Education Systems are Ecosystems

Maria Langworthy is quick to point out that the Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL)Research she’s managing globally is still very much a work-in-progress. But she does know that in order to design learning that will better prepare youth for life and work in the 21st century, teachers need to directly experience for themselves that which they are being asked to “teach” – deep collaboration, knowledge-building, creativity, critical reflection, problem solving and innovation – all supported by technology. The question, according to Langworthy, is how can we provide teachers with more of these rich opportunities?

Why is education important to you?
“Education” per se is not that important to me – I did not have that much fun in most of my formal education. Learning, following lines of inquiry and discovery, creating ideas and new understandings… those are important. I have a Ph.D. and am called a professional researcher, but I am just a grown-up who continues to be a learner.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
I don’t really think there is one “best” thing: education systems are ecosystems. Changes in one element of the system require changes at other layers to renew the whole in a new formation.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
I don’t think, by and large, that teachers are the problem. Most teachers care about their students, period. To make a difference in education, in most cases, is more a matter of changes in education policies (assessment, curriculum, and the way education is structured) and of changes in parental engagement (primarily helping them to understand what more innovative teaching and learning could mean for their children).

What is your greatest hope for the future of education?
The dream of more exciting, immersive learning experiences for all students is already becoming much clearer in its conception. My hope is that this dream will become a reality much sooner than social inertia and human history would predict.

How can we support teachers in experiencing for themselves the tools and 21st century skills they’re expected to pass along to their students?

About Maria Langworthy

Maria Langworthy is the founder and principal of Langworthy Research. She is a social scientist who has worked for over 15 years studying the intersection of public and private spheres, and how historic changes in social and work patterns are shifting the locus of social responsibility. Maria is currently managing the global ITL research sponsored by Microsoft’s Partners in Learning.   Before launching her company in 2009, Maria managed international communications, marketing and policy research at Microsoft, where she led a team responsible for research in over 40 countries.
Current residence: Medina, Washington, USA
Education: MA, International Relations, Ph.D. Sociology, Boston University
Website I check every day:
Person who inspires me most: People who have an attitude of gratitude, no matter what the circumstances.
Favorite childhood memory: It’s not a memory, it’s a time of day. I’ve always loved the dusk, or as we call it, “the golden hour” just as the sun goes down. I always remember the smell of fresh cut grass at that time of day, and it’s the time when I’m most likely to simply appreciate being.
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Hawaii, then Dubai.

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