Wednesday, January 28, 2009
“I’m just not going to believe it’s all hopeless” said our host at dinner tonight at the New Media Consortium’s (www.nmc.org) Advisory Group on K-12 education and technology. This is a mix of people assembled to think about K-12 education and new technologies at a time when it’s pretty difficult to think about anything at all without mulling over the general state of the world.
(The lunatic irony of it all is captured in these contrasts: this week, while Citigroup considered whether to take receipt of a $45,000,000 private aircraft for 12 at the same time they take receipt of their $45,000,000,000 portion of the Federal bailout package, we facilitated community meetings in a major CA school district where the only funds not frozen are being used to purchase toilet paper. Taxpaying families are asking “where’s our bailout?” while their neighborhood schools close, and now we’re here trying to have a meaningful conversation about technology’s promise for K-12.)
The crazy thing is that all we can productively do is to cultivate optimism at the very moment we have objective reasons to despair. Hopefulness seems naïve, almost impudent in the face of what’s going on these days, and yet it’s the backbone of innovation—the persistent feeling that you’re on the verge of something better, the intermittent glimpse of something brilliant ahead, and the niggling sense that it’s within your capacity to be an agent of that brilliance in the world.
The Skoll Foundation’s headlines of the future remind us of the possibilities:
I was also struck some time ago by Jamais Cascio’s piece at Open the Future on “super-empowered, hopeful individuals”.” http://www.openthefuture.com/2008/03/superempowered_hopeful_individ.html). In our work at Collective Invention, we have observed that transformative ideas emerge at the nexus of the hopeful individual (even in grim circumstances) and the intelligent group. This zeitgeist is manifested in Ashoka’s concept that “everyone is a change-maker” and their support of group entrepreneurship (http://www.ashoka.org/promote). Janet Rae-Dupree’s New York Times article on the lone innovator and “brainpower in numbers” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/07/business/07unbox.html?_r=1&em also captures this nicely.
My partners and I believe that a new force for social innovation is being born, and that’s what we call “collective invention.” We believe that there are a set of known practices that tend to support transformative innovation, that they are as likely as any others to help us solve seemingly intractable social problems, and that these practices are useful both to individuals and in groups. In coming posts and in our CI bulletins (sign up on our homepage at www.collectiveinvention.com) we’ll tease out the practices, principles and precepts that support social innovation. Some are are drawn from design, some from the social sciences, and all of them are born out by our experience working with individuals and groups on complex problems over the years. I’ll be sharing them here because I’m interested in your thoughts, your experiences and perspectives, and because at the end of the day—like my colleague at dinner tonight—I’m thinking we have cause to be hopeful. Maybe the fact that we’re facing so many challenges simultaneously gives us a chance to show ourselves that we actually do know what to do to promote social innovation, and how to do it, after all
Meanwhile, a few interesting reference points for innovation in technology in education: