#InnovationInEducation: Challenge the Status Quo*

My student stood agog: “Wow, you type so fast! How do you do that?” I looked down at my keyboard and then back at my student. Do I even bother to explain the QWERTY keyboard set up and how I learned to type to my 1st grader? I mean, will the keyboard even exist in the future? Will touch-typing even be a relevant skill?

It’s odd to think that the QWERTY keyboard is an excellent example of why we need to look at common things with uncommon sight. Why innovation is so vital in our educational systems. Have you ever heard of the Fable of the Keys? Do you know why we have that layout of letters of the home keys? Perhaps you think it was created to improve our speed and efficiency when typing? NO–quite the opposite. It was to slow us down so that those old fashion typewriter keys didn’t get jammed up. Its crazy to think that in an era of such technological impact, that such a simple feature of our computers cannot be revamped to improve our productivity. It’s a bit foolish really that we haven’t adopted another style of the keyboard when you think of it. And it makes me wonder what else we are doing in our world that is relies on 200-year-old technology.

Again, I wonder if the layout of the keyboard of our laptops and devices should be reconfigured to produce faster typing speeds? That’s the most sensible approach, right? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I think about this provocative quote about innovation:Anytime teachers think differently about (3)

And it makes sense, right? Why would we spend all that time and effort when we could be reimagining how we might capture thoughts and ideas? Most of us submit that talk to text will be the way of the future-it’s already a classroom staple for my 1st graders. But I wonder how often in education we just repackage these same sorts of “old” ideas which have gotten standardized into our systems. When you look at the quote by Seymour Papert, a man who brought technology to education, can you think of anything that you are using or doing in your classroom that just recapitulates antiquated practices?

The phrase “technology and education” usually means inventing new gadgets to teach the same old stuff in a thinly disguised version of the same old way. Moreover, if the gadgets are computers, the same old teaching becomes incredibly more expensive and biased towards its dullest parts, namely the kind of rote learning in which measurable results can be obtained by treating the children like pigeons in a Skinner box.   –Seymour Papert, father of Constructionism

During Season 4, Episode 3 of IMMOOC, John Spencer described his journey with technology and how his thinking has evolved around its use. As I listened to him speaking about using Scotch tape to mend microfiche, my head just kept unconsciously nodding. Oh, how I could relate! And I wholeheartedly agree with his lesson from this experience.

What is transferable, what is powerful and what stayed forever has been getting to think critically, getting to be creative, getting to problem solve-all of that. To me, when people get focused on the technology, they are going to end up inevitably doing is getting obsessed with the novelty.

I think this is an important lesson for all of us educators to consider. How can we focus on transferable skills vs. technology skills? Is knowing how to touch-type going to be a game changer for my 1st grader’s future OR is understanding how we organize and create systems to improve our capacity to do more and communicate more of our best selves and solve problems the answer?

Obviously, my question is rhetorical. And maybe you are wondering what “QUERTYs” you have in your school culture and classrooms–what old fashion practices and tools are you perpetuating, with or without the use of technology? Let’s start to make genuine progress by challenging and “breaking” them. Because by accepting the “status quo” in education, like un-imagining “the keyboard”, just makes us look slow and stupid.


*This blog post originally was posted on my personal blog: #IMMOOC: WHY THE STATUS QUO MAKES US SLOW AND STUPID

My reason for reposting is that, as rebels, I believe that we should be challenging those aspects of things that are institutional and trying to delve deeper into why they exist and what purpose they serve.