Archive for the ‘Innovation In Education’ Category

The Future and STEM

Friday, November 4th, 2011

As the world of technology grows, so do the amount of jobs in the field. Why are students today choosing to take interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and what can we do to increase this appeal?

Harris Interactive conducted two surveys on behalf of Microsoft that look at why students are pursuing STEM degrees and what parents think of incorporating STEM in the classroom. Mashable recently posted an infographic that illustrates the results of these surveys:

For the complete survey results, click here.

Innovation in the Classroom

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

In a classroom in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, students were weary of learning the same way, and in the same styles and formats, as students did 100 years ago. They were not satisfied to sit in rows while their teachers lectured them. They wanted to interact and collaborate with each other. They wanted to learn from each other’s interests and ideas.

Do you think these students are on to something? Should schools change the traditional learning structure? How can educators embrace the rapidly-changing technology to keep their students engaged and inspired?

Education Evolution

“Education Evolution” was conceived by a group of Texas middle school students who wondered, “Could children, using the internet, have a dramatic impact on the world around them? Could they influence public opinion, and make a mark on their world?”

Using digital tools they already had in their backpacks, the students share the alternative working environment they created for their classroom. The students were convinced they could increase learning through collaboration, technology and a better use of their space and surroundings.

Six Girls Scouts in Iowa Receive U.S. Patent for their Prosthetic Hand Device

Monday, August 15th, 2011

You are never too old or too young to innovate. Six girls, 13 years old and under, registered for a national challenge to invent a biomedical device that would help heal or improve the human body. Their creation not only won the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award, it was also awarded a patent. Watch the ABC News profile on YouTube.

Photo from, courtesy Flying Monkeys

The girls call themselves “The Flying Monkeys” and meet once a week in a tree. Yes, in a tree! The saga began for the young team of six when they learned about a three-year old who was born without fingers on her right hand. The girls were driven to invent something that would empower the young child to write and draw. After many sketches, drawings and models, the girls came up with the BOB-1, a prosthetic hand device made from plastic, velcro and foam. The device simply slips onto the hand and enables writing and drawing.

After winning the national award and seeing how the device worked on the tiny hand, The Flying Monkeys improved the prosthetic and named the newer version BOB-1.2.

We love hearing about how young students are becoming engaged with science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Do you have a similar story about something you have created? Share a video with us and we might post it to America Invents!

Do Montessori schools create creators?

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Does a less structured learning style nurture innovative thinking and experimentation? By giving children a Montessori education, will you increase their creativity and inventiveness?

There is a healthy and ongoing conversation about the benefits of Montessori education. Montessori schools are designed to inspire individuals to follow their curiosity; to not worry about being right or wrong, but rather encourage critical thinking about their actions and outcomes. Montessori learning methods are intended to foster creative communities through student collaboration.

Many of today’s leading innovative thinkers attended Montessori. Nicknamed the Montessori Mafia, they include: Larry Page and Sergei Brin (co-founders of Google), Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), Will Wright (prolific game developer), Jimmy Wales (co-founder of Wikipedia) and Julia Child (chef, author and television personality).

In this article, The Wall Street Journal, The Montessori Mafia, discusses some of the differences between Montessori and traditional learning.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that many of today’s leaders attended a Montessori school, or is the Montessori method of learning directly responsible for bringing out the traits of these modern day innovators?

Innovation in Education ~ A Chat with Eric Jorgenson

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Screen shot 2010-11-11 at 9.15.04 AM.pngHere at OnInnovatioon we are starting a new series of interviews titled Innovation in Education. The idea is to discuss the rapidly changing face of technology and information as it relates to education. OnInnovation realizes that there are many innovators out there that are sharing ideas about how we can make education better. Today we have a student from Michigan State University named Eric Jorgenson.

OnInno: Hi Eric, why don’t you tell the readers a little bit about yourself and what you are passionate about?

Eric J: Well, I’m 20, a senior at Michigan State University, a business geek and capitalist.
The easy answer is “Entrepreneurship & Innovation” but those have become a bit ambiguous lately, so I will try to be more specific. I love learning things; being inquisitive/curious always leads to interesting new perspectives and opportunities. Another passion of mine is building things, in the biggest sense of the word. Challenging convention and creative destruction are really exciting to me; probably sometimes to a fault.

OnInno: Eric, We shared the Bill Gates video preview with you and a large part of his focus these days seems to be innovating in Education. As a student what do you think needs to be done to improve Education and more specifically the way students are being taught?

Eric J: Well, I know I’m shooting for the stars here, but I think it is a pretty fundamental problem. We have an education system that was designed to produce cogs of our industrialized, manufacturing-based economy. That is perfect for what we were doing, but not what the next generation will be doing.
We need to be focusing on creating problem solvers, critical thinkers, and innovators. Skilled workers, doctors, lawyers, and accountants of course, but everyone needs flexibility, a fluidity of mind that allows us to learn, unlearn, and relearn to keep pace with a constantly changing future.
The amount of information that will be created over our lifetimes is absolutely staggering. That is a fundamental change is our society that education has not adapted to. We grew up hearing that ‘the answers won’t be in the back of the book’. Yes, they will. They are in my pocket on my phone right now. We should be teaching students not just answers, but how to solve problems. Teachers and professors have no clue what the answers will be to the questions that our generation will need to confront. Our education needs to reflect that mindset.

OnInno: Eric, what are your feelings about standardized testing?

Eric J: The first words that come to mind are “necessary evil”. I don’t really consider them evil, though. I think they are crucial for testing baseline skills like reading and math. Perhaps tests overreach in terms of standardizing things that really should not be.
I totally understand the goal behind things like the ACT/SAT/GRE etc. It would be lovely if each college could have more comprehensive tests for each applicant, but that’s just not realistic. The tests are advancing though, and maybe we will see some interesting innovations there in the future.
From a University, I find them appalling. I consider scantron exams to be the defining characteristic of a university letting the economics of education trump the importance of real learning. They just don’t test the right things. Lots of students (myself included) are cruising through classes without ever acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge because our classes do not require us to.

OnInno: Eric, if you had the chance to put yourself in the shoes of one or all of your professors, How would you do things differently?

Eric J: Actually, I had a chance to do that very thing this semester. I was on a team developing a new course on entrepreneurship for the University. I give professors credit: developing courses is hard. It is a lot of work to create even a boring class, let alone a creative and engaging one. Also, sometimes professors don’t have a lot of choice. When schools are squeezed for money, faculty size decreases and class size increases. It can be very challenging to be flexible and accommodate 500 students at once.
We made a specific point of a few key things.
We created experiences inside and outside of the classroom. For example, we gave teams five dollars and a few other supplies, and two hours to make as much money as possible (results were astounding; some teams made over $150 in <2hrs).
We involved guest lecturers. We wanted to impart life wisdom, stories, and perspectives; best done through other people. This also generated great connections and mentorship develop.
We had students meet each other and the community that they were interested in. During one whole class period we brought in community members and entrepreneurs, and facilitated one giant networking event.
Using current resources. Not textbooks, but TED talks, lectures from Stanford/MIT, blogs, books, and news articles. These are all the materials we use in class. It allows us to be flexible, current, and forces us to keep the curriculum relatively current, with new resources.

OnInno: Eric, this sounds like a very innovative approach.

Another fantastic practice is the tackling of real problems as part of a curriculum. There are abundant problems out there, lots of opportunities for mental horsepower to do useful work, and I think schools could make much better use of this, and build wider bridges to practicality. I wrote much more about Open Innovation in classrooms.

OnInno: Eric, Last but not least, a philosophical question. If you could advise a student who is tremendous in a subject like math but very poor in a subject like History, which subject would you recommend they get a tutor for? and why?

Eric J: Math. Depending on the level. Obviously basic math/reading skills are crucial for all to be functional citizens. Past that, I think that specialization is a good thing. Not compulsory over-specialization, but voluntary.
In this case, the person could hate history and love math. They would suffer through history, wasting time and effort on a subject that would ultimately be meaningless for them. Let them focus on math, or the history of math, etc. We will create a tremendous mathematician, rather than a sanded-down mathematician with forcefully-installed, irrelevant history information.
Well-roundedness is necessary to a point, but I think we over-do it in many ways, and try to fit everyone into a mold, at the cost of hindering some incredible potential. This is one of the great failings of the mainstream education system.

OnInno: Eric, this interview has been very enlightening and I think we could all learn most from the people folks like yourself that are thinking about ways to change while being completely immersed in the current systems. If someone wanted to get in touch with you to read your essays, pick your brain or heck, offer you a job; How would they do that?

Eric J: If you are ever anywhere near Lansing, MI – I am always open to sushi and interesting conversations.
You can read me at: Adventures of Eric Jorgenson
I’m frequently connecting on Twitter as well @Eric_Jorgenson

Thank you Eric for being our first Innovation in Education guest. If you have any thoughts or comments that you would like to share with Eric or us here at OnInnovation please feel free to do so in the comments. If you would like to share your thoughts in an upcoming Innovation in Education interview please feel free to mention that in the comments as well!

See you next time!