Mar 20, 2015

The New Normal?

Successful innovation in any industry or sector tends to breed disruption of the status quo.  In a systems approach, innovation disrupts the normal state of the industry and replaces it with a new order of things, or a new normal.  We all know that education has been going through an inflection point and that innovation and disruption are part of our “new normal” lives as educators.  So, are we approaching a new normal as an industry?

The only way we can address that question with some level of accuracy is to use our experience in the world of independent schools and colleges, as well as our breath of client work, as a guidepost.  A quick, down and dirty content analysis of recent strategic plans that we have been working on or have finalized in the last 24 months would see terms such as “project-based”, “inquiry-based”, “social emotional learning”, “design thinking”, “maker spaces”, “hands on learning”, “global perspective”, “cultural fluency”, “collaborative learning communities”, “one-to-one technology”, and “learner-centered learning” on a regular basis.  We also scan the nightly twitter conversations on educational technology, student-centered learning, and design thinking and see some of the same conversations burgeoning.  If content is a good indicator of direction, it would appear that schools and colleges are refining their approaches, programs, and overall educational philosophies.  We can thank the hard work of many good educators out there who are forward thinking on behalf of the industry to help push us forward.  Does this mean that we have arrived in a new place?  I don’t think so.  I think it just means that the awareness of the need for change and the willingness to adapt is more present now than ever before.  More work to do here, but the foundation is being laid with much more construction and finishing work yet to emerge.

So, the good news is that the delivery of education might look very different in the future, better organized around the learner needs and less institutionally centric.  Now, if we can just turn our attention to the financial model of this.  Educators are really good at trying to figuring out the right way to teach and learn, but somewhat miserable at how to pay for it all.  We are in the midst of a funding crisis in education of extraordinary proportions, where we are outpacing incomes and willingness to afford our offerings.  We have to double down and expect more from our industry on the potential solutions to our financial model as hard, if not even harder, than redefining our learning experiences.  Let’s get that one solved.  

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