I’m excited to be a part of EdSurge Educators event today in Baltimore. The Four Seasons provided a beautiful location, and the ballroom overlooking the harbor is a perfect backdrop for a day of learning for teachers.
Jim Shelton is the Acting Deputy Secretary of Education. He has advised and help start companies and is a philanthropist with the Gates Foundation. What is the role of government in education? Jim Shelton is working to help answer that question.
Jim started by saying that we are on a road of serious work, and he commended educators for coming on a beautiful Saturday to network and learn. He works for the US Department of Education, a long way from classrooms, and if issues are brought to him, it means there is a problem. He was excited for the energy that was in the room brought by educators. What will improve the lives of students and how does it connect to the federal level?
He started in an office of innovation. He worked on the recovery act. He worked with the “What Works in Innovation Fund.” He was called upon to both embrace creative and innovative solutions and to promote techniques that have rigorous evidence that and proven qualitative track records. In other words, he was encouraged to do two things that were in direct opposition to each other. What is different about education than other sectors? It’s the innovation pipeline. In education, the pipeline is broken. Good ideas, Jim notes, “often don’t make it down the hall”, let alone beyond the school building. Other tools make you say …”Who designed this and thought it was going to work with kids?” He’s working to fix these problems. He’s trying to design a construct to fix this. We need to start with what teachers actually need.
Engineers design things that they think are cool, then people start to use them and don’t agree. Some companies have figured this out the other way around. They are meeting a need you didn’t even know you had. You don’t think you “need” it but the company solves a problem for you… Now you have something that you didn’t know could make you more effective and efficient.
People who are experts can only articulate about 30% of the processes they are an expert at. The repetitive things you do everyday, that other 70% of the equation, don’t come to mind as part of what makes you an expert. This happens in education. We try to add new ideas and techniques to our repertoire, but we often get bogged down in that missing 70%. What are you trying to do that isn’t working; that you move away from because it is too hard?
Behavioral economists analyze human behavior. Often when we create things, we create them for the person we wish we were… the same applies to schools. Today, we want to think about how does innovation fit into day to day life; the life we’re actually leading. Think about how new ideas will fit into schools day in and day out. If it does not get used, it is not innovation, it is just invention. Teachers, you came to do the work of innovation today…
When we as teachers get it right we change peoples lives, often students whose lives are very difficult. An assumption is that we are doing the best we can for what we know how to do.
Getting it right means that if you give them them tool that they need, they will use it to the best of their ability in order to have very different outcomes. If you can’t figure out who is going to benefit, you can’t get it just right. The first rule of innovation is iteration. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out just right the first time, but, the good news is that it is changeable.
Teachers, your voice is the most important voice in this conversation. You know students, yourself and parents. Sometimes you don’t have the time, knowledge or tools. Work with people to talk about the work you need to get it done. The best designers will work with you to solve the problems. When we get the whole conversation right it will change everything.
There are so many supporters here today because they know change needs to happen and they have hope and possibilities. We, the teachers, represent hope.