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Unlike other systems and industries such as Transportation, Healthcare, Communication and Agriculture, Education systems world over have been stagnant for decades. For example, communication systems evolved from the rudimentary rotary dial phones to today's smartphones, with features, flexibility and affordability that were unimaginable only a few decades ago. Education systems continue to be rudimentary, with the same clockwork of instruction, examination and grades, as they have been for decades and even for centuries. Same content is delivered, at the same pace, to all the children, as if they are copies of each other.

If education systems evolved in the same way the communication systems did, education should have become more flexible, more affordable, more customizable, more feature rich, catering to the needs of diverse children from more diverse socio-economic backgrounds, worldwide, by now. The current education systems exercise, albeit heavily, only a small area of the brains of children that is to do with academic aptitude. They let all other areas of the brain go unrecognized, un-nourished and rusted.

Every sizable classroom would have a future scientist, a future politician, a future artist, a future pilot, a future manager, a future journalist, a future programmer, a future farmer, a future engineer, a future businessman, a future accountant, a future lawyer and so on, in it. But we give all of them the same content, test them against the same standards, and the let them exercise only one area of the brain. There is nothing in the education system that either identifies the unique and specific potential of a child or caters to it. Current education systems, with their focus completely devoted to academics, overserve the future scientists and future professors, but underserve the future anybody-else.

The education systems turn a blind eye to the children whose sensitivities and sensibilities get trampled by wheels of the millwork of these systems. Reports of children losing self-esteem and self-confidence and even developing psychological disorders, and contemplating and committing suicides, have become a routine. It is appalling that education systems blame the children for their failures, rather than themselves for being stagnant for decades, and not developing techniques to meet the needs of the children of varied interests, potential, sensitivities and sensibilities.

Schools have to become Smart schools not only for the sake of students, but also for the sake of teachers, administration and policy makers. The current education system is well-recognized to be a system of rote-learning. What is not so well-understood is the fact that it is also a system of rote-teaching. Teachers are asked to do the same thing, over and over again, pulling the children through a predetermined curriculum regardless of their interest in it, driving them at a predetermined pace regardless of whether it is too fast or too slow for them.

Even the most energetic, most enthusiastic and most creative teachers get numbed in this system in a matter of a few years. Some simply get frustrated and leave the profession. No amount of training, new initiatives, changes in the curriculum, rewards, incentives, guaranteed employment and pension plans, can compensate for the dissatisfaction, numbness and lack of motivation caused by the rote-teaching. If Education systems have evolved the same way as communication systems did, this issue of rote-teaching and its consequences would have been fixed a long time ago.

The current education systems are no places for innovation, with the 'I tell, you do' and 'I decide, you implement' culture pervading from top to bottom, i.e., from policy makers to administration to teachers to students. An 'I tell, you do' culture would not have advanced the communication systems from rotary phones to smartphones. Communication systems evolved the way they did, because they sought and absorbed innovation constantly and relentlessly. Education systems also can become 'smart', if they do the same. They need to develop mechanisms and processes to seek, harvest and absorb innovation in the same manner and with the same vigor that the other systems do.

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Ed>4ward developed a blueprint of how the Smart schools might look like and how they might function. Ed>4ward also developed a strategy to transform any school, in any part of the world, into a Smart school, using a simple three-step process. The blueprint and the strategy are versatile and flexible. They can be customized by a school to meet its own needs and vision. Both the blueprint and strategy are also modular and extendible. Creative schools can vie with each other and take them to glorious levels of sophistication, just as companies in the communication industry vie with each other to push the smartphones to higher standards. The Ed>4ward strategy can be used by schools with modest goals as well as by schools that work on the leading edge. It can be used for doing things better, i.e., do better in imparting 'academic' knowledge and skills, as well as for doing better things, i.e, go beyond the academics to exercise all areas of brain with which the children are gifted.

The details of the blueprint for Smart schools and the strategy for transforming a school into a Smart school are described at length in the book 'Smart schools: How to make yours one?'. The three simple steps of the strategy are described below.

The first step is to equip teachers and parents with strong foundational knowledge of diversity patterns and growth patterns of the children. Towards this, Ed>4ward developed a four-day teacher-parent joint workshop called Ed>Raise, i.e., to raise the achievement levels of the children. It equips teachers and parents with the skills to interpret the behavior, the emotional needs, the unique potential and even the unique struggles of the children, easily and clearly. It equips teachers and parents with the skills to respond to the variations in children in a meaningful and productive manner.

Ed>Raise is developed as a teacher-parent joint workshop on purpose. When both teachers and parents hear the same thing and are trained in the same techniques and framework, they can become collaborate better in helping the child. They won't work at odds with each other as is often the case in today's world. Further, Ed>Raise helps teachers and parents visualize what a Smart school would be and how it is essential for the nourishment of the child's overall potential. Ed>Rise makes both teachers and parents excited about and ready for Smart schools, which in turn makes it easy for the administrators to transition to their school into a Smart school.

The second step is aimed at a silent, powerful, but frustrated constituency of teachers and educators. These are the people who have innovative ideas about improving the education system, but do not know where to start or where to find support and receptive audience. These innovative thinkers can be found in every school among teachers and administrators. Hundreds of thousands of their innovative ideas go waste and untapped in every part of the world, every year. For every single problem that is out there in education, they have, not one, but multiples of solutions. The current education systems just don't have a mechanism to harvest and absorb those innovative ideas. We complain about problems, but turn a blind eye to solutions.

Ed>4ward offers a eight-week training course called Ed>Wise to equip the innovators with the foundational knowledge of diversity patterns, growth patterns, learning styles, social context, educational structures, and to train them on how to transform their innovative ideas into an 'implementable' form, called Learneos. Learneos are like apps on a smartphone. An App is nothing but an innovative idea turned into a usable form, made immediately available to everyone who has a smartphone. Similarly, a Learneo is nothing but an innovative idea turned into a implementable form, made immediately available to every school in any part of the world that wants to transform itself into a Smart school.

The third step is to actually implement the Learneos in your school, regardless of whether the Learneo is developed by an innovative teacher from your school or from a different school. the book describes the process of developing Learneos and the process of implementing them. It also presents a few examples of Learneos.

This three-step strategy is incremental, in the sense, that a school need not wait for all the three steps to be completed to realize the value. Each step adds value on its own. The first step, the Ed>Raise workshop, for example, addresses the many frustrations that teachers and parents face in raising the children, and hence is valuable on its own. The second step, the Ed>Wise course, energies the teacher community and boosts their morale, by giving them an opportunity to showcase their creativity, and hence is valuable on its own.

Perhaps it is worth discussing a simple example of a Learneo, to trigger your imagination about Learneos. A teacher in Maharashtra, a state in Western part of India, discovered that it is easy for children to absorb the grammar of Marathi (the mother tongue of children in that region) and grammar of English, if they are taught simultaneously, comparing and contrasting them with each other, rather than when they are taught separately. Trained in Ed>Wise, that teacher would know how to package the method of teaching grammars of two languages simultaneously, into a Learneo. And that Learneo would be published on a Learneo Store (similar to online digital library) maintained by a board of education or a university, and made available to schools in that region immediately. A Learneo like this not only enhances the learning experience of the students, but also the teaching experience of the teachers. Administrators should also love the fact that this Learneo saves 50% of grammar-teaching-time, which can be used for other purposes. Inspired by this Learneo, an innovative teacher in some other part of the world, say in Latin America, can develop a Learneo to teach English and Spanish grammar simultaneously.

Learneo is the primary construct of the Smart schools. Learneo like the one described above helps in doing things better. Similarly, Learneos can be developed to do better things, i.e, to exercise the other areas of the brain beyond academics. They are a little bit more intricate and requires a slightly more discussion. You can find examples of them in the book.

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Using this three-step strategy, a school can advance towards becoming a Smart school at its own pace, implementing more and more number and variety of Learneos. And the developers of Learneos, i.e., the innovators, can release new and better versions of the Learneos constantly, just as smartphone app developers release new versions of apps till they are perfected. Alternate versions of the Learneos can be developed by the original innovator or new innovators, to customize the Learneo for diverse students. For example, the above bi-lingual-grammar Learneo might have been originally developed aiming at the children of 14 years of age. Another innovator can develop an alternate version of the same Learneo aiming at children of mixed age groups. Thus the Learneo model is self-advancing, self-perfecting and self-expanding model.

In the current education system, as we often see, each one blames the other for the problems: teachers blame parents, parents blame teachers, teachers blame students, administration blame teachers, teachers blame administration, every one blame policy makers and policy makers blame everyone. The three-step strategy of Ed>4ward turns every one into a change agent, a part of solving the problem, with no one having to blame others, and everyone being able to contribute in their own way affecting their own sphere of influence. Smart schools and the Learneo model, are 'smart', because they set fire to the imagination of the innovators, on which only cold water has been poured thus far. Smart schools are 'smart', because they absorb the innovation constantly and as soon as it is available.

The evolution from rotary phones to smartphones did not happen in one day, nor did it happen because of one individual or one laboratory or one company or even one country. Same will be true with Smart schools. It will not happen in one day and will not happen because of one Ed>4ward or one enthusiastic school, but will happen because of all us want them and all of us work towards them.

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Also, along the path of the evolution from rotary phone to smartphone, many people made money, many people found jobs and economy grew. Same thing is possible with the transformation to Smart schools. The Learneo model makes it possible many people, with a for-profit or non-profit motive to jump into action and create Smart schools. As discussed in the beginning, a school is a Smart school because it focuses on bringing down the costs, which means brings better and meaningful education within the reach of more children around the globe including the poorer communities in advanced nations.

Ed>4ward itself is a non-profit entity. All its work is released under open source license. Neither the blueprint of Smart schools, nor the Ed>Raise workshop material nor the Ed>Wise course material that it developed are proprietary. They can be improved and enhanced by all the smart people out there for the better, and that is what we hope for.

Ed>4ward revenue model is to sustain itself by offering consulting and training services. The objective of Ed>4ward is not to make money, but only to help as many schools and as quickly as possible, to transform into Smart schools. Towards this end, Ed>4ward not only train schools, but also other consulting and training agencies who in can train other schools. Enthusiastic teachers in any school can themselves become trainers of Ed>Raise and train other teachers in their school and parents of the children in their school. Ed>4ward does not operate under the 'we tell, you do' model, rather it operates under the 'you do, we support' model. Ed>4ward works with the university departments of education in improving the Ed>Wise course and in making the Ed>Wise course widely available to the innovators.

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In summary, here are the key things to be kept in mind regarding the blueprint and strategy developed by Ed>4ward, to turn your school into a Smart school:

  • Smart school: A school that is committed to improve itself every years by tapping into innovation, to do better things or at least do things better. Ed>4ward: An agency that took the initiative to define a customizable and extendible blueprint of Smart School, and a strategy for any school to transform itself into a Smart school.
  • Learneo: The foundational construct of the blueprint of the Smart schools. Learneo is an implementable form given to an innovative idea.
  • Ed>Raise: A teacher-parent joint workshop developed by Ed>4ward that equips them with the sills to identify and cater to the unique potential and emotional needs of children.
  • Ed>Wise: A training course for innovators that equips them with the foundational knowledge of diversity patterns, growth patterns, learning styles, social context and educational structures and on turning their innovation into a Learneo.
  • Open: Nothing about Ed>4ward is proprietary. Anyone can extend and customize the blueprint of Smart schools, the Ed>Raise material, the Ed>wise material.

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Ed>4ward actively tries to reach out to the schools and education consulting/training agencies to make the Smart schools a reality, sooner than later. Ed>4ward also encourages and invites schools and educational consulting/training agencies to contact us.

For more information about the blueprint for the Smart schools and the strategy to turn your school into a Smart schools please read the book or get started with Smart schools Blog, which offers almost the same detail as the book.

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