Moonshot Thinking

Posted by Sheila Grady on October 20, 2013

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the Moon near the leg of the Lunar ModuleAt our TICAL cadre meeting last week, we watched the “Moonshot Thinking” video from the Google Solve for X project. Visually and mentally engaging, this video will spawn deep conversations among your colleagues. In celebrating creativity that is the hallmark of great leaps of progress in the human race, it challenges educators to face the question of why the creativity of children decreases as they move through our school system.

Resisting my teacher habit of giving a list of questions to start discussions, I invite you to watch the video for yourself, then check the links below. As you do, picture a child you love and imagine how different their life would be if the creativity and motivation to learn of his/her kindergarten self could still be intact when he/she graduates from high school. I am sure you will know how to present this to your colleagues for discussion.



“What path innovation?”

Posted by Butch Owens on October 12, 2010

Are common standards and national tests the panacea for our nation’s woes?  Some seem to think so, but I’m not so sure.    Just last April I had the opportunity to hear Yong Zhao, author of Catching up or Leading the Way,  speak at our annual Leadership 3.0 Symposium.   He argues that while for years, politicians and the public have been looking for what is wrong with American education by constantly comparing the test scores of American students to those of students in such places as Russia, Japan, Singapore, and China, test scores don’t measure how well a country itself is doing. One striking example is how far America is ahead of all other countries in the number of patents issued; China, by contrast, is ahead in toy production.

The irony is that while we are busy trying to catch up with countries that have better test scores, those very countries are trying to emulate our educational system—or at least the one we used to have.  China, Korea, Japan and Singapore, for example, all have national initiatives to move their educational systems toward more local control, more autonomy, less emphasis on test scores determining a student’s or school’s future, and greater choices for the individual.  These are traditional characteristics of our system which have contributed to our success in turning out well rounded and innovative citizens.  And all of the latest literature argues that the ability to innovate is what we need in the future.

How would you judge an effective school?  Here are some top criteria on my list:

  • The number of  varied opportunities a student has beyond the core academics
  • The degree that students enjoy their school and feel they are important
  • Teacher behaviors that convey the expectation that all students can learn
  • Opportunities for students to progress at their own rate
  • Strong art and music programs and curricular activities that connect students to school

When you look back on your school days, is it the test scores that really motivated you to excel, or all of the opportunities you had to be an individual and find your own purpose and passion?

Take away those things that have enabled our system to produce the inventors and innovators of today and what will be left?  At best, a technically capable American engineer competing for the same job as an equally capable engineer from India who will do the job for $7500 a year.  A better alternative is an educational system that creates an American engineer with not only the technical skills but the imagination, innovation and creativity to design the new ideas that will need the $7500 a year engineer in India to help develop.

In an earlier post I wrote about what students really need to know and learn in school in this 21st century and ended with  the comment, “If it’s easy to test, it’s easy to digitize, and if it’s easy to digitize it can be done easily by a computer.”  What we really want are well rounded, innovative students prepared for a lifetime as productive, innovative citizens.  Will common standards and national tests ensure that outcome?

As you ponder that question, listen to Harry Chapin’s “Flowers Are Red“; how common do we want our standards to be?


President Obama Appoints Nation’s First Chief Technology Officer

Posted by Susan Brooks-Young on April 25, 2009

Last October, Barak Obama promised that if he were elected, he would create a new cabinet-level position. Saying that the United States has not done nearly enough to tap into technology and its potential for creating new jobs, Obama proposed creating the position of Chief Technology Officer (CTO).  Now, six months later, this promise has come to fruition. During his weekly address on April 18, President Obama announced that Aneesh Chopra will be the nation’s first CTO.

Currently serving as Secretary of Technology for the state of Virginia, Chopra’s new position comes with three goals that support the new administration’s top priorities. First, he is charged with promoting use of technology to support job creation. Second, Chopra is to explore ways technology use can be leveraged to reduce health care costs. Finally, he is to focus on use of technology to increase national security.

The business world sees this as a welcome step toward updating and expanding a national infrastructure that recently has received little attention. This sector also views this appointment as a commitment to returning the U.S. to a leadership role in technology-related advances worldwide. But what do educators think about this new position and the impact Mr. Chopra might have on bringing schools into the Digital Age?

Whether it happens in K-12 grades, post-secondary programs, or on-the-job training courses, every one of the three goals listed above must include an education component in order to be successfully implemented. How will education leaders take advantage of this fact to leverage resources and launch innovative programs designed to help the new CTO meet his goals? What related conversations are taking place in your school, district, or region? Share your ideas here.