Friday, October 23, 2009

A Time for Big Ideas

On December 6-9, 2009, the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME)—the research institute that champions the open education movement and developed the award-winning treasure trove of teaching resources, Open Education Resource Commons—will be hosting the first annual Big Ideas Fest. This small, interactive, and innovative event will be held just outside of San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, in Half Moon Bay, CA.

With support from a broad base of foundations, corporations, and non-profit organizations, Big Ideas Fest intends to bring innovative doers and thinkers from all levels of education together to explore “big ideas in education” that will better position us for a post-industrial world. From small moves to big systemic change, everything is on the table.

It is a time for these big ideas. We’ve talked about why on this blog for some time. From economic viability to international competitiveness to personal efficacy, education is seen as a lynchpin. Indeed, it’s seen as the key to national, local, and personal readiness and transcendence.

The Obama administration’s US Department of Education, under the leadership of Arne Duncan, is being praised for their approach to this challenge, which includes a push for new, novel, and data-informed change models. From its Race to the Top initiative for K-12—see David Brooks outlook on this program in today’s NY Times—to the $12 Billion community college initiative, they are clearly hoping to push the envelope. And they are not alone. I just spent three days in Alberta, Canada, attending their Inspiring Education event. Under the leadership of their Minister of Education, Dave Hancock, they have engaged a deep, thoughtful, and long-term process to explore how they bring new, innovative, and inspiring strategies to their education system on the road ahead.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation leaders are also in search of big ideas in education for the United States. From their early college high school efforts to their post-secondary double the numbers drive, they are exploring a range of programs to change the game in education. They are joined by—and often partner with—other leading foundations such as the Lumina Foundation for Education. With their Achieving the Dream,, and Making Opportunity Affordable efforts, Lumina is hard at work as well. And both Gates and Lumina have something in common—neither seems to believe the answer to our education challenges involves simply working harder at our current system.

It is indeed a time for big ideas. It’s why I’m excited to join conversations like the Big Ideas Fest. It’s why I continue to be impressed by not only the large-scale initiatives outlined above, but by the day-to-day innovations, insights, and inspirations that come from the classroom teachers, caring administrators, and hard-working staff that I meet across the country and around the world. Somewhere in this mix are the game changing strategies that can help us better connect with students, and help them move more purposely down the pathway to possibility that is education.

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