nobody reads user’s manuals. So it pretty much eliminated them.
    • 7. Spend time with time wasters.
    • The classic business plan imposes efficiency on an inefficient market. Where there is waste, there is opportunity. Dispatch the engineers, route around the problem, and boom—opportunity seized.
    • That’s a great way to make money, but it’s not necessarily a way to find the future. A better signal, perhaps, is to look at where people—individuals—are being consciously, deliberately, enthusiastically inefficient. In other words, where are they spending their precious time doing something that they don’t have to do? Where are they fiddling with tools, coining new lingo, swapping new techniques? That’s where culture is created.
    • This same phenomenon—people playing—has spurred various industries, from videogames (thank you, game modders) to the social web (thank you, oversharers). Today, inspired dissipation is everywhere. The maker movement is merging bits with atoms, combining new tools (3-D printing) with old ones (soldering irons). The DIY bio crowd is using off-the-shelf techniques and bargain-basement lab equipment, along with a dose of PhD know-how, to put biology into garage lab experiments. And the Quantified Self movement is no longer just Bay Area self-tracking geeks. It has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon, as millions of people turn their daily lives into measurable experiments
    • These rules don’t create the future, and they don’t guarantee success for those who use them. But they do give us a glimpse around the corner, a way to recognize that in this idea or that person, there might be something big.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.



  1. […] I found this really interesting list from Wired magazine about how they spot trends in technology. I have included full annotations below (press More) but I wanted to mention them as they relate to…  […]

  2. […] (cc) s myers I found this really interesting list from Wired magazine about how they spot trends in technology. I have included full annotations below (press More) but I wanted to mention them as they relate to the education community.  […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: