February 8, 2012

12 Days of Innovation for Marketers – Day 10 – Khan Academy

“America is the best half-educated country in the world.” Nicholas M. Butler

It’s ever so slightly hard to say this, because Mitch Joel absolutely beat me to it earlier this month, but it bears repeating.  There is no innovation without smarter kids.  His point was about marketing.  Mine is about innovation, but they are brother and sister, if done well.  So, the question becomes where are we seeing sufficient innovation in the education system that will allow us to have those math, science and analytically oriented kids come to us when ready?  Where is the funding, the insight and the wherewithal to redo education to bring us more people who can transform our thinking:  Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg? How can we enable every student to have at least the problem solving skills, and the interest in doing so?

None of this happens until we – AS IN YOU AND ME – start helping kids learn better analytical skills earlier and with greater depth.  This is not a pie-in-the-sky thing.  This is a global resource access challenge.  Innovation and invention are decentralized.  The US, at one point deemed the de facto leader in innovation, sees other countries rapidly advancing.  However, while we have all the improvement for some – innovation needs to help address the many as well (good for the company and good for the customer/consumer). Thus, the problem we have is as true for a school in rural South Dakota as it is for Sao Paolo or Shenzhen.  We need to not only dramatically invent US schools, but reinvent all schools.  If the internet is the great democratizer, it has the capacity to allow us to crowdsource curriculum, lessons, exercises, answers.  However, it is up to us to – each and every one of us to raise the next generation of marketers – tech savvy, caring, willing to take a risk, and whip-smart marketers.  To my way of thinking, not only do we need to know the educational resources that enable them, we need to help them get them.

We deal, as our corporate charity, with DonorsChoose.org.  We tend to choose inner city schools, and I personally choose math, science, reading and music programs.  However, it is heartbreaking sometimes to read the thank you letters.  Kids who can’t spell, kids who can barely write.  We are letting them pass through instead of helping them deliver their dreams.  Sometimes, keeping them in school is dream enough.  However, we can help them become artisans of sensors, delivery teams of nano-applications, gesture testers and augmented reality innovators.  It’s fully possible.  No child should be left behind, even if the system and the rules under which we apply that program #FAIL to create kids ready to be the next generation of innovators.  There are educators who care deeply.  Recently, I heard of a middle school science fair at a Charter School in Colorado that rocks the concept – even building in collaboration as a scoreable skill.  Now that is an education program that gets it.  (Thanks Liz, as always for the inspiration.)

It’s hard enough to find quality time with your own kids and here I am advocating you lavish attention on ones you don’t even know.  However, I am doing EXACTLY that.  Pick a school and help.  Contribute.  If your kids are grown, who cares?  Help the next gen.  If you are the next gen, help the one after you.  Get after it.

Here are five stories inspiring you to invest in the mini-you:

School Bus Classrooms in India – for many in India, getting a quality education — or any education at all — remains a challenge. In fact, nearly half of India’s children don’t get past primary school

Teaching Design for a Change – escaping the dependency on “farm subsidies and underperforming schools” through design

The Math Education Makeover – the best quote “I am going to retire in a world in which my students run” – now that’s reason enough.

Changing Education Paradigms – RSAnimate does a great job illustrating this, and it makes it tremendously fun to watch

Angry Birds Teaches Physics – so I FINALLY have an excuse!

How Khan Academy is Changing the Rules of Education -Khan Academy provides a teacher with a dashboard application that lets her see the instant a student gets stuck.  And kids work well beyond their level.  And they WANT to.  Watch the video, and find your own way to help create the next generation of innovators.

We are all accountable for innovating education, or at least funding the people who are.  Because, as Dan Meyer points out, our next president/boss/coworker/mason/electrician/barista might be among them.  And it’s pretty well up to you how successful they are.

Cristene, Kevin and Debbie