Sunday, November 30, 2008
A short video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today - how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.
Music by Try^d: http://tryad.org/listen.html
Download higher quality wmv:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. So you are welcome to download it, share it, even change it, just as long as you give me some credit and you don't sell it or use it to sell anything.
Download HQ version (wmv):
In the early 20th century, progressive education reformers promoted a pedagogy that emphasized flexible, critical thinking and looked to schools for the political and social regeneration of the nation. The founding of the Progressive Education Association (PEA) in 1919 accompanied the growing prestige of leading educational theorists at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Increasingly, however, the movement became preoccupied with methodology and, specifically, with the controversial “child-centered” approach, later criticized by both radicals and conservatives. Imbued with Freudianism and child psychology, the child-centered method asked teachers to position each child at the center of the learning process by focusing activities around the interests of the pupil.
William H. Kilpatrick, a professor at Teachers College, outlined the theory of “wholehearted purposeful activity” by a child as the pinnacle of postwar progressive education in the following, widely-read essay, initially published in the Teachers College Record in 1918.
Supercourse is a global repository of lectures on public health and revention targeting educators across the world. Supercourse has a network of over 43435 scientists in 175 countries who are sharing for free a library of 3385 lectures in 26 languages. The concept of the Supercourse and its lecture style has been described as the Global Health Network University and the Hypertext Comic Books.
There are two award categories: Innovation in Participatory Learning and Young Innovators. All proposals submitted to the Digital Media and Learning Competition, in either category, should be for support of digital projects that engage participatory learning in an integral way.
A total of $2 million will be awarded for the Digital Media and Learning Competition.
Innovation and Participatory Learning awards will range from $30,000 to $250,000, with up to $1.8 million awarded in total. Young Innovator awards will range from $5,000 to $30,000, with up to $240,000 awarded in total.
Friday, November 28, 2008
To achieve this mission, PIMMS' programs are designed so that educators:
The Carbon Cycle Game
|By rolling a die, students will simulate a molecule of carbon's movement throughout various sinks and sources within the carbon cycle|
A curriculum resource for educators featuring the energy topics in the Connecticut high school curriculum.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
"To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes."Mission
Our mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.
U.S. FIRST in Michigan / Update
|Posted: Monday, 24 November 2008 4:52PM |
Michigan FIRST Robotics Realigning
Michigan's FIRST Robotics competition this winter will undergo major changes in an effort to extend the competition to teams who find it difficult to muster tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships.
Michigan is the first state in the country to adopt the new pilot district event model.
The plan divides Michigan into 16 districts, where the first stage of competition will take place. That cuts travel cost and encourages local support and mentorship.
The districts are the Western UP, the Eastern UP, Lake Huron North, Lake Huron Central, Grand Traverse, West Michigan, Saginaw Bay, Greater Genesee, Macomb Cunty, Oakland County, Detroit, Western Wayne, Washtenaw County, Greater Lansing, Greater Monroe and Southwest Michigan.
The district event model, running from January to April, will include seven district events and one state championship event, to be held at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. During the pilot year only Michigan teams will be allowed to compete in the state. Those teams are also free to register to compete at other traditional FRC Regional events and also qualify fo the FIRST Championship in Atlanta, Ga. in April.
Michigan successfully piloted the 2008 Rookie Pilot Event at Kettering University which proved that a quality FIRST experience can be achieved at a much lower cost than a traditional FIRST Regional. This event served as the prototype for the new eventstructure.
The organizaiton also established FIRST in Michigan, a new 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to delivering a quality experience for all FIRST programs in the state of Michigan. Its main focus is the growth of new teams and sustainability of existing teams.
The new event structure will see each team pay a package price of $5,000, which includes a kit of parts and participation in two district events. The state champion entry fee will be $4,000. Eighteen teams from the Michigan State Championship will qualify to advance to the world championship.
Inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST (an acronym for For Inspiration And Recognition of Science in Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation for science and technology among young people. It offers the FIRST Robotics competition for high school students and the FIRST Lego League for children 9-14 and the FIRST Junior Lego League for children 6-9.
There are currently 118 FIRST Robotics teams in Michigan, with 150 high schools involved, and another 310 FIRST Lego League teams with 5,000 participants.
About 20 percent of the student body this fall at Kettering University's School of Engineering are FIRST Robotics alumni.
More at www.usfirst.org.
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Seniors Billy Fecteau, left, and Christopher Klerkx and teacher Mark Supal look at a graph measuring humidity and wind speeds at Macomb Mathematics Science Technology Center in preparation for work with a wind turbine. (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Wind turbine powers up to teach renewable energy
Device at math, science magnet school will provide hands-on lessons and a look at jobs in the field.
Candice Williams / The Detroit News
WARREN -- Warren Consolidated Schools' new commitment to renewable energy won't be hard to spot -- it will stand about 30 feet tall on the campus of the district's math and science magnet school.
The district is launching a renewable energy initiative that includes the placement of a wind-powered turbine at the Macomb Mathematics Science Technology Center at 11 Mile and Ryan roads. The turbine, to be installed next month, will generate some power for the building and give students a hands-on lesson in renewable energy and jobs in the field.
"We hope that the curriculum would be a model curriculum and apply to what's going on in Michigan -- changing the way we use energy and renewable energy," said Bob Freehan, a district spokesman. "We want to be aggressively involved in the type of manufacturing that's going to be part of our future."
The district plans to develop a curriculum on renewable energy for all grade levels starting next school year.
The wind turbine, developed by Southern Exposure Renewable Energy in Manistee, is small enough to be used in an urban landscape and will generate about a kilowatt of power, Freehan said. Officials hope the device will be a model for a more powerful wind turbine that could save the district money in the future.
"This is more of an inspirational tower to remind kids of just how they use energy and to rethink and reconsider all their energy uses," said Mark Supal, technology teacher at the math and science center. "This is going to make an awareness not to be wasteful."
Students at the center are helping to prepare for the turbine's arrival. Senior Billy Fecteau, 17, and his classmates have constructed a 30-foot instrument to test wind velocity in the center's courtyard, where the wind turbine will be placed.
"I thought it was a great idea they are introducing something into the school system," Fecteau said. "We can get involved. It's a nice example of how we can experience this ourselves."
Parents are pleased about the idea, too. Sandy Stabile, who has two students at Cousino High School, said she hopes the district's interest in alternative energy leads to a cost savings.
"The money they get from the state isn't changing dramatically to keep up with expenses," she said. "If they can come up with money to save on energy things, that's the more they have per pupil."
A Michigan State University researcher and a colleague have won the Boston Innovation Prize for the design of a low-cost, energy-efficient method of cooling and dehumidifying residential and small commercial spaces.
Norbert Muller, assistant professor in Michigan State University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and John Barrie, of the Appropriate Technology Collaborative in Ann Arbor, collaborated on the award-winning project.
“The technology used for this air conditioner is radically different,” M?ller said. “We are using the most natural refrigerant, water.”
Muller said the project is part of a broader context of his research to reduce energy consumption and that the award is an acknowledgement of the progress that has been made.
The Innovation Prize was developed by the Barr Foundation, a private family foundation committed to enhancing the quality of life for citizens in the Boston area, and the Cambridge Energy Alliance (CES), an organization that seeks to reduce the carbon footprint of Cambridge, Mass., in the next five years.
Muller and Barrie were awarded $30,000 for the cooling technology they submitted as part of the contest. It was one of 38 submissions reviewed by a panel of national experts.
“We looked at a number of impressive designs, but this one really stood out because of its potential to consume significantly less energy and reduce peak demand compared to standard air conditioners,” said Kendra Tupper, a member of the panel of judges and a senior consultant at the Rocky Mountain Institute.
The air conditioner uses water vapor as the refrigerant. When water vapor is used this way it is referred to as R-718. Water vapor can be more efficient than traditional refrigerants, but engineering the compressor is difficult and expensive, Muller added.
“In Europe where there are high energy costs, water vapor is used as a refrigerant in large projects,” Muller said. “The economics of making a smaller scale R-718 compressor have, in the past, proven to be prohibitive.”
Muller invented a way to make an economical compressor that is small and lightweight by designing a novel turbo compressor woven out of high-strength fibers with an integrated motor.
“It gives wonderful control. It’s efficient and compact,” said Muller, who points out that up to 30 percent of U.S. electricity is used for cooling and air conditioning. “Another plus for the new R-718 technology is that by experience it is surprisingly quiet.”
Barrie is an architect and industrial designer. He and M?ller have teamed up for other grant proposals.
“I work to develop and promote innovative sustainable technologies,” said Barrie. “My contribution to this project is as a consultant on how air conditioning functions in the real world.”
Muller and Barrie want to develop prototypes of the air conditioner as additional funding for development becomes available.
Â© MMVIII WWJ Radio, All Rights Reserved.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Kids need more time in the land of make-believe
BY DAVID CRARY • ASSOCIATED PRESS • November 23, 2008
In one classroom, preschool teachers squatted on the floor, pretending to be cave-dwelling hunter-gatherers. Next door, another group ended a musical game by placing their tambourines and drums atop their heads.
Silly business, to be sure, but part of an agenda of utmost seriousness: to spread the word that America's children need more time for freewheeling play at home and in their schools.
"We're all sad, and we're a little worried. ... We're sad about something missing in childhood," psychologist Michael Thompson recently told 900 early-childhood educators from 22 states.
"We have to fight back," he declared. "We're going to fight for play."
The teachers then dispersed into dozens of workshops, some lighthearted, some scholarly, but all supporting the case that creative, spontaneous play is vital and endangered.
It's not a brand-new cause -- two years ago it was endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. But social changes and new demands on kids' spare time confront free-play advocates with an ever-moving target.
Among the speakers at the New York conference was Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a Temple University psychologist who contends that lack of play in early childhood education "could be the next global warming."
Without ample opportunity for forms of play that foster innovation and creative thinking, she argues, America's children will be at a disadvantage in the global economy.
"Play equals learning," she said. "For too long we have divorced the two."
Some of the factors behind diminished time for play have been evolving for decades, others are more recent. Added together, they have resulted in eight to 12 fewer hours of free play time per week for the average American child since the 1980s, experts say.
Among the key factors, according to Thompson:
• Parents' reluctance to let their kids play outside on their own, for fear of abduction or injury, and the companion trend of scheduling lessons, supervised sports and other structured activities that consume a large chunk of a child's nonschool hours.
• More hours per week spent by kids watching TV, playing video games, using the Internet, communicating on cell phones.
• Shortening or eliminating recess at many schools -- a trend so pronounced that the National PTA has launched a "Rescuing Recess" campaign.
• More emphasis on formal learning in preschool, more homework for elementary school students and more pressure from parents on young children to quickly acquire academic skills.
"Parents are more self-conscious and competitive than in the past," Thompson said. "They're pushing their kids to excel. ... Free play loses out."
The consequences are potentially dire, according to Thompson. He contends that diminished time to play freely with other children is producing a generation of socially inept young people and is a factor behind high rates of youth obesity, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder and depression.
Many families turn to organized sports as a principal nonschool activity, but Thompson said this option doesn't necessarily breed creativity and can lead to burnout for good young athletes and frustration for the less skilled.
Vivian Paley, a former kindergarten teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and now an author and consultant, argues that the most vital form of play for young children involves fantasy and role-playing with their peers.
"They're inventing abstract thinking before the world tells them what to think," Paley said in her speech to the conference. "It gets them thinking, 'I am intended to have my own ideas.' "
Digital Media and Learning (Web-site)
The MacArthur Foundation
Tel. (312) 726-8000
Email: jhumke at macfound.org
- Expose students to rigorous, up-to-date international affairs content.
- Involve students in program development and organizational decision-making.
- Develop leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills.
- Encourage participation in school and community affairs.
- Involve students in intensive research and utilize interactive and experiential activities, role-plays, games, small and large group dialogues, debates, roundtables, and forums with guest speakers.
- Provide opportunities for students to educate and train their peers through workshops, campaigns, and other projects.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
'Fish Technology' Draws Clean Energy From Slow Water Currents
A University of Michigan professor has published an academic paper on a novel technology to turn slow-moving ocean and river currents into energy.
The technology, called VIVACE, was covered by the Great Lakes IT Report's Fall 2008 Tech Tour in October.
The paper, published in the current issue of the quarterly Journal of Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering, described the first known device that could harness energy from most of the water currents around the globe because it works in flows moving slower than 2 knots (a little over 2 miles per hour).
Most of the Earth's currents are slower than 3 knots. Turbines and water mills need an average of 5 or 6 knots to operate efficiently.
VIVACE stands for Vortex Induced Vibrations for Aquatic Clean Energy. It doesn't depend on waves, tides, turbines or dams. It's a unique hydrokinetic energy system that relies on "vortex induced vibrations."
Vortex induced vibrations are undulations that a rounded or cylinder-shaped object makes in a flow of fluid, which can be air or water. The presence of the object puts kinks in the current's speed as it skims by. This causes eddies, or vortices, to form in a pattern on opposite sides of the object. The vortices push and pull the object up and down or left and right, perpendicular to the current.
These vibrations in wind toppled the Tacoma Narrows bridge in Washington in 1940 and the Ferrybridge power station cooling towers in England in 1965. In water, the vibrations regularly damage docks, oil rigs and coastal buildings.
"For the past 25 years, engineers -- myself included -- have been trying to suppress vortex induced vibrations," said VIVACE developer Michael Bernitsas, a professor in the UM Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. "But now at Michigan we're doing the opposite. We enhance the vibrations and harness this powerful and destructive force in nature."
Fish have long known how to put the vortices that cause these vibrations to good use.
"VIVACE copies aspects of fish technology," Bernitsas said. "Fish curve their bodies to glide between the vortices shed by the bodies of the fish in front of them. Their muscle power alone could not propel them through the water at the speed they go, so they ride in each other's wake."
This generation of Bernitsas' machine looks nothing like a fish, though he says future versions will have the equivalent of a tail and surface roughness a kin to scales. The working prototype in his lab is just one sleek cylinder attached to springs. The cylinder hangs horizontally across the flow of water in a tractor-trailer-sized tank in his marine renewable energy laboratory. The water in the tank flows at 1.5 knots.
Here's how VIVACE works: The very presence of the cylinder in the current causes alternating vortices to form above and below the cylinder. The vortices push and pull the passive cylinder up and down on its springs, creating mechanical energy. Then, the machine converts the mechanical energy into electricity.
Just a few cylinders might be enough to power an anchored ship, or a lighthouse, Bernitsas says. These cylinders could be stacked in a short ladder. The professor estimates that array of VIVACE converters the size of a running track and about two stories high could power about 100,000 houses. Such an array could rest on a river bed or it could dangle, suspended in the water. But it would all be under the surface.
Because the oscillations of VIVACE would be slow, it is theorized that the system would not harm marine life the way dams and water turbines can.
Bernitsas says VIVACE energy would cost about 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Wind energy costs 6.9 cents a kilowatt hour. Nuclear costs 4.6, and solar power costs between 16 and 48 cents per kilowatt hour depending on the location.
"There won't be one solution for the world's energy needs," Bernitsas said. "But if we could harness 0.1 percent of the energy in the ocean, we could support the energy needs of 15 billion people."
The researchers recently completed a feasibility study that found the device could draw power from the Detroit River. They are working to deploy one for a pilot project there within the 18 months.
This work has been supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation, the Detroit/Wayne County Port Autrhority, the DTE Energy Foundation, Michigan Universities Commercialization Initiative, and the Link Foundation.
The technology is being commercialized through Bernitsas' company, Vortex Hydro Energy.
The paper is called "VIVACE (Vortex Induced Vibration for Aquatic Clean Energy): A New Concept in Generation of Clean and Renewable Energy from Fluid Flow." Other authors are Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering graduate students Kamaldev Raghavan, Yaron Ben-Simon and Elizabeth M.H. Garcia.
To view a video demonstration of the technology, visit www.ns.umich.edu/podcast/video.php?id=499.
For photos of the device, visit www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=6841.
More on Bernitsas at www.engin.umich.edu/dept/name/faculty_staff/bernitsas/Main.htm, or on Vortex Hydro Energy at www.vortexhydroenergy.com.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
|An example of a Windspire installation|
Posted: Monday, 17 November 2008 9:35PM
Warren Schools To Consider Renewable Energy Curriculum
A unique vertical-axis wind turbine would be installed at the Macomb Math, Science and Technology Center under an agreement to be considered Wednesday night by the board of the Warren Consolidated Schools.
The Windspire wind turbine would be installed by Southern Exposure Renewable Energy Co. of Ortonville. It's manufactured by Nevada-based Mariah Power.
The turbine is part of a larger proposal to create a "renewable energy institute" at the math and science magnet school, with the company and the school district working together to develop a new renewable energy curriculum.
Recently Mariah Power partnered with Mastech of Sterling Heights to manufacture its Windspire product at Mastech's plant in Manistee. The first Michigan made wind turbines are scheduled to become available in February.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
- Extend education throughout life. Make it a part of our daily lives and have it begin with birth and end soon after death.
- Take education out of centralized buildings (schools) and make it the responsibility of the family, community, nation, and the world.
- Leverage technology to enable everyone to have access to the same resources.
Let’s look at this from the perspective of the individual and step it out to the world.
- Youth education is seen as a family function, augmented by a volunteer force of seniors, retirees, and experts available in the immediate and adjacent communities performing the roles of teacher, coach and mentor.
- Youth education begins in the home using modules with lessons for parent, child and siblings.
- Individual education is an individual’s obligation to society, advocated by federal law, supported by employers, communities and families.
- Course topics cross all philosophies, languages, religions and beliefs for the old and the young they are teaching.
- Team teaching is carried out in playgroups in neighborhoods in homes, community centers, parks and businesses. Groups of adults of all ages with similar interests meet in public and corporate settings as well as virtually within collaborative Web environments. Parents and children gather in homes and community centers, sharing interests and research and reporting progress among peers.
- When the individual exhibits enough maturity, progress is self-determined, self-monitored and presented to the relevant communities for input and use by others.
- Learning happens in life: in the workplace, the libraries, on the farms, in the factories of the immediate and adjacent neighborhoods.
- Scheduling, networking and cross leveling of resources is supported online.
- Education is not seen as a formal stage of life, instead a life-long habit of reading, reflecting, exchanging and growing.
US education system
- Facilitates discussions about learning, living and life.
- Teaches self esteem, self-confidence and the value of improving one’s self, community, nation, world and legacy.
- Gradually returns school buildings to alternative uses.
- Gradually encourages lifelong learning
- Respect for generations, races and all differences is built into every person’s thinking as they learn to rely on more and more people in order to learn, to carry out their obligation.
- Understanding and respect for nationalities, beliefs, generations, races and all differences is built into every person’s thinking as they learn to rely on more and more people in order to learn, to carry out their obligation.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Personally, I liked the onion layer layout of the SCiFi Blogsite(http://howyoucansavetheworld.com/) Lindsey posted about. What interest might there be to develop a similar though distinct online resource for your school and or Team? The capacity for organization and communication is vast and it is all kept historically at the touch of a button.
Please feel free to post your ideas and insights. Upon establishment of communication it would be great to work together to understand what process's are involved to procure, install and monitor a Wind turbine such as the Windspire coming to a location near you (next month). I am sure that you will have generative ideas about this project that will also help to streamline the process and understandings for future projects both in your school and globally.
Jim Bates- renewables jim @gmail.com
Gear | Design
The Flee Digital Cam designed by Turkey designer hakan bogazpinar. "Flee" is an design solution which is a set of digital camera and a bluetooth receiver for mobile phone. When the "flee" thrown away, it starts taking photos in costumized time interval and sending them to your mobile phone by using the bluetooth signal.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Dear Michigan Educator, Every year the National Academy of Engineering sponsors an engineering essay contest on the EngineerGirl website for students across the nation. The contest for this year, entitled “Imagine That! Engineering Innovation”, has just been posted, and I am writing to you in hopes that you may be able to help us reach interested students and educators in your area. Students in grades 3-12 can compete for cash prizes, and we would like to get the word out to as many students as possible, especially in areas outside of Washington, DC where the contest may be less well-known. If you know of any alternate emails or mailing lists where it would be appropriate for us to send an announcement, please let us know. You can contact us by sending an email to EngineerGirl@nae.edu. You can find the guidelines and related information about the contest on the EngineerGirl website: http://www.engineergirl.org/CMS/Contest.aspx The deadline for this year is March 1, 2009. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have. We look forward to reading some exciting and creative essays this year, and we hope you will help us to spread the word.
Science and Technology Policy Fellow
National Academy of Engineering
Learn how Thiagi and his team undertake complete instructional design projects without the use of time-consuming, low value added traditional ISD models. Thiagi has created, tested and successfully applied his own model that produces rapid prototypes tomorrow. Learn how to reduce training budgets and development time, deliver quality instruction during tough economic times, and retrain instructional designers to cope with corporate realities. Sponsored by the ISD- Training Systems Graduate Program, the UMBC Training Forum provides an opportunity for individuals working or interested in training, education, business, government and the non-profit sector to share ideas and dialogue on topics of importance.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
The Imaging Research Center in collaboration with David Stroud of GEST and the OIT New Media Studio, conducted an Internet2 Netcast featuring Dr. Jeffrey Halverson of JCET on the "Lifecycle of a Hurricane." This interactive presentation linked the IRC and the University of Pennsylvania over Internet2. An audience of science teachers (grades 6-8) interacted with Dr. Halverson as he delivered a dynamic presentation on the development and evolution of hurricanes. This was followed by John Leck of NASA who discussed how teachers can use NASA science data such as this in the classroom. The Netcast was part of a grant that the Franklin Institute has with the NSF on using Internet2 and research data for professional development of K-12 STEM education. The presentation is a great example of STEM outreach and portends some additional exciting opportunities for both teacher professional development and student engagement in STEM.
The scifi channel's new project features a heavy focus on the environment in today's classrooms. They believe that individuals hold the power to change the world for the better, and this is what we're all about!
Check out their blog at http://howyoucansavetheworld.com/
(P.S. : Link to mmstc.blogspot.com has been added to Facebook's MMSTC Class of 2009 group.)
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Scholars Discuss 'Disruptive Innovation' in K-12 Education
A latecomer to a panel discussion this week on “disruptive innovation” in K-12 education and health care may have suspected that he or she had entered the wrong room.
The main speaker, Clayton M. Christensen, was talking about the steel industry, not education or health. Then he discussed the automobile, radio, microchip, and software industries.
To Mr. Christensen, a professor at the Harvard Business School, those industries offer profound lessons for K-12 schooling. In every case, the introduction of a new technology led to the upending of the established leaders by upstart entrants, he explained at an Oct. 27 panel discussion at the American Enterprise Institute.
Mr. Christensen, the lead author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, said similar changes will soon happen to public school districts, as providers of virtual schooling gradually claim more and more students, starting with those who are poorly served by their current schools.
The book, published last spring and co-authored by Michael B. Horn and Curtis W. Johnson, predicts that those changes will accelerate until, by 2019, roughly half of all high school courses will be taken online. ("Online Education Cast as 'Disruptive Innovation'," May 7, 2008.)
To the roomful of policy experts and educators at the think tank’s luncheon meeting, Mr. Christensen explained that the leading companies did not lose their primacy through their managers’ incompetence. Instead, it was because they obeyed two hallowed principles of business: First, listen to your best customers and give them what they want; and second, invest where the profit margin is most attractive.
Rather, businesses need to be willing to act in ways that may be opposed to their short-term interests, and that lower their costs and simplify their products or services, making them more attractive to a larger pool of potential customers.
“It’s a story with no villains and no stupidity,” noted Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies at the AEI and the moderator of the discussion.
Mr. Horn, who runs Innosight Institute, a think tank in Watertown, Mass., devoted to Mr. Christensen’s theories, was on a panel at the event. Outlining the application to education, he cited Harvard education professor Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and said “children’s need for customization collides with schools’ imperative for standardization.”
The billions of dollars that have been invested to put computers into schools have failed to make a difference because “we have crammed them into conventional classrooms,” said Mr. Horn.
Schools and students have not been able to reap the benefits of technology, he said, because of the web of constraints—called “interdependencies”—that schools have not been able to escape, including the organization of the school day, the division of learning in academic disciplines, the architecture of school buildings, and the federal, state, and local mandates that educators must obey.
On hand at the Oct. 27 event as the official “responder and raconteur” was education expert Chester E. Finn Jr., the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington.
Perhaps to the surprise of some in the audience, Mr. Finn generally agreed with Mr. Christensen’s and Mr. Horn’s arguments.
Mr. Finn, who served in the U.S. Department of Education during the Reagan administration, had two main points of contention. First, he disliked the authors’ reliance on Mr. Gardner’s theories, which, he asserted, are dismissed by “respectable cognitive psychologists.”
On that point, the authors are “wrong, but it doesn’t matter,” he concluded. “Gardner or no, I’m still in favor of greater individualization and customization of education.”
Second, Mr. Finn said, he thinks the authors have underestimated the power of politics to stymie the change in education, because in most cases it is the schools, not the students, that are the purchasers of the new technology-driven forms of education.
That means virtual schools will face “resistance and pushback and hubris, and a sort of smugness” from public education, Mr. Finn said.
As a result, he said, he did not expect regular public schools to become the “main route” for new technologies to be applied to K-12 education.
Mr. Finn added that a more likely route was for charter schools and families to purchase the technology directly, possibly in the form of supplemental private education, perhaps subsidized by philanthropies.
Proposed Student-Focused CHANGE Agenda
- Brief introductions and overview of some of the REI Project possibilities Example: Windspire acquisition & installation student-led activities (10 Minutes / Stimulate Thinking)
- Socratic Q&A with students to HEAR their understanding, determine existing student-specific talents and student directive-choices (20 Minutes / Forms the Tent-Poles from which to begin their REI Programmatic Design Activities
- Determine construct for digital-communications (e-mail, list-serve, blog-site, social networking, etc.) (10 minutes / Activation of digital communications for continued engagement)
- Group determination for Next-steps, Next meeting (date, time, etc.), Development of Agenda Items, etc. (10 Minutes / Focuses "anticipatory" attention to detail)
- OTHER: (Open discussion) (10 Minutes / Subconscious interconnectedness)
Jim Ross & John Iras, 21st Century Digital Learning Environments
Leo Tomkow, Innovation Dynamics
Sunday, November 2, 2008
It’s No Time to Forget About Innovation
BY its very nature, innovation is inefficient. While blockbusters do emerge, few of the new products or processes that evolve from innovative thinking ultimately survive the test of time. During periods of economic growth, such inefficiencies are chalked up as part of the price of forging into the future.
But these aren’t such times. Wild market gyrations, frozen credit markets and an overall sour economy herald a new round of corporate belt-tightening. Foremost on the target list is anything inefficient. That’s bad news for corporate innovation, and it could spell trouble for years to come, even after the economy turns around.
“To be honest, we had a problem with innovation even before the economic crisis. That’s the reason I wrote my book,” says Judy Estrin, former chief technology officer at Cisco Systems and author of “Closing the Innovation Gap.” “We’re focusing on the short term and we’re not planting the seeds for the future.”
In tough times, of course, many companies have to scale back. But, she says: “To quote Obama, you don’t use a hatchet. You use a scalpel. Leaders need to pick and choose with great care.”
There are important things managers can do to ensure that creative forward-thinking doesn’t go out the door with each round of layoffs. Fostering a companywide atmosphere of innovation — encouraging everyone to take risks and to think about novel solutions, from receptionists to corner-suite executives — helps ensure that the loss of any particular set of minds needn’t spell trouble for the entire company.
She suggests instilling five core values to entrench innovation in the corporate mind-set: questioning, risk-taking, openness, patience and trust. All five must be used together — risk-taking without questioning leads to recklessness, she says, while patience without trust sets up an every-man-for-himself mentality.
In an era of Six Sigma black belts and brown belts, Ms. Estrin urges setting aside certain efficiency measures in favor of what she calls “green-thumb leadership” — a future-oriented management style that understands, and even encourages, taking risks. Let efficiency measures govern the existing “factory farm,” she says, but create greenhouses and experimental gardens along the sides of the farm to nurture the risky investments that likely will take a number of years to bear fruit.
“I’m not suggesting you only cut from today’s stuff and keep the future part untouched,” she says. “You have to balance it.”
Yet even that approach has its drawbacks. Companies that create silos of innovation by designating one group as the “big thinkers” while making others handle day-to-day concerns risk losing their innovative edge if any of the big thinkers leave the company or ultimately must be laid off.
“Innovation has to be embedded in the daily operation, in the entire work force,” says Jon Fisher, a business professor, serial entrepreneur, and author of “Strategic Entrepreneurism,” which advocates building a start-up’s business from the beginning with an eye toward selling the company. “A large acquirer’s interest in a start-up or smaller company is binary in nature: They either want you or they don’t, based on the innovation you have to offer. The best way to foster innovation is to create something, put it to the test, build a good company and then get it under the umbrella of a world-renowned company to move it forward.”
David Thompson, chief executive and co-founder of Genius.com Inc., based in San Mateo, Calif., says that innovation “has a bad name in down times” but that “bad times focus the mind and the best-focused minds in the down times are looking for the opportunities.”
“You do have to batten down the hatches and reduce expenses, but you can’t do it at the expense of the big picture,” Mr. Thompson adds. “You always have to keep in mind the bigger picture that’s coming down the road in two or three years.
“The last thing you want to do with innovation is just throw money at it. It’s a very tricky balance.”
In fact, hard times can be the source of innovative inspiration, says Chris Shipley, a technology analyst and executive producer of the DEMO conferences, where new ideas make their debuts. “Some of the best products and services come out of some of the worst times,” she says. In the early 1990s, tens of millions of dollars had gone down the drain in a futile effort to develop “pen computing” — an early phase of mobile computing — and a recession was shriveling the economic outlook.
Yet the tiny Palm Computing managed to revitalize the entire industry in a matter of months by transforming itself overnight from a software maker into a hardware company.
“Our biggest challenge right now is fear,” she says. “The worst thing that a company can do right now is go into hibernation, into duck-and-cover. If you just sit on your backside and wait for things to get better, they’re not going to. They’re going to get better for somebody, but not necessarily for you.”
HOWARD LIEBERMAN, also a serial entrepreneur and founder of the Silicon Valley Innovation Institute, says innovation breeds effectiveness. It’s not about efficiency, he argues. “Efficiency is for bean counters,” he says. “It’s not for C.E.O.’s or inventors or founders.”
The current economic downturn comes as no surprise to him, he says, because it mirrors the downturn at the time of the dot-com bust. Then and now, the companies that survive are those that keep creativity and innovation foremost.
“Creativity doesn’t care about economic downturns,” Mr. Lieberman says. “In the middle of the 1970s, when we were having a big economic downturn, both Apple and Microsoft were founded. Creative people don’t care about the time or the season or the state of the economy; they just go out and do their thing.”
Janet Rae-Dupree writes about science and emerging technology in Silicon Valley.