Several weeks ago I won an education reformer’s version of a trifecta along the stretch of US Highway 101 from San Francisco to Palo Alto. In sequence on successive days from north to south education researchers, entrepreneurs, and communicators each convened their big annual conclaves with much flare and fanfare. First came the massive annual meeting of the American Education Research Association in San Francisco focusing this year on education and poverty. There was a lot of interesting chatter about how to make ed research more practical and useful in addressing some of education’s big problems.
Then came the 2013 Summit of the New Schools Venture Fund down near the SFO airport in Burlingame where the world of venture capitalists and education innovators and entrepreneurs engaged in some showy mating dances.
To cap off the week Education Writers Association’s National Seminar on innovation pulled in an SRO crowd at Stanford U to chat, blog, tweet about innovation and how to make sense of (and report on) good ideas, promising research, and provocative stories.
As different as these three gatherings were in size, content, format, and personality, I couldn’t help but think about how they were connected to one another by more than just Highway 101. Indeed all three seemed to rally around such things as the urgent call for change, a high respect for knowledge, a pervasive understanding of the significance of great teachers and leaders, a deep appreciation for the complexity of teaching and learning.
This commonality was pleasing to behold because in education there is a strong tendency for researchers, innovators, and disseminators to retreat into their respective cultural and institutional silos and miss collective opportunities for solving persistent problems. As we have seen in other sectors like medicine, energy and agriculture, the connections among R&D, innovation, and knowledge dissemination are vital to testing, scaling and sustaining positive change, improvement, and even transformation. Indeed we need a permanent Highway 101 in education.