8:12 a.m., Feb. 26, 2010----There's currently a strong focus in education on the concept of innovation. Many schools and educators strive to implement the newest technological resources, strategies and policies in the classroom to help improve learning.
But through research and experience, Jennifer Groff, a 2005 University of Delaware School of Education alumna, realized many school systems don't know how to effectively integrate emerging technology into a lesson and sometimes struggle simply to keep up. Groff has spent five years researching this idea of redesigning education.
After receiving a Fulbright Program scholarship in April 2009, Groff decided to cross the Atlantic Ocean and continue her research at Futurelab in Bristol, England.
When she was pursuing a master's degree in educational technology at the University of Delaware, Groff designed a tool called the i5, which was based on her graduate thesis of barriers to technology in education. This tool is an inventory that an educator would go through in order to identify potential barriers to a technology-based project in the classroom so they can try to mitigate them ahead of time in order to produce a more effective project outcome.
Groff's research at Futurelab is built directly on the i5 and her research since graduation.
“It is one of the most innovative research groups in education around the world, and the only one where I felt like my research goals really fit,” said Groff. “There's a lot of synergy between my research and multiple initiatives and research projects they are conducting, so it's a complete dream-come-true to be here.”
Groff has been conducting research at Futurelab since September 2009. She has been visiting schools and government assemblies in England, Wales and Scotland, all of which have different systems, policies and programs in place. Groff has been researching the different approaches to education and has been comparing them to the education system in the United States.
“Both countries describe "innovation" as a critical component to their respective education systems, but it is remarkable to see the vast difference in the approaches and outcomes,” she observed.
Groff says the Fulbright scholarship has been an incredible opportunity to expand her research outside her native country. She says schools and programs in the UK are using technology, and many non-technology based programs, in very innovative ways to teach their students.
“The Fulbright exchange experience follows what we know about creativity and innovation,” Groff explained. “That immersing yourself in a new area or surroundings stimulates your thinking by comparing new stimuli to things of 'old' that you've encountered, before letting that 'creative tension' produce something new and more innovative than it would have otherwise been.”
Groff will return to the U.S. in June 2010. Ultimately, she says she's hoping her work produces tools and resources that help schools structure innovative practices and knowledge management processes into their work, and she in the future, she wants to be directly involved in supporting schools as they seek to do that.
Article and video by Cassandra Kramer
Photo courtesy of the Harvard Graduate School of Education