Innovation in education is nothing new. There have always been innovative schools, and since the 19th century, in particular, many have tried out radically different ways of teaching. More recently the pace of innovation has accelerated as technologies – from whiteboards to ipads - have offered the potential to transform every aspect of teaching and learning.
But innovation has always been harder than it appears. One very common pattern has been the creation of wonderful single-school examples that were too expensive, or too dependent on exceptional teachers to have any chance of being replicated. An opposite problem was reform programmes run at the level of whole systems at once, without experimentation and testing, which invariably ran into problems.
Meanwhile within the world of EdTech there has been a very particular, but worryingly consistent, pattern of failure. There has been no shortage of exciting technologies. But the failure to engage teachers has meant that most did little or anything to improve educational outcomes. Bill Gates recently commented that at least they probably haven’t done any harm. But we should be able to expect better.
So how can we? How can school systems make the most of many maturing technologies we have around us – AI, AR, VR and others - which should be able to make learning more exciting, more engaging and more personal?
This report grows out of a deep partnership between Compagnia di San Paolo and Nesta who have worked together in many fields to advance innovations for the common good.
It surveys some of the good answers and draws out some clear recommendations on how to do things better. Its central message is simple. Collaborate more deeply, and sooner, in design, experimentation and adoption and you’re more likely to grow innovations that actually work and serve children.