In 1979, Sony produced the first portable cassette device – the Walkman. It was a game changer for consumers and the music industry. Sony ended up selling 200 million devices worldwide. Long before Apple or even Google established themselves as innovators, there was Japan.
The BBC recently had an interesting article on how Japan is trying to ‘reboot innovation’. In an effort to encourage innovation, a hub called a high-tech ‘makerspace’ has been set up in Tokyo open to anyone who wants to turn an idea into a product.
The 20th model of schooling is like the Walkman – a product of the times but it’s been superseded by mobile devices, which can do more than just play music. Innovative is not imitation; we need to realise (like Japan) that we cannot make a better version of the current model. We need something never seen before – the school equivalent of Japan’s high tech makerspaces?
It certainly makes Yong Zhao’s argument for an entrepreneurial model of schooling even stronger. A model that cultivates student creativity and collaboration but where the focus of learning is on the ‘product not the project’. Perhaps this is where project based learning is headed in the future.
Until then, we should ponder the comments of a former Panasonic employee and now founder of a start-up company who said any organisation is capable of producing something innovative but it is up to management as to whether they allow the ideas to be developed.
The question for school and system leaders is whether we are champions of imitation or innovation?