Monday, 25 September 2017

#IMMOOC - Week 1 - Innovation from Adversity

This autumn, I will be participating in the Innovator’s Mindset Massive Open Online Course, known by the odd sounding acronym IMMOOC.

This is the 3rd event to be centered around the George Couros book “The Innovator’s Mindset - Empower Learning, Unleash Talent and Lead a Culture of Creativity”. I read the book last year, but this is an opportunity for me to participate with over 1000 other educators in a series of YouTube live sessions and Twitter Chats. Additionally, we are encouraged to write weekly blog posts from prompts that are provided in the days leading up to each session.

This week, we were asked to read the Forward and the Introduction to the book. The questions posed were

a. Why is innovation in education so crucial today?
b. Talk about a time you dealt with adversity in education, and how you overcame it?

I enjoyed the read. I even took the time to watch the suggested videos from Kate Simonds TedX Talk I'm Seventeen and the delightful Be More Dog commercial.

a. Why is innovation in education so crucial today?

Innovation in education is so crucial today because, as Couros puts it, “To succeed, (students) will need to know how to think for themselves and adapt to constantly changing situations.” Katie Simonds raises the concern that traditional models of education can limit this skill. As she puts it, “we’re teaching them to stop thinking outside the box and to accept adequacy. We’re teaching them to conform to standards and to lose their creativity. But, before this happens, students don’t think of logistics or limitations, they’re fearless.”

I agree, we need fearless creators in our future. We need the kind of thinkers who do not shy away from challenges - young people who embrace change and can maximize the technology that will shape our world. To some extent, my motivation is self-serving. At 52, I am staring squarely down the fairway of the back nine in my adult life. People like 17 year old Kate are going to be the caretakers and wardens of this world - which is particularly important to me, as I move into my senior years. I need them to be adaptable, creative and passionate. I do not want them accepting adequacy and the status quo. Consequently, I need to do my part now to empower my students to be creative risk-takers who, like the cat in the “Be More Dog” video, recognize that “the world is amazing” and that they can contribute meaningfully to it.

b. Talk about a time you dealt with adversity in education, and how you overcame it?

In 1989, getting a mandatory math credit for my undergraduate degree seemed an insurmountable task. I took two half courses, one in calculus and the other in finite computation and probability. To my complete surprise, I got through the calculus course with a passing grade...barely. During the spring, as I plugged away at discrete and continuous distribution theory, I could feel it all slipping through my mind like sand through open fingers. The more I tried to make it stick, the more impossible it felt. I was unsuccessful. I bombed the mid-term and things only got more complex as I worked toward the final exam - which I left early. At the very least, I recognized quickly that my probability of passing was zero.

I talked with my professor a few days later. I let him know that I had not completed the exam and wanted to see if there was another course I could take that would satisfy the requirements of a half credit.

“Do it again in the fall”, were his words of advice. “I’ll be teaching it and I’ll be mindful of your presence. I will talk with you after each class and, if necessary, I can set you up with one of my teaching assistants to get support.”  

I did take it again and made excellent use of the resources provided to me. Additionally, because I knew the professor was mindful of my presence, I arrived at every class early and prepared.  Admittedly, I had missed a few classes during my first run and I was famously tardy. I passed the midterm with a nearly perfect score. Given that this was worth 40% of my final grade, I moved into the more challenging parts of the course with renewed confidence. I was less successful on the final exam, but I managed to secure a grade in the high 60’s.  

Reflecting on this experience and the first section of the book leads me to the following:
  • I want to be the educator that makes kids persist and who is there to support them in their efforts.
  • I want to be an educator that is constantly mindful of their presence and their goals, so that I can recognize when they are struggling.
  • When it comes to creating a culture of innovation, I want to use the words that my professor used with me - “Do it again.”

1 comment:

  1. Had some similar difficulties getting my science/math requirements for my BA. Thanks for sharing. True Grit, Marc. Can't wait to read your next post. Do it again!