This chilly month of December is the perfect time to reflect on the future of education. A few days ago, the Ontario Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress, led by Roger Martin, released its 12th annual report. Shortly after, the OECD published the PISA 2012 results, focusing on the competencies of 15-year-olds in mathematics. The following week, TFO is hosting a conference to discuss how tablet users (“tablettistes”) succeed in the classroom and beyond. Cisco is contributing to the conversation and I invite you to join us at Glendon College, in Toronto. I can’t wait to share a few ideas.
Improving productivity in the workplace
Ontario is falling behind its North American competitors in terms of productivity, according to the recent report from Ontario’s Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress. As Roger Martin points out, this decade was characterized by “missed opportunities, wasted potential, and complacency on the part of business leaders and policymakers”. Productivity can be improved through innovation. Are we teaching innovation enough in schools? Can we learn from leading business cultures?
The good news is that innovation is teachable. There is a body of research in the management of technology and innovation (and several universities offer programs in Ontario, for example the Ted Rogers School of Management and Carleton University). Some key concepts can be explored in primary school while developing a creative and entrepreneurial mindset. For example, the first-mover advantage and network effects can be experimented through activities in class, and their impact on the digital industry (e.g. video games, mobile devices) can be discussed by young students.
Cisco is a living example of how innovation drives productivity and competitive advantage. After nearly 30 years in the business, the competitive landscape has radically changed, and Cisco is still thriving. Cisco is a leader in the data center and a major player in the cloud, only a few years after entering these markets. With very little doubt, this is the result of a strong culture of innovation and collaboration.
Improving learning outcomes
My main takeaways from PISA 2012 and from Andreas Schleicher’s comments is that societies that value education produce better outcomes for their students, and that equity does not have to be sacrificed to quality. In fact, higher performing countries allocate resources “more equitably among advantaged and disadvantaged schools.” This must encourage Canadians to continue connecting students from remote communities, with programs like VROC and with broadband access initiatives such as the digital pipeline to the West. We’d like to enable students from all corners of Canada to collaborate, to connect with role models, and to share their diverse contributions to a richer Canada.
Also encouraging, education systems have adopted modern management techniques focusing on outcomes and sustained improvement. Teachers are now allowed to be creative, to improve their own practice, and to participate in networks of innovation. Recognizing that teaching is an art, rather than a simple repeatable process (akin to industrial production), will certainly call vocations. Raising the bar for students and teachers, inspiring everyone to improve and to reinvent excellence, it is happening!
Technology can help personalize learning through videos, interactive apps, digital content which can be accessed anywhere anytime. With appropriate supports for content production, content delivery, assessment, and reporting, teachers can increasingly focus where students most need their help. Several school boards have opted for a one-to-one strategy, one device per student (at school and at home). All students, like teachers, can own the tools that were exclusive to professionals just a few years ago (most of which have a free alternative). Students can produce and edit videos, download and analyze real data from government websites, build interactive Websites responsive on any device with the same building blocks used by Twitter, draw resources from the same type of virtual machines used by Facebook and e-commerce sites… The sky is the limit!
What are the policies and tools education systems should provide today to make all students successful? Let’s continue the conversation at the “tablettistes” event!