Ask provocative questions to change education

It is time for change education.

It is time for change in education.

Boosting innovation in education was one of the main objectives of the first Erasmus+ call for proposals that has just been published.

But what do we mean by innovation in education? And what are the keys to making innovation in education possible?

Innovation in education is often considered as the development of curricula that will provide students with “the knowledge and skills necessary for a knowledge and entrepreneurial society.”  This is the core of the Knowledge Triangle designed by the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology).

We would argue that innovation in education goes far beyond the creation of curricula and should start with the provision of new products, services and jobs in the education sector itself. The education market is not a simplistic approach towards the privatisation of education, but rather the recognition that a broad transformation can only succeed if all actors – teachers, students, parents, innovators, entrepreneurs, companies and policymakers – are involved in redesigning education.

Innovation in education leads to the creation of new and open learning environments (beginning with schools), engaging companies in new learning scenarios and using all local resources.

The latest issue of eLearning papers offers a stimulating discovery of these new learning environments.

Ilona Buchem and Mar Pérez-Sanagustín describe a new type of learner – smart learners – as “active, networked, autonomous and in control of [their] own resources”. They understand the rise of technology-rich infrastructures – starting with classrooms – not only as an opportunity but also as a challenge for learners to remain active and in control of the learning process.

Another article from the same issue, by Attwell et al., complements this new vision of learning from the workplace perspective and defines innovation as “the need to progress beyond seeing technology as a container for learning into using mobile technologies as a tool for working and learning.”

This has enormous implications for teachers, starting with “rethinking their pedagogical approach to facilitate more student control in the educational process using Web 2.0 tools and technologies”, as made clear by researchers of the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands. They remind us that, generally speaking, teachers (who are the main agents of change in their classrooms) are resistant to adopting technological and pedagogical innovations.

How do we overcome this resistance to change?

Teachers, education practitioners and all individuals (entrepreneurs) passionate about education have the opportunity and obligation to innovate. Education needs disruptive innovations, i.e. those able to disrupt existing education practices, products, tools and services. As explained by Bower and Christensen, this should be done “at the expense of incumbent players through a combination of technological innovations that make [it] possible to develop alternative products and services resulting in a new business model.”

The question, then, is how to stimulate innovation? In other words, how to help innovators (entrepreneurs) to recognise / discover the opportunities in the education sector that non-entrepreneurs fail to recognise?

It all starts – as Christensen reminds us in his Innovator’s DNA – with our tendency to ask provocative questions, which challenge the status quo and approach the reality of learning and teaching from different angles. Asking these questions will help us change education.

Creating an ecosystem that enables this questioning process will be the main objective of the upcoming “Open Education Challenge”, which will be launched in partnership with the European Commission under the patronage of Commissioner Vassiliou on 22 January 2014.

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