11 May 2011

Thinking, making, and innovation literacy

The Globe's latest article on education in Canada provides a useful reference to our ongoing discussion on credentialism, differentiation and instrumentality. Creeping crendentialism is evident as art schools now offer undergraduate degrees - the article outlines the difference between degrees (study) and apprenticeship into art (practice). This is not a bad thing in and of itself. An additive approach to education and fostering innovation and entrepreneurial thinking in all areas of education will better enable Canada to enhance productivity. Art schools in particular represent a key facet of enhancing our wider industrial capacity to leverage design talent in business innovation. This is not something we have done much of to date in this country.

Differentiation in education is an idea gaining credence, as we move away from a one size fits all approach to developing educational pathways that fit labour market needs and the needs of students seeking to find their place(s) in the national economy. That is, enabling people to access credentials in an additive fashion, integrated in work, and with the capacity to return to education to retrain, reschool, and renew as the labour market itself evolves and industry shifts over time. And, related to the point above about design, there is nothing wrong with instrumentality - the directed leveraging of talent (design, artistic) into improving business innovation. "Applied talent" is one way we could describe this, and this does not sully the purity of art as expression, but rather recognizes that art and design have a place in the world of business innovation. As Sara Diamond, president of OCAD University says: “[Graduates] need to be thinkers who are highly adaptable as well as makers.” This is the essence of instilling innovation literacy in graduates: being able to add value to innovation and entrepreneurial activities.

And speaking of innovation and entrepreneurship, the proceedings of the Polytechnics Canada Annual Conference are available here. There are lots of good points - see in particular the opening address by BCIT President Don Wright, who offers some salient predictions on future directions in education. This is part of moving the conversation on education forward. We need a collective courage to really examine the premise of our education system as we redefine it for the 21st century.

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