In every issue of this magazine, in some way or another, we chronicle the struggle schools are experiencing in their quest to find a balance between digital innovation and academic accountability. More and more, we feel a sense of urgency emerging in the pursuit of that balance, an attitude that is embracing the role of risk-taking without losing sight of holding schools accountable.
It’s safe to say that most K-12 schools are not naturally inclined to try new approaches without clear evidence that those approaches are likely to work. That cautious nature is not necessarily a bad thing because embracing change simply for the sake of change is misguided and will undoubtedly steer schools off a productive course.
But that raises an important question: How do schools innovate to improve themselves when innovation, by its very nature, usually happens before evidence of effectiveness is available?
Digital Directions Senior Writer Michelle R. Davis tackles that question head-on with a cover package in this issue that examines the digital innovation/accountability balancing act, including a special look at the role of hybrid charter schools that blend face-to-face instruction with online learning. I would encourage you to read and react to her stories to help your colleagues think about how to find that balance.
Based on reading Michelle’s articles and others in this issue, I think the answer to the balancing-act question is that schools have to be willing to create a culture of teaching and learning that embraces the process of thoughtful trial and error, similar to the way research scientists work or how new technologies are created.
To be sure, that approach is messy and imperfect. But it is also potentially powerful in its ability to transform schools into effective innovators that understand the nuances of how to make digital innovation and academic accountability work together to improve schools.
A version of this article appeared in the June 15, 2011 edition of Digital Directions as The Innovation Balancing Act