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Room for Innovation? by Bob Sprankle

“Thank god for charter schools. There is no room for innovation in the standard system.”

Bill Gates, August 6, 2010 at Techonomy Conference

Welcome back to school, USA! Okay, I'm sure that I'm a bit early for most of you, but it's right around the corner and many of us are at least back in the classroom, getting them ready, printing name labels, sharpening pencils, dusting off books, etc., etc.

Many of your returns are being greeted by the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) (click here to see if your state has already signed on), promising a fix for many of education's woes, or at least a better foothold for your state's "Race to the Top." I've spent some of my beach reading this summer trying to get my head around CCSS, and I think Jim Burke's post best sums up my own thoughts and worries, but I mostly appreciate Jim's proactive response to his concerns by breaking ground on a new wiki "called Learning in America at http://learninginamerica.wikispaces.com/ in order to index open educational resources to the new standards." Head on over there, join, and help build.

Jim articulates his reason for the wiki as such:

"If we must have national standardization, then we should at least not become enslaved to large oligopolistic educational publishing outfits. Let's open up the possibilities of local decision making in the methods and resources we use."

Thank you, Jim for providing educators with a reminder that no matter how "standard" things get, we still have the tools and power to keep building and innovating, no matter what confines we find ourselves in.

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The opening quote to this post (by Gates) is sobering, and, hopefully at the very least, an exaggeration. Definitely go check out the other positive things that Bill Gates is saying in his talk at the Techonomy Conference (you can see an article at TechCrunch as well as view a partial video of his talk here). Gates talks about how much of education (he doubts F2F will ever go away for the younger grades) will be moving online, becoming more accessible and more affordable. If you listen to Richard Halkett's presentation at the Building Learning Communities Conference from this summer, you'll hear the same prediction.

What does this mean in the shadow of CCSS? Are we going to see more freedom for students to choose online "a la carte" education programs/services/opportunities and have the power to build a curriculum that best serves their needs/ambitions/passions? Or will we see a nationalized approach dominate what's offered even online? Somehow, I don't see the two movements living in perfect harmony.

I'd love to hear more discussion from TechLearning readers about CCSS in the comments below. I've started my own collection of articles on CCSS at this diigo address. Admittedly, the list is predominantly "con" articles (what can I say? I'm an Alfie Kohn groupie), but, with your help, I'd love to balance it out with both sides of the issue. Thanks for any links and thoughts.