2 Interesting Questions

I was asked two very interesting questions today. I needed some time to consider them, and after thinking about it for a while realized that these are the kinds of questions that you could take a LONG time to answer. So I quickly threw some thoughts down. The two questions, and my brief start at answers are below:

1. If you were given the opportunity to develop a Science and Innovation Strategy, what would be included, and how would it be implemented?

Tony Wagner claims in his book Creating Innovators, that essential qualities are curiosity, collaboration, integrative thinking and a bias towards action or experimentation.  He also says that these skills can be taught and nurtured.

So, with that in mind a strategy would have to enable schools to foster that kind of thinking in teachers and students.  It needs to be multi-disciplinary, inquiry based and completely open to take many different directions. The ‘curriculum’ for such a program would be one of skills and attitudes, and not necessarily one of content and knowledge, as in the 21st Century, it becoming more important to be able to DO something with knowledge after you find it, to create NEW knowledge out of old, rather than to spit out 300 years of established facts.  In order to allow this, we may have to consider a new approach to our curriculum and courses, or take the grand leap, and tear down the credit system to one of a mentor or apprenticeship kind of approach where the students learn with each other and teachers.  Practically speaking, many would have to see it in action to understand. There are models of innovative schools around the world that could be drawn from. High Tech High in California, Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia are but two examples that come to mind.

Some things that I’d suggest reading:

Tony Wagner – Creating Innovators
Will Richardson – Why School?
Seth Godin – Stop Stealing Dreams (free download http://www.squidoo.com/stop-stealing-dreams)

2. What would a science lab look like, sound like, be like if it was technology enabled? What would be needed? How would it be implemented?

The science lab needs to mirror the reality of science. So that means having access to all the tools of modern science (within reason of course) but computers, network access, some tools like probes etc… But the key is that they activities in the lab need to mirror the actuality of science. I’d be happier seeing real science being done in an inquiry fashion with students asking great questions and not having any tech than I would if they had all the tech in the world and all they did was confirmatory, cookbook lab activities. High school labs need to be places that encourage open-ended problem solving.  Teachers need to be somewhat comfortable with some of the tech, but they need to be more comfortable with the approach.

So? What are your thoughts? What needs to be considered in a Science and Innovation Strategy?


  1. MIKE MCILVEEN · November 15, 2012

    I’d like to take a stab at it..

    1 Get at a deeper digital curriculum. (Fullan)
    Take advantage of online tools:
    Computer-based computation and data analysis,
    interactive, visual and dynamic online models, 
    open-source and textbook-free.
    We’ll need 1-1 for that 🙂 

    2 tech-enabled labs, I don’t know
    ..but it seems to me that labs are way behind in using computer-based data visualization and analysis. The basic materials are hand-on but the data should be pnline. Science students could pull way ahead with computer-assisted investigations. There’s so many tools online to analyze data and research properties. But you need computers and Internet.

    Aim for a near paperless environment enabled by personal laptop, wifi, Lms, and cloud. Rebrand “science labs” to “science research”.


    • colin · November 15, 2012

      Great ideas too Mike! I like it! 🙂


  2. Diana M · November 15, 2012

    Just a short comment – I’m currently reading Roger Martin’s “The Opposable Mind” about integrative thinking (he was one of the keynotes at the P4E conference a few weeks ago) and this approach is being piloted at several private and TDSB area schools. When I read more, I’ll be able to comment more.


    • colin · November 22, 2012

      Cool. Worth reading? I’m interested in this concept for sure.


  3. dougpete · November 25, 2012

    Do we have a budget? It would be nice to have a greenhouse, a planetarium, a motion lab, and all the goodies. We could move from location to location depending upon curiosity. Obviously, not in the budget unless you won the lottery, but the underlying theme is one of mobility, connections, and exploration. It would seem to me, that with that in mind, you try to find technological options that feed into those options. Perhaps the biggest change would to push the science teacher even further. I’ve always admired how great science teachers push open ended explorations and experiments. How much further do we need to go to realize that there’s a world of resources and experts available in a connected world. They just need to be accessed.


  4. Pingback: This Week in Ontario Edublogs « doug – off the record
  5. Kent Manning (@KentManning) · December 1, 2012


    Just passing through and saw this post. Although in a previous position I was a science resource teacher at the district level, my thoughts here are mostly personal after having had an offspring attend the Canada Wide Science Fair twice.

    We’ve all read about text book science and we all try not to “teach from the textbook”. I mean, how boring can that get? So not only is a hands-on lab required to mess around with science stuff, but as Doug mentioned, budget does play a part. When my sonny boy was extracting DNA he and his teacher had to send away for specific kits to make this happen. They weren’t cheap. The other thing that comes to mind is access to the lab. When you extract DNA (I’m told) there is a multi-step, time sensitive process to follow. This brought about the need to access the school’s lab on the weekend. So he, and his teacher were in there on Saturday mornings processing DNA test results. In a science school, I wonder if it would be possible to have swipe card access for students and teachers to the lab an an adult available on an on-call basis. Just a thought.

    Hope your science school project is going well!



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