With the pace of innovation constantly accelerating in the modern interconnected world, and as American corporations depend on creative teams to continually innovate, the clear priority for U.S. Education is developing the creative skill sets of American students so they can be globally competitive in the future. But this is rarely happening.
With relatively minor adjustments, a schoolteacher from 100 years ago would feel right at home within the modern classroom. Other than replacing books with tablets, there has been little system advancement in over a century. In the past, educational excellence meant providing students equal opportunity to learn information that was not easily or publically accessible. Today, information is available for free anywhere and anytime for anyone with Internet access. Therefore, information has become a commodity that no longer has any value in education. The process of forcing students to memorize information and then grading them on how well they regurgitate it is obsolete. Now, memorizing information is mainly needed as a foundation for innovation. The true value in education will reside solely in how students’ minds can be engaged to creatively use, assimilate and transform established information in new ways. This innovation may lead to either a conceptual or physical end product. Only levels and speeds of this creative process should be taught and graded. Since this is rarely happening the outcome has been a failure to achieve the main tenant of the U.S. Department of Education’s mission statement: “global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence”.
Therefore, we cannot continue to approach education in the same way and expect different results. Educators will be forced to experiment with teaching systems for decades to come until the evidence-based outcome data clearly points to a final process to implement. This will be a messy transition with many failures. Generations of students will be caught in the cross hairs of those teaching system experiments. LED accelerator is the proactive solution that can be implemented now.
LED accelerator is a proposed new supplemental system that functions alongside the current hierarchical educational system. It will focus on developing innovative, world-changing, competitive students from secondary and primary education. Many of these students feel the school system is unreceptive to their needs or have an outright aversion to the current hierarchical model. LED accelerator will enable these students to network with each other in a competitive environment and pursue innovative projects.
The students chosen for LED accelerator will not necessarily be ones with the highest IQ, test scores, or memorization ability but ones with the highest degree of adaptability. They will be identified as being capable of “dual-process cognition,” meaning they can process (sometimes opposing) thoughts of intuition and reasoning at the same time.
These selected students within secondary education will have versatile intelligence. They will be immersed within a new competitive and interactive environment that encourages the use of their abilities.
LED accelerator adolescents from across each school district will be gathered in one area. They will still be held responsible for (currently) mandated course content at the exam level but will follow their own learning path to its acquisition. This will open up a majority of their time to follow their own agenda and pursue breakthrough projects. Stem will never produce breakthrough innovators.
Curriculum success will be determined by how these adolescents:
*Derive benefits from failure
*Increase risk tolerance
*Improve in team dynamics
*Adapt to challenges
*Work with speed
LED accelerator students will therefore develop their own unique doctrines and learning strategies. The hyper competitive students within each LED accelerator will continually adopt best practices to evolve their culture while striving to pursue breakthrough projects. Outcomes will be analyzed and debated by educators to provide evidence-based data on what aspects of LED accelerator can be implemented to continually advance the entire U.S. Education system.
The LED acronym stands for Leadership Empowering Diversity.
Here are the definitions of these words within the entrepreneurial world:
Leadership - The central force mobilizing people to create something that did not previously exist.
Empowering - To impact action with meaning.
Diversity - Non-traditional thought.
The accelerator aspect refers to human imagination and intuition, which allow the mind to synthesize large amounts of conscious and unconscious information at incredible speeds in order to innovate.
The students within LED accelerator will be called Change Agents. [common entrepreneurial term]. They will study and work on projects together. The gifted program will be the first place to look when identifying possible Change Agents.
Statistically, only a small percentage of the student population will be identified as Change Agents. They will be taken out of most classes and their skills developed during the school day within LED accelerator.
Change agents still take all standardized tests, but are given the option to take them early. Change Agents will also be required to participate in some form of school music program and may participate in any extracurricular school activity.
LED accelerator will use already designated classrooms as well as other school facilities to work on student projects and study for standardized tests. Funding for
LED accelerator can come from already appropriated budgets as well as grants from Race to the Top.
Change Agents write Big Opportunity statements [common entrepreneurial term], each of which details a problem of great significance and the intuitive idea they have to address it. Change Agents across schools communicate ideas, discussions and thoughts with each other through a designated internet forum.
The mission of LED accelerator is: To empower Change Agents to create, collaborate, and compete in pursuit of Big Opportunities. Through this mission, Change Agents challenge themselves and self adjust with no central command in order to learn and create.
The low cost of technology makes the prototyping and marketing of a product or service affordable for Change Agents as they follow through on their Big Opportunity research. The main purpose of this process is for Change Agents to practice honing their intuitive vision and to bring their actions in line with it.
Professionals from the business community (experts in their fields) are going to be asked to volunteer their time. Three are chosen for each school as ‘board member’ advisors and will meet with Change Agents once a week.
Board members are selected from the fields of:
Arts/Humanities, Engineering/Science, and Business/Finance.
Change Agents submit year-end performance reviews for these board members, and have an option to petition the school to keep or replace the board members for the next year.
Partnering with the private sector is critical because the greatest threat to U.S. corporations, engaged in creating cutting edge products and services, comes from companies around the world who now have free access to complex information. On a global scale, odds are that some of those companies outside the U.S. may be able to develop all the elements needed to disrupt U.S. industry. The LED accelerator is created not just to neutralize that threat but also to give U.S. industry an unmatched global competitive advantage.
It is widely recognized within the business community that organized systems that foster the ideal environment of agility, responsiveness, and adaptability to the changing cultural and economic environment are the ones that produce the individuals that can accomplish breakthrough innovation. LED accelerator will create this environment within secondary and primary education.
Consequently, LED accelerator will work to develop young individuals from an early age capable of creating dynamic new products/services and steering organization strategy to meet complex challenges. As adults, these individuals will have the potential to transform old industries and create dynamic new ones that will become the engine of the U.S. economy.
In order for LED accelerator to truly succeed it must have a solid plan for implementation. That plan starts with the strong framework of ‘responsible autonomy’ [common entrepreneurial term]. But there will be few rules for the collective leadership of young Change Agents. Nick Petrie from the Center for Creative Leadership has further insight into this:
“There are no simple, existing models or programs that will be sufficient to develop the levels of collective leadership required to meet an increasingly complex future. Instead, an era of rapid innovation will be needed in which organizations experiment with new approaches that combine diverse ideas in new ways and share these with others. Technology and the web will both provide the infrastructure and drive the change.”
Governing the strategy to best implement LED accelerator will be the same process that companies use to develop their products and services: the three stages of Innovate, Deploy and Optimize. Each stage will take approximately one year, with the first Change Agents being pioneers that will quickly leapfrog the dormancy in the education system.
LED accelerator can be introduced as an hourly elective class to make students, educators, and administrators feel more comfortable as they get acquainted with this new program. This way Change Agents can start out by selecting regular school classes they want to initially replace with LED accelerator classes.
Tests and processes have already been established to select young individuals for the gifted programs. But it will be discovered that not all ‘gifted’ students are capable of the aforementioned dual-process cognition and thus unsuitable to be Change Agents. Conversely, students currently not in gifted classes will be tested and recognized as possessing this valuable trait. This temporary imbalance is part of the initial process.
The Big Opportunity statements that Change Agents write need not necessarily address world problems. They may be locally focused. Also, after doing research on the viability of their idea, Change Agents may pivot significantly to pursue different ideas. Besides, incremental innovation in one field can become a breakthrough innovation within another. Since innovation requires synthesizing a great deal of complex information from multiple fields to attain an unusual perspective, the board of advisors will guide the Change Agents and be sounding boards for their ideas.
The most important aspect of the Big Opportunity statement is not what the Change Agent selects to write about. It is that the Change Agent actively pursues that Big Opportunity. Accelerated results, a ‘growth mindset’ [common entrepreneurial term], and the ability to adapt to challenges will complete the foundation for this new culture. Dissent and diversity will drive creativity. So, if there is little or no output, then the individual within LED accelerator is not a Change Agent and is in the wrong program.
Change Agents will demonstrate and document output. The quality will not be an issue because the competition of ideas between the Change Agents within LED accelerators will push the quality to be high. This competition and collaboration will be enabled by a designated internet forum. Through this internet forum, ‘best practices’ will spread through other LED accelerators, as the competition to accomplish their goals will become fierce. Change Agents will alter the process of how they are learning, depending on the experience of other Change Agents. There will be few rules, with the mission of LED accelerator being the main framework guide. Thomas Edison explains this process the best: “There are no rules here -- we're trying to accomplish something.”
All Change Agents will take the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) tests that are required by the state. They need to take those tests by the date required by the state. But Change Agents are self-motivated and will be given the option to take tests and exams ahead of time. They can use the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) to prepare. [Currently, there is a wide disparity in the quality of the MOOC lectures. The first Change Agents will be actively comparing those lectures. This will quickly revolutionize the MOOC’s in terms of cost and quality, as the best lectures will be the ones recommended and used by the Change Agents to achieve their goals]. Alongside the tests, each Change Agent will be required to participate in a music program such as Band, Orchestra, Choir, or some documented music activity outside school since playing music has been strongly linked with increased creativity and innovation.
After about a year, as the LED accelerator progresses, the Change Agents will start seeding an ed-tech ecosystem. Information exchanged will be incomplete, sometimes inaccurate, and always changing; yet by working in parallel and with a constant stream of feedback, the group as a whole will start producing innovative results. The role of intuition and imagination within innovation cannot be overlooked because rational thought by itself is a relatively slow process. That is why Albert Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge ”. Intuition will guide the Change Agents to assess what information is relevant and important to exchange with others.
This entire system is built on speed, so part of the culture of LED accelerator will be ‘first to market’ not ‘first to patent’. Through this process, the gut instincts of Change Agents will be forged. Richard Branson explains this mindset the best:
“I rely far more on gut instinct than researching huge amounts of statistics.”
Due to freely available information and the low cost of modern technology, the ability for Change Agents to start working on products and services for more complex Big Opportunities will emerge. Change Agents could use STEM and other facilities within the education system, thereby giving a higher return on investment for existing U.S. Education programs. Additionally, board members will be in positions to help Change Agents gain access to private industry facilities, which will enable a culture of ‘skill based’ credentials to emerge.
At this stage, approximately two years after the launch of LED accelerator, industry will start lining up to financially sponsor the program and nominate their brightest employees to be board members. Also, more effective testing and assessment will be designed to identify young individuals capable of dual-process cognition. By beginning to create breakthrough innovation while still in school, Change Agents will become superstars. As Bill Gates explains, breakthrough innovation is the key to success:
"We are always saying to ourselves, 'We have to innovate. We've got to come up with that breakthrough.' In fact, the way software works, so long as you are using your existing software, you don't pay us anything at all. So we're only paid for breakthroughs."
Change agents will become catalysts and successful examples of what schools can start to implement within their regular hierarchical educational system. The experience and empirical data gained from LED accelerators will begin to guide policy for how to advance the hierarchical education system. In turn, the infusion of a cultural that competes to innovate will transform the students within the entire education ecosystem.
For Example: Michael Jordan did not make his high school basketball team because his potential was not evident at that time. But his path to becoming the best in his profession was empowered by his drive to excel and the fact that every school had a specialized ecosystem in the form of a competitive basketball program. The existence of that ecosystem makes clear to all students who want to excel in it what they must do to succeed. LED accelerator will make a similar impact. The future Steve Jobs or Bill Gates may not make it into their school LED accelerator. But the existence of that ecosystem will make clear to all students who want to excel in it what they must do to succeed.
As with the implementation of any new idea, obstacles exist. Yet the need for LED accelerator outweighs any possible hindrances. The complexity of problems facing education and government - globally, nationally, and locally - is continually intensifying. Hierarchical-linear thinking threatens education and government, which will soon be unable to meet the challenges presented. Future Change Agents, reared to use their abilities to work within civic organized systems, will be the best qualified to enable educational and governmental systems to meet the intensifying challenges.
Inevitably many politicians, administrators and educators will be wary of implementing a dual system. It would be counter-intuitive for them to create a system like LED accelerator that, while having a strong framework, would have few rules, bring countless unknowns and fast paced changes. In his latest book, Accelerate, John P. Kotter, Professor Emeritus, at Harvard Business School and New York Times best selling author explains this mindset best:
“Hierarchy, built for reliability and efficiency now, leans against significant change – and leans hugely against a change significant as the implementation of a dual operating system. It does so, most fundamentally, because its silos, levels, rules, short term plans, and narrow jobs systematically create complacency. And group complacency is an almost unbelievable powerful force.“
The established hierarchy, as a whole, will feel uncomfortable with LED accelerator. In contrast, LED accelerator will feel completely natural for Change Agents. This is because it exactly mirrors the ecosystem that start-up entrepreneurs work within everyday. Like those entrepreneurs, the Change Agents would feel free and productive in such a creative system. Therefore the education and political sectors must demonstrated leadership to overcome group complacency and empower the Change Agents. Because creating LED accelerator would be one of the most impactful actions that can be taken to enable U.S. education, industry, and government to successfully meet the intensifying challenges of the 21st century.