Early feedback from the WISE workshop on "teaching innovation" that we hosted yesterday at the Madeira School in DC for the leadership of the National Association of Independent Schools [NAIS] was very positive, and a fun time was had by all. It was a real pleasure to meet such highly motivated and capable school leaders, and have a chance to share the WISE mission with like-minded partners that all share our commitment to improve education across the United States.
Our afternoon workshop covered a broad range of topics, from a beginning discussion to frame innovation, creativity, discovery, and exploration in the context of education, to illuminate uniquely 21st century skills and educational challenges, to a hands-on workshop that embodied the most effective practices in fostering innovation developed over the last thirty years at the world's leading technical universities.
Teaching Students to Innovate in the 21st Century
By Dr. Phillip Alvelda
This workshop explored 21st Century STEM education challenges and opportunities, and demonstrate (with an extended hands-on technical challenge) the latest pedagogical and curricular strategies developed and refined over the last three decades at the world’s leading technical universities specifically to foster creativity and innovation. We further discussed how those strategies have proven effective when translated and adapted for K-12 students, typical challenges in implementation, and the extraordinary results that make such efforts more than worthwhile, and their material impact not only in the obviously related design and engineering disciplines, but across curricular boundaries from science and math to English and other liberal arts.
After a short training session to establish common language and goals and context, the participants were challenged to complete a novel design task using the new Lego Mindstorm EV3 robotics kits. It was wonderful to see every single collaborative group go from befuddlement at the myriad of unfamiliar parts and the new and complex software design tools, through a frenzy of creative activity, exploration and experimentation, to fully demonstrable working prototypes that incorporated complex gearing systems, driven motors and sensors, each one unique in design and presentation. It was a perfect example of how these techniques can educate deeply without direct lecture or instruction, while driving stronger engagement and explicitly fostering creativity, collaboration, and innovation.
I feel compelled to add that yesterday's group delivered a rather unusual performance, wherein every group in this workshop performed remarkably under severe time pressure, and with minimal mentorship proved successful. I left the event feeling that our nation's private school leadership is in good hands!
I'm hopeful that our efforts will lead to an expansion of these collaborative challenge based approaches across a broad set of new schools, and we can add a few more crusaders to our mission.
Onward and upward!