In my present educational and teaching circumstance, a critical problem to solve is the engagement and improved activation rate for non-graduated adults (i.e., for courses they require to achieve graduation status). It is hoped that by increasing the graduation rates and success of these students, it will also increase the financial viability and sustainability of our school.
Like all DL schools in BC, the school where I work has experienced a significant decrease in the enrolment of upgrading graduated adults (in May 2015 the Ministry of BC pulled funding, meaning upgrading graduated adult students now have to pay for courses that used to be tuition-free). Therefore, the non-graduated adults (who are still fundable) seem to be a demographic group that, if focused on, may show expansion, growth, and success, thus making up for some of the lost revenue. Our school also serves non-graduated in-school students, but with territorial ‘debates’ over these students, and brick-and-mortar schools clinging to students and their funding, this is an area that will take time to find a collaborative working solution. Moreover, interviews with past graduated adult students (from our school) have indicated that by helping adult students to graduate, we also help their children, our communities, and the brick and mortar schools their children attend. Graduated adults have told us they are able to better help their own children with homework, so their success contributes to their children’s potential for success. I my view, this is a ‘win, win’ for all!
Below is a snapshot of my school’s Facebook page, which illustrates how proud our adult students are of their accomplishments. The student in the picture has five children of her own who are now benefitting from her positive attitude and success (permission has been granted to share this story).
What Level of Innovation Is Needed to Address the Problem?
In Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, the above type of problem and associated goals (i.e., serving students who have dropped out of school or not graduated, and providing accessibility to courses) fall into what is said to require a disruptive innovation; one that will one day replace the majority of the current system. Horn and Staker (2014) state that a disruptive innovation occurs when a system, “gives more…without accepting less…(thus) toppling a paradigm” (p. xviii of 304). This type of innovation highlights typical areas of “non-consumption”, which are noted to be more successfully addressed when a two-pronged approach is taken (Horn & Staker, 2014, p. 104). For this reason, I will break the problem into two parts:
- A core problem and goal: The goal would be addressed by a “sustaining innovation” that “offers an important enhancement and improvement to the traditional classroom” (Horn & Staker, 2014, p. 68). In this case, an example of sustaining innovation could be to add videos (or graphics and interactive pieces) to a course that adults often need for graduation (Communications 12). This could lead to higher student engagement and therefore improved results and greater student success. This core problem would use innovation and technology to better serve students.
- Non-consumption problems and goals: The goals would be to serve adult students who have dropped out of school or did not graduate, and to provide accessibility to courses. Accessibility might mean addressing the 'digital divide' by offering the technology or means to take a course (i.e., creating a physical space at a learning centre, or helping students to get organized and thereby learn how to take courses online), or it could mean providing a new/updated selection of courses to better address graduation requirements.
Although the graphic below mentions 'business' rather than 'educational' models of innovation, it clearly illustrates differences between Sustaining and Disruptive Innovation.
Manager at Amazon (External Payments). Published on LinkedIn (via a Forbes article): https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141123100030-18176179-disruptive-innovation-vs-sustaining-innovation
The light-weight team needed to address the identified core problem will consist of:
- The school Vice-Principal (who teaches the Communications 12 course)
- Myself, a secondary online teacher who will be doing the course development
- ? IT support (not expected to be needed)
The Team Leader
Although the team leader could be the Vice-Principal, Horn & Staker state (2014, p. 125) that, “classroom teachers who are ready and eager to innovate and solve problems can take the lead in many cases, especially if their principal or superintendent empowers them”. An article titled The Many Faces of Leadership (Danielson, 2007) argues for the necessity of teacher leadership in schools. Therefore, as I reflect on these sources, the leadership role that has been offered to me by my Vice-Principal has been gratefully accepted. Release time as been provided so I may address the core problem, and support will be requested from the IT department (and from administration), if needed… Let the change begin!
In a prior Vancouver Island University (VIU) course instructed by Dr. Randy LaBonte (OLTD 502), we read many excellent articles from what I view as a ‘must read’ compilation of works published by the Commonwealth of Learning and BC Campus: Education for a Digital World: Advice, Guidelines and Effective Practice from Around Globe. One article in Part 3 (article 18, p.277) written by Dr. Randy LaBonte really stuck with me. The title was Leadership and E-Learning: Change Processes for Implementing Educational Technologies. In this article, LaBonte comments that:
Change involves working with others—not simply mandating new actions or behaviours. Lambert (2002) describes the notion of leadership as the professional work of everyone in the organization, with the development of shared leadership dependent on participation, vision, inquiry, collaboration, and reflection on success. When change is considered in the context of educational technologies, the Consortium for School Networking (2004) found that the quality of leadership was a primary indicator of whether technology funding was spent wisely or wasted…
[Hirtz & Harper, (LaBonte) 2008, p.280]
Transformational leadership invokes change, and is more about innovativeness than innovation, less about strategy and more about strategizing. It is shared leadership, where everyone involved in the organization are leaders. This requires participation, vision, collaboration, and reflection—all of which require a sense of community and a direct link between leading and learning (Lambert, 2002).
[Hirtz & Harper, (LaBonte) 2008, p.281]
Steve Jobs once said, "Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led and how much you get it"
Manager at Amazon (External Payments)
Danielson, C. (2007). The Many Faces of Leadership. Educational leadership,65(1), 14-19. Retrieved
Hirtz, S., Harper, D. G., (LaBonte, R.) (2008). Part 3, Chapter18: Leadership and E-learning: Change Processes for Implementing Educational Technologies Education. Education for a Digital World: Advice, Guidelines and Effective Practice from Around the Globe. Commonwealth of Learning, Vancouver and BC Campus, Canada. Retrieved from http://dspace.col.org/bitstream/handle/11599/52/Education_for_a_Digital_World_part3.pdf?sequence=6&isAllowed=y
Horn, M. B., & Staker, H. (2014). Blended: Using disruptive innovation to improve schools. John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.ca/
LaBonte, R. (2005). Leadership and educational technologies: Leading the charge for e-learning in
British Columbia schools (Doctoral dissertation, University of British Columbia). Retrieved from
Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why -- how great leaders inspire action | TEDxPugetSound. [Video].
Retrieved February 22, 2014, from https://youtu.be/u4ZoJKF_VuA