Innovation Zone Work

Young student writing on blackboard

Our district has a proud tradition of excellence in all our schools, and our teachers and staff are already doing great work and innovating. We want to continually challenge ourselves to explore and improve and try new research-based ideas.  With that in mind, we are focusing on the concept of developing an Innovation Zone within the district.

What is an Innovation Zone?

Education|Evolving defines an innovation zone as follows:

An innovation zone is an organizational space in a local or state public education system where entrepreneurs are afforded the independence, authority, and incentive necessary to pursue innovation free from undue interference.

An innovation zone may be established by a state legislature, which has the ability to create the capacity and conditions for innovation inside the public system. Or an innovation zone may be established at the level of a city, as more and more districts are creating new and different schools alongside the existing.

In Disrupting Class Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen argues that policy makers must create separate spaces where fundamentally-different innovations in schooling may occur. Even organizations with the best of intentions, Christensen argues, often cannot fundamentally reform themselves inside established operations. The organization's culture, its business model, and its profit formula all work against it.

Understanding this dynamic, education leaders and policy makers are choosing to run a split-screen strategy at reform. While continuing to work to improve the existing factory-style schools, they are developing robust R&D efforts inside innovation zones designed specifically for trying new things.

We have an opportunity to work right here in the MGSD, as well as with other teachers and education leaders to create our own innovation zone and to foster the conditions necessary within our district for innovation to take root and flourish.

Universal Access

For decades as the country industrialized the goal was universal access – giving every student in the country a free comprehensive public education. Beginning around mid-century and accelerating in recent decades the task has shifted to universal high achievement, expecting top performance from everyone to meet prescribed benchmarks.

These are really quite different objectives. To accomplish the first goal – over time expanding access to more and more citizens regardless of race, gender, income, or geography – a system was built out that made the most of the technology at the time: teacher-lecture, large classes, economies of scale by having everything on one place. This model of traditional school, administered by local districts, has achieved the goal of universal access remarkably well: no other country of this size has built such a system across such a large and diverse country.

Universal achievement however, by definition, requires personalization because different students learn in different ways. This approach requires an evolution of how learning is organized in terms of pedagogy and school design: project-based learning, technology-based programs where learning is facilitated (and personalized) through digital Learning Management Systems, apprenticeship-based programs – or any combination of these and others. The most profound, exciting forms of school probably haven’t been invented yet, but when they are they will make intuitive sense because they will mirror the sorts of personalization occurring throughout society enabled by better communication and technology. Despite the amazing potential of digital, personalization doesn’t always require high-tech approaches – project-based learning can and has been done entirely without digital electronics (though they make it easier.)

The country needs an innovation strategy for public education. The opportunity for education leaders is exciting. We want to be leaders here to help define the future.

We are at the cusp of a new phase in evolution of American education and need to support innovation right here in the Monona Grove School District.

  • Monona Grove School District
  • 5301 Monona Drive
  • Monona, WI 53716
  • Phone: (608) 221-7660
  • Fax: (608) 221-7688
  • Monona Grove School District
  • 5301 Monona Drive
  • Monona, WI 53716
  • Phone: (608) 221-7660
  • Fax: (608) 221-7688

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