06/17/2013 12:20 pm ET Updated Aug 16, 2013

Radical Innovation Summit Focuses on Education

The National Science Foundation (NSF) underwrote a Radical Summit on Innovation in Washington D.C. last week to learn a little more how educators see the Innovation landscape and importantly, what they think education itself should be doing.

As Dr. Elizabeth VanderPutten, Program Director for NSF's Directorate for Education and Human Resources, put it: what is the future, how will we know when we get there, and importantly, what do we in education need to be doing now?

Joining her in setting the stage for over thirty five educators from around the country--including representatives from Belgium, the UK, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the West Indies, was Dr. Arlene de Strulle, Program Officer with responsibility for R&D, who pointed out that kids today can look up anything they want or need; their future depends on our ability to help them build their "connected learning network."

What "connected learning" means and what educators needed to do make learning--not necessarily education--relevant, accessible 24/7, international, and interactive dominated the discussions the next two days.

Both keynote speakers, Dr. Vernon Burton, Director of Clemson's Cyberstitute and Dr. Kenneth Kosik, a neuroscientist from the University of California at Santa Barbra, also emphasized that the world has changed but education hasn't kept pace. Even the buildings of most campuses look like Athens said Dr. Kosik. Maybe he mused, students don't need any buildings at all.

Stephen Lu of the University of Southern California (USC) talked about an initiative underway through the USC Viterbi Institute that involves five universities around the world who are learning together through a program, which emphasizes "introverted, interactive and international" learning. The introverted, interactive model uses the "flipped" classroom concept which reverses the process and gives teachers more time to assess the amount of learning taking place in real time and thereby helps individual students, as it provides peer to peer learning relationships.

Deborah Lemon of Ohlone College has discovered her students communicate using Facebook--while of course most faculty still use email--and has merged real life and academic life in such a way that students learn where ever they are, whenever they are in the mood and use voice or video or text to do so. It's a total emersion real time experience...and apparently they love it.

The idea that learning takes place everywhere became a central topic in the discussions; and that technology allows educators to insure that new models of learning were rapidly emerging was evident, and need to be encouraged. As Professor Lemon mentioned, the kids are mobile and learning should be too.

Dr. Kevin Franklin who co-founded HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) and now heads the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Science at the University of Illinois, Dr. Alan Craig, Associate of the Institute, Dr. Sharon Tettegah, Associate Professor, Educational Psychology, College of Education and iFoundry Fellow helped organize the meetings. The meetings were held with the cooperation of The Organization of American States (OAS) and The Advanced Research and Technology Collaboratory for the Americas (OAS-ARTCA).

The Summit was just the beginning but it represented an important new initiative aimed at changing the university, redefining education and in turn, learning for the Age of Innovation.