Education innovations are transformative recommendations to decipher the problems experienced by educators and learners.
However, all innovations do not remodel education, if few does, they remain static in their place; for instance, in one school, or it may spread to a bunch of schools, but do not move beyond it. Therefore, dissemination of localized innovations to other parts of the country, or I should say to the world is necessary, and a challenging task. We do not own an ecosystem of educational innovations, though, in other sectors it has already proliferated. What is the reason? Lageman (2004) deduced it is because of the complex nature of a learning activity as it has many variations, and influenced by many other aspects: an Asian student who is learning to improve his English communication skills may get an improvement by a variety of influencing factors, but as an educator, it is difficult to know which factor has specifically improved his communication. Another addition to the reason is people who are implicated to drive innovations are not learning through partnership, they do not collaborate to share their findings with educators or school leaders. Besides, there are other facets also such as willingness of educators and researchers, their learning mindset is equally essential to innovate or implement new practices in the classroom.
In view of the fact of individual, cultural, and geographical variations, it is hard to scale educational innovations. To accomplish it, we need to build a learning community or a learning ecosystem where educators, entrepreneurs, researchers, stakeholders, learners co-create, co-evolve, and co-transform learning through innovating together. There are two essential terms I need to discuss here before I dig deeper into the scaling of learning innovations: 1. Innovations, and 2. Scaling
Cohen and Ball (2006) defined innovation as “a departure from current practice-deliberate or not-originating in or outside of practice, which is novel. Innovations include novel practices, tools or technologies, and knowledge and ideas”. It requires two things to happen: departure and adaptation. Departure from the current practices employ in teaching and learning, and then adapting oneself to the new environment of change where novice practices are employed.
Scaling is done quantitatively and qualitatively (Cohen & Ball, 2006). The quality of innovation is more important than its quantity; how intensely the innovation spread throughout rather than just number of schools or states adopt it. It should be more than just a contemporary principle or a strategy, but rather a detailed design and procedure which would help every educator to adopt and implement it.
How to scale learning innovations?
Educators are under growing duress to adapt teaching and learning as per the new era of technology. For adjustment to the new environment, they need to aware with innovations evolving these days. However, researchers in their educational research projects establish impact of certain innovations in a particular context, so they have very less influence on revamping practices at school or state level (Looi and Teh, 2015). The findings of experimental research are not implemented at larger scale, they remain either in thesis or dissertations. Adoption of innovations ought to occur at a wider scale, but it doesn’t signify we will simply imitate the new practice or a program in a variety of areas (Hung, Lee & Teh, 2015), but as discussed earlier, it is about adaptation also which means empowering educators to design great learning experience for learners to tackle the challenges of 21st century. As said by Cohen et al. (2006) that the quality of scaling is more important, so the focus should be more on scaling-in than scaling-up.
Hedges (2007) one of the proponent of scale-up emphasized on generalizing the results of intervention strategies which means applying results of the new practices into another context. However, the results of innovations are often not successful because they lack perfect design (Cohen & Ball, 2006) and educators are unaware how to employ innovations in their teaching. Replication or reproduction of innovations to different context is far more crucial, and I agree with Cohen and Ball who echoed to stress upon designing and elaborating innovations to educators so that they can use them. To achieve it, fundamental research carried out by educational researchers should be merged with innovations brought by educators, entrepreneurs, and organizations such as schools or universities by creating a network where all these people are connected.
Education or an innovation cluster can succor in uniting different people from different regions to collaborate on creating innovations conjointly for shaping its ecosystem. The way business clusters have expanded all over the world, and produced an ecosystem of innovation; likewise, education cluster can bond different people to work together on designing, implementing and adopting innovations. Fullan (2000) argued that our main rival to bring educational transformations at large scale is “extreme fragmentation”. He talked about “inside”, and “inside out story” to foster reforms; the inside story insists on “reculturing” the schools, while inside out story says reculturing cannot occur individually because it is dependent on “external forces” such as:
. parents and community
. corporate connections
. government policy
. the wider teaching profession (Fullan, 2000)
These outside forces need to move in which means schools are meant to connect with these forces by a conjoint collaboration. During a speaking session in 2016, Andy Hargreaves talked about “deep collaboration” where he insisted that “collaboration is not forced”, in fact it shows effect and “integrity”. He proclaimed that when educators work together, take risks and innovate, they collaborate deeply, and improves learning environment for both learners and themselves. Thus, a culture of collaboration and a learning community is an utmost need of the present time to strengthen the success of inside and inside out story.
In support of the above facts, Looi and Teh (2015) insisted on collaborating schools with researchers to look for the problem they want to address, then solve it together which connects theory with practice; it also simplify the process of implementing and adopting innovations. Collaboration is about learning whether it involves educators, learners, researchers or entrepreneurs; they all learn when they collaborate. I very much liked the idea of Park Tee (2016), who asserted educators should “teach less, learn more”, which also gives time to learners as well as educators to learn deeply. Hence, the kind of learning community need to be established where everyone is learning through horizontal collaboration, which stimulates more innovation. We learn from each other, and education cluster relies upon it; we need to share what we are learning or innovating to scale it. Likewise, states can learn, districts, and countries may also learn conjointly by building a global cluster of innovations.
Few examples of education clusters are: Digital Promise: an organization, which in partnership with U.S. Department of Education helps in scaling regional education clusters at a national level. NPDL is another establishment working to scale innovations through global education cluster.
Technology is an important aspect to collaborate, network, and to scale-up innovations through Education Cluster as it helps educators to connect with wide audience who perhaps possess more in-depth knowledge of educational innovations. Besides, to scale-in, a creative and collaborative mindset of educators apart from their willingness is critical; fixed mindset destroys creativity, and act as an obstacle in creating or executing innovations. A kind of ecosystem created by education cluster motivates everyone in the field of education to bring their expertise and connect with each other to improve learning and foster innovations. It can remove all hurdles confronted for scaling innovations, and it may produce more effective pedagogy and tools to face the challenges of 21st century learning. The cluster approach improves partnership, and cultivate innovation through partnership; as it brings in three key people (educators, researchers, entrepreneurs) who work collectively to develop new practices and tools to help learners in dealing with the fourth industrial revolution. Through this type of social movement, it is not difficult to usher the expansion of educational innovations, and its scale-in and scale-up.
To infer, I would like to emphasize upon six points which may help in sustaining and scaling of educational innovations through education cluster:
1. Capacity building among educators for dealing with 21st century learning environment,
2. Learning mindset of everyone involved in a cluster,
3. Deep collaboration and engagement,
4. Adaptation of people of cluster to a new environment of innovations,
5. Elaboration of design and procedure of a new practice or a tool before its implementation,
6. Conditions for success of new intervention should be explained to educators and principals.