“Data Challenge Invites Hackers to Help Enhance Education Policies”

edu hackers

If you’re not directly involved in schools or innovation, you can still help shape education innovation. 60 civic hackers, developers, and students are working on the Mass EduData Challenge in Boston. Parham, Government Innovation Officer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, shared school data with those he believes are most suited to analyze it — hackers. “We can leverage the insights and skill sets of the folks in our extended community who are, first of all, very passionate about civic innovation and, second of all, they have specific skill sets, whether it be in application development, user experience design, data analysis, or visualization,” Parham said.

“Educational Technology Isn’t Leveling the Playing Field”

matthew effect kids in lib

Researchers are beginning to document a digital Matthew Effect (the tendency for early advantages to multiply over time) in regards to learning with technology and the achievement gap. Access to technology alone does not level the playing field – it’s guidance and scaffolding by adults or mentors that really lead to meaningful educational gains with technology. Annie Murphy Paul thinks we need a focus on people and training to provide support above and beyond access for low-income children. What steps should we take to ensure technology is not widening the opportunity gap for our students?

“Why Public Schools Struggle to Innovate”

michael horn

Michael B. Horn writes about how public schools have some unique challenges to solve the innovator’s dilemma – how you prioritize innovation that will disrupt the current student experience to drive improvement. Political leadership, varied stakeholders, and limitations on change have an impact as well as the fear of failure in one of our most important social institutions. What is the cost if we don’t innovate and learn from our failures?

“Moving Towards Next Gen Learning”

Calkins quadrants

Blended learning, personalized learning, project-based learning, student-centered learning – there are so many terms but what is the difference and overlap between them? Andy Calkins shares a quadrant graphic model to make sense of current reforms in the education-innovation space around four main degrees: time, place, path, and pace. Calkins gives examples of all four types of innovating; the most disruptive innovations push all four dimensions. Where does your work fall on the chart?

“Teachers Not (Necessarily) Included”


Teachers must be involved in education innovation products to bring about maximum success. Catalano explains that most successful startups in the education field have at least some teacher involvement.The deep understanding of the education system paired with idealism and the network to try ideas and get feedback on them makes teachers a key ingredient in a successful venture. Even when startups want to make waves with big changes, teacher input and feedback is key in making it happen. Teachers are the vital players in implementing purposeful and effective innovations.

“Education Innovation”


In Pakistan, families are increasingly recognizing the value of education in reaching success. However, Dr. Najam explains that the country has a major supply problem of providing quality schools for those students. Dr. Najam recognizes that teacher-led innovation is of critical importance: “The key realization has to be that teachers are the key to educational quality enhancement. If we need to get to students we will need to first get to teachers.”

“Design Thinking for Social Innovation”


What increased impact might you be missing by using traditional problem-solving techniques instead of design thinking? This informative article by Brown & Wyatt, two of IDEO’s top dogs, outlines where the advantages of design thinking could have helped projects wildly succeed in India and Africa rather than being merely effective.They believe design thinking can be applied in almost every field: “Design thinking crosses the traditional boundaries between public, for-profit, and nonprofit sectors. By working closely with the clients and consumers, design thinking allows high-impact solutions to bubble up from below rather than being imposed from the top.” They outline and illustrate three broad stages of the design thinking process: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. How could you use design thinking to take it to the next level?

White House Official: “More Tech Key to Education”


The White House recognizes that technology based innovation is making its way into classrooms across America but, “we’re just not taking enough shots on goal,” says Kumar Garg, an assistant director for learning and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. There are many ed-tech programs or apps out there for teachers; the Education Department is also working on a “developer’s toolkit”, a handbook for entrepreneurs interested in creating technology specifically for the education market.  The real problem is that teachers don’t know how to sift through the myriad options and find the best ones to use in their classrooms, or how to implement them effectively. It’s critical that teachers have training in these programs and how to respond to data in order to maximize student achievement.

“People Create Change, Not Products”

big_512px-3D_Full_Spectrum_Unity_Holding_Hands_Concept_740_300_croppBen Wilkoff asks: what trade-offs are you making in professional development? He asserts that people and interactions are chiefly important in bringing about meaningful and impactful change in schools. Far more than focusing on products or content, schools should leverage their people and community. When teachers drive change and feel supported by a team to improve student outcomes, the potential results are maximized.