Of Feathers and Fins: An I3 Parable

Cross posted at Rethink Learning Now

I, like most of the known education universe, have been exploring the Investing in Innovation grant recently. It’s an interesting project, designed to reward those who have been successful in implementing innovations in their schools. At it’s heart, I believe, the intention is to grow little programs that work into Big Programs that Work. But the timing of it has been flummoxed. Here’s how I see it…

Once upon a time, we were told to swim. Swimming, we were told, was the most important thing we could possibly do. All of our time, energy and resources should be dedicated to learning to swim and teaching others to swim because swimming was the only thing that mattered. We may have been skeptical, wondered if it was wise to put all of our eggs in this one watery basket, but we were told unequivocally: Swim. Or we’ll hit you with this great big stick.

So we swam. We put our heads down and we did our best to ignore that niggling feeling in our bellies that told us that swimming was only a piece of what we were supposed to be doing. Some of us snuck peeks at the sky and wondered what it would be like to do more than just swim. (Not that we wanted not to swim- we just imagined there was more to life than perfecting our sidestrokes.) A few of us looked back at the old days, when we we swam and ran and danced. Fewer still of us kept practicing those skills, carving odd moments out of swimming instruction to remind ourselves and our students that there was more.

Then, suddenly, the world changed. “Fly!” We were told. “You were supposed to be flying, not swimming. Yes, the previous leadership told you to swim (and threatened those who didn’t make Adequate Yearly Swimming Progress) but we know you wanted to fly. So show us how you can fly and how you can teach others to fly and we’ll give you a great big chunk of money for it. Because all those years we told you to swim? We think that you really spent that time creating exciting new ways to fly while also conducting experimental and quasi-experimental research on the best ways of flying. So show us what you did

Come on. Fly.

I’d like to believe that the I3 project won’t reward the giant education-industrial complex. I want to see lots of really innovative little projects and programs that will make big changes for kids.

I’d really like to see us all live happily ever after….


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