Making a Base Camp near the Summit

Making a Base Camp near the Summit

Lately, I’ve engaged in Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC) with George Curous and a variety of leading edge educators. As an aspect of this MOOC, we have opportunities to blog about different topics and this week the question has been raised:  What do you see as the purpose of education?  Why might innovation be crucial in education?

There was an American NFL football coach whose philosophy about winning was that you need to make “a basecamp near the summit”, meaning that having a culture of high performance and personal character is paramount to success. As PYP coordinator, I feel strongly that the International Baccalaureate framework does this. I think as teachers, we strive to do this daily, in every moment of our day. But this notion, engaging our students in their idea of “besbill-walsht selves” in how I would define the purpose of education. I think it’s not enough to “know stuff” but also to “do stuff”. And when I say “do stuff”, I mean to cultivate classrooms and schools in which students are empowered to take action and initiatives in areas of high interest and impact. Ultimately we can no longer produce students who show indifference but are passionate and involved in life. When students are inspired and eager, it’s amazing what they can do. In the words of Bill Walsh, “the score takes care of itself”.

George Curous also makes a strong case that it’s not enough for educators to “know stuff” either, but they need to be fully engaged as well. As educators, we cannot be waiting for our schools or districts to drop innovation into our laps–we must roll up our own sleeves with the resources we have and engage in the emerging curriculum of the 21st century so that we can refine and evolve our practices. For example, if we want kids to blog–we need to blog. How can we seriously teach what we do not know?

At the end of the day, this is my litmus test—are we walking the talk of the innovation? Have we really “drank the kool-aide” or are we just trying to fit our old paradigms about education into the “new” framework? The future of our students has yet to even been created. When we consider the amount of change that has taken place in just the last 10 years, it seems obvious that we are being beckoned to become more pliable and creative in our approaches to teaching and learning. We can no longer sit in our comfort zone, passing out worksheets, expecting students to be attentive yet passive in their learning. As I see it, kids are more curious than ever because of how connected we are with technology–we need to tap into this energy and interest. And this is exactly why I feel so earnestly that we need to “make a base camp near the summit”–developing classrooms that look towards the future, not repeat what was of yesterday. In this way,  we can empower and ignite the next generation of students by evaluating if our classrooms and schools against this benchmark, so that they can go further, faster, in ethical and practical ways.

Here is what I see as critical areas that can drive innovation in our schools:

  • Classroom cultures in which expectations are high and opportunities to create are often.
  • Having well-planned projects and activities that move their thinking into divergent paths.
  • We as educators reflect, redo or remix our teaching ideas, and be willing to adapt to suit the students’ needs, not ours.
  • Let the students voice in and provide them with choices.
  • Process over product is valued, in which design thinking is the norm.
  • Be willing to experiment and discuss openly mistakes and how we can learn from them.
  • We as educators engage in the technology that our students would be expected to use now and in the future–and I’m not talking about a powerpoint–anything from Minecraft to Twitter to using Evernote.
  • Also, give them a break from routine. All work and no play really do make one dull. Research shows that mind wandering creates diffused states of thinking, in which different parts of the brain start talking to each other and connect ideas.

I feel heartened by the fact that there is a serious movement abrew here, in which educators like the ones engaged in this MOOC, aren’t waiting for policy makers to create classrooms of the future. But we are driving the change that we wish to see in our schools, and hopefully, it will ultimately be the students who take an active interest. If we, as educators can get the students to do that, well then, I think the summit is within reach indeed.


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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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