Apple coined this phrase as a part of their advertising campaign back in 1997, and it has withstood the test of time. In fact, if you watch presentations of ‘innovative’ speakers in the world of K-12 education, I would bet that “Think different”, “Think outside of the box”, or something about adopting some sort of new and fantastic mindset would adorn at least three or four of their slides in their slide deck.
We all know different thinkers. We all know many people that think outside of the box. And with all of the outstanding work that Carol Dweck has done for us around the idea of growth mindset, I don’t think I have met a school leader that would tell you that they have anything BUT a growth mindset. (Imagine getting asked the question ”Do you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset?”...how would you respond? If you aren’t sure, go ask ten school leader that question and see what they say.)
In Learner Centered Design, LCD leaders don’t “think different”, or “think outside of the box”, and they certainly don’t need to have to have a superhuman mindset.
LCD leaders DO different. They look outside of the box and then DO amazing things INSIDE of the box--they take the cards that they have been dealt and even if they have to bluff, they fake it ‘til they make it. And they take the “we can do this” attitude and translate it into action. They just get after it.
Becky Kanis Margiotta is one of those people who just gets after it.
Earlier this year at the Deeper Learning Conference in San Diego, I had the good fortune to listen to Becky (the co-founder of The Billions Institute) tell the story of how her and friend Joe McCannon were able to rapidly enact solutions to some of the world’s toughest challenges to those who could benefit most. Becky led the 100,000 Homes Campaign for Community Solutions, a nationwide large-scale change effort to find and house 100,000 of the most long-term and medically vulnerable homeless people in America by July 2014. If you were not there to listen to Becky speak, I can tell you that in her remarkable work, Becky didn’t have a lot of time for thoughts or ideas: Becky was all about action. Not only was she about getting things done, she was about undoing things that got in the way of getting those things done. And If you were there, you will agree with me when I say that her term for those who might have dropped the ball on the ‘action’ piece was truly unforgettable. Thinking is one thing. Doing is something quite different.
Learner Centered Design IS doing different. It's working closely with those who are having a problem in our schools and solving the problem with them, as opposed to working with an inner circle to solve a problem FOR them and wondering afterward why those affected weren't happy with the result. It's spending the time to listen rather than solve. It's about knowing that the first idea is not the best idea, and that any idea is only as good as the feedback that we get from those who will have to live with the idea. It's about celebrating the feedback we get from our learners on the Learning Experience and the connections we develop through the process of creating this experience rather than clapping ourselves on the back for the solution that we have come up with. It's about proliferating solutions through creating immersive experiences rather than telling people what we have done and what they should do.
Saul Kaplan from the Business Innovation Factory captures it best: “Get off the whiteboard and get into the real world”, he says with vigour to the audience each year at the BIF Summit every year in Providence, RI.
In the final analysis, thoughts, ideas, and mindsets might be important, and even inspirational. However, LCD leaders know that these things mean little unless they translate into something tangible that students, parents, or educators can actually experience and feedback on so we can get to a solution that can actually make a difference to the Learner Experience (LX).
So let’s not think different. Let’s DO different for our learners.
from the desk of an educator:
It's education: there is no more time, but we DO have time. There is no more money, but we DO have money. So let's put the learner at the center, and conduct ourselves accordingly.