Food for thought...
Tony Wagner is the author of Creating Innovators. In the last chapter of the book, he reflects on the value the US Army places in reinventing their learning model:
In these conversations and in reading the Learning Concepts paper, I was particularly struck by the stark contrast between the sense of urgency the army leadership has about transforming training in order to produce soldiers and officers who can innovate versus the sense of complacency in too many of our schools and corporations. For the army, transforming training is literally a matter of life or death. Imagine how different things might be if our nation’s leaders talked and acted as though transforming education was a matter of life or death for the economic future of our country—as, indeed, I think it is.
And imagine if our secretary of education had the clarity that was evident in the Army paper about what needs to change immediately in our education system. Imagine how different our schools and colleges could be if they all simply made the same three changes that the army is implementing: “Convert most classroom experiences into collaborative problem-solving events led by facilitators; tailor learning to the individual learner’s experience and competence levels; dramatically reduce or eliminate instructor-led slide presentation lectures.” All of the outstanding educators whom you have met in this book have made these three changes in their classes.
This is not to suggest the changes have been easy to implement in the army. “The institutional anxiety around changing the learning model is monstrous, far worse than I imagined when we began this journey,” General Dempsey [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] told me. “There is too much comfort with the status quo—learning ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it. I worry that we have lost the instinct to be inquisitive, creative, and innovative.”
When asked about the new learning environment, Lt. General Mark Hertling, who was in charge of revamping Basic Training before being promoted to commanding general of the US Army in Europe, said:
I have asked trainers to force people to make decisions [rather than just obey orders]…. We are trying to teach soldiers the basics of innovation—that it’s a thinking man’s game, where you are never going to be given the right solutions.
— from Creating Innovators
Here’s a wonderful example of forcing students to make decisions courtesy of Kelly Kermode, an English/Journalism/Yearbook teacher in Michigan. (She’s also considering using our gamified curriculum delivery system next year.)
Back to our story...
[The Army Learning Concept 2015] makes clear that the responsibility for developing Soldiers in this learning continuum is a shared responsibility among the institutional schoolhouse, tactical units, and the individuals themselves.
[It] does not focus on any particular technology, but rather focuses on the opportunities presented by dynamic virtual environments, by on-line gaming, and by mobile learning. It speaks of access to applications, the blending of physical and virtual collaborative environments, and learning outcomes.
— General Martin E. Dempsey (from Creating Innovators)
Imagine what might happen if we committed to embrace and employ more innovative strategies in our classrooms and required students to make more decisions in addition to providing “right” answers. Might that help resuscitate the inquisitive, creative, innovative instinct in them? Or maybe even in ourselves?