When I was a teenager (just after the last Ice Age) I attended a well established all boys college in Hobart, Tasmania. I’ll pause briefly whilst some of you look Hobart up on Google Earth. That school has now entered its second century and it remains little changed in appearance or, I suspect, pedagogy. By contrast, the school where I’m currently employed is about to embark on a million dollar refurbishment of its oldest classrooms. As the eLearning Manager I’ve been involved in the design process. Come 2017 I will have the opportunity to teach in tech-ed up, glass enclosed, re-configurable learning spaces. Yes, we will have 85 inch interactive panels on the walls, funky “learniture” and numerous writable surfaces. Yes, some of you are envious. Will it all lead to innovation and improved student learning? Unfortunately, there are no guarantees.
As George Couros rightly points out in Part One of The Innovator’s Mindset, innovation is certainly not specifically about technology or stuff in general. I’ve long accepted that the most significant tool in any teacher’s kitbag is in fact their mindset. If my colleagues go into those new learning spaces next year with an old, fixed mindset then the school might as well have just saved the money. Indeed, some of you might still be wondering about the cost effectiveness of a million dollar refurbishment. George, as en pointe as ever, notes that Starbucks embraced the need to change and survived whilst Blockbuster didn’t and, well … went bust. We do live in an era of education where “innovate or die” has to be our unshakeable motto.
It would seem that the Starbucks “lesson” is gaining wider acceptance as an analogy for the current situation in education. I recently read two excellent online posts which I’ve hyperlinked immediately below.
http://www.focus2achieve.com/blog/2016/6/2/starbucks-my-classroom-project-the-master-plan (by Oskar Cymerman @focus2achieve)
https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-10-01-why-the-21st-century-classroom-may-remind-you-of-starbucks (by edsurge.com columnist Kayla Delzer)
I enjoy a good coffee, like all teachers it runs through my veins, but I’m also keen to lead a move to Starbucks My School. For me, Part One of The Innovators Mindset has one resounding key word … empathy. That particular trait is all about building relationships, about “knowing who you serve.” When a customer walks into a Starbucks, the counter assistant never says “I don’t care what you want to order, you’re being given a half-double-decaffeinated-half-caff.” (Nods to Steve Martin in LA Story.) So, finally I arrive at this week’s prompt … what sort of school would I build? I would build the school that my customers demand.
PS: A song for this week … “You Can Foam Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Macchiato