Innovation: A parent’s perspective

I want to take some time to cross post my thoughts from a Voxer post/discussion in the #OSSEMOOC Innovator’s Mindset group.  The conversation really hit home for me – not just as an educator that works in a school system – but as a parent.

My Story. My youngest is a senior this year in a high school, outside of the one I work for,  and is enrolled as a PSEO student in a local community college.  We have had many college discussions. He knows college is the “right thing” to do.  But, he really is unsure of what he wants to go into to.  He is a good student. He gets decent grades, and decent test scores. He knows how to “play school” very well.  He has been accepted to a 4 year state university and plans to attend this next fall.

The problem.   My son has had ZERO self directed authentic learning experiences (in school) that would connect him (and his learning) to any type of career.  ZERO.   He does enjoy his PSEO classes, as I have observed more critical thinking than his HS courses.  But the relevance of what he is learning is still missing.  He simply continues to “play school”.

Within our discussions of college  – we also need to discuss the considerable amount  of debt that will accrue over the next 4 years. The college he has chosen, estimates tuition and housing to run over $17,000 per year.    He has interests but still is not sure.  So, does he go to college undecided? Or does he wait until he knows what he wants to do?   Lets look at the odds.

  1. There is a chance he won’t make it past year 1 of college.   1 in 3 students will not make it to sophomore year.
  2. There is no guarantee of a career in his major of choice after college.  Only 27% of College grads have jobs within their major
  3. And IF he is successful, and graduates with a degree – he will have significant debt. Rates in 2013 say the average was $30,000 – I am doing some calculations and guessing this will be much more for my son. More likely doubled or more.

Consider the changing paradigms of “School” as we know it. (Video below)

Changing Paradigms – Based on Sir Ken Ted Talk


What student-centered innovation looks like today. Innovation that is TRULY student-centered can lead to potential careers.  There are a couple of times, within the school I work for,  I have been able to interview our high school students in courses that teachers allowed significant choice and voice in authentic learning.  In both of the examples below – the courses were designed on Hybrid days – where there was blocks of time where students would not need to “report” to class.

Example 1 – In @RyanRadke316 ‘s  child development class, genius hour project where students are able to freely choose a topic of research under child development AND use hybrid days to either go and interview experts in the field and observe the job in action.  One student, after a personal experience, wanted to further study post traumatic stress disorder.  This student was able to use their hybrid days to interview local child psychologists about the topic.  They were able to tour the facility and discuss specific topics about supporting the patients and the job in general.  When I interviewed this student – this experience sealed the deal and they made the decision to enroll in a psychology major in the next fall.

Example 2 – In @rockychat3′s stats class – students had an opportunity to freely study statistics outside of the traditional classroom during hybrid days.  I happened to interview two students who decided to put their stats knowledge to work with a current passion – and analyze basketball stats.  They poured over the data, analyzed, summarized  and would eventually share their findings.  Both girls shared that they did not realize that Math was “Everywhere” and this stats class had opened their eyes to the application of Math.  And one student, shared she would be pursuing a degree in statistics – specifically  sports analytics in the fall.

Not all open ended, student centered, student directed authentic classroom experiences  are going to lead to a career decision. But I can guarantee – interest/decisions in careers are more likely to happen when students have relevant real world learning experiences vs. reading about it in a book, watching a video about it, or practicing fictitious scenarios/problems on paper.

A few weeks ago, I was at a personalized learning summit in January.  Part of the summit included watching a movie called Beyond Measure.   One of the people, int he moview,  said it best when explaining our education system today relating to baseball.

“If learning baseball was like our current education system players would learn about baseball in high school, would create a play about baseball in college, and wouldn’t get in the game until graduate school. “

Questions to consider. Politicians want innovative schools and cry REFORM REFORM REFORM yet still hold schools accountable by test scores. Standards are a mile wide and can be very difficult to go deep with them.  Not to mention – are still organized by “grade levels”. School systems  in public schools still continue to work under a belief system where seat time = learning. And in Minnesota – the Carnegie unit is still king.  At some point, shouldn’t we  recognize EVERY student’s passions and talents? Shouldn’t we give plenty of student directed, authentic experiences in our classes that could spark new passions, talents, and career interests?  Sure we want them to be great readers. We want want them to be great mathematicians. But -so often the way we try to raise their scores is doing the same thing that doesn’t work in the first place. (Just more of it that kills the love of learning). When do we start working on the student’s personal genius, whether it be art, or music, or programming, or carpentry or “Fill in the blank” to land a potential career?

Image credit –

What student-centered innovation could look like tomorrow (Warning – idea alert). An interesting and extremely innovative highered idea is the Gap Year. Where students “Take control of their learning” Its an interesting concept and to tell you the truth – would be an awesome senior year opportunity. I know – people may look at this idea and think/say, Ya But, Ya But, Ya But.  And we will find many roadblocks and many obstacles make ideas seem unrealistic.  Should obstacles stand in the way of what is best for kids?

What can parents do? So parents (aka voters and tax payers) when it comes to innovation in education your voice needs to be heard too.  Don’t settle for Ya but. Things are changing quite rapidly in the world of education and more importantly the world of employment.  Even though you have a 13 year internship on how school is done – you need to educate yourself.  When a college and is determined, make sure there are plenty of real world experiences within the core of the school work too.  Politicians need to hear you, as do our  school boards and schools.  Our kids need community members with strong voices and even better –  potential career connections and learning experiences.

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