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New Scarsdale Program Aims to Invent the Future

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – A quote from computer scientist Alan Kay posted on the Scarsdale School district's website sets the tone for the district's latest initiative: "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

The Center for Innovation, according to a press release from the district, is intended to be possibly the first think tank for education completely supported by a K-12 public school system.

The group has already begun conversations about system-wide innovation and re-design, asking questions about matters that include the nature of teaching and learning in the future, the kinds of spaces that will be needed to support instruction and collaboration in the next 10 years and how technology might transform curriculum, instruction and assessment.

"This spring we are laying the ground work for the CFI in several ways," said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Lynne Shain. "We already met with representative high school students to elicit their ideas and with community members. We have expanded the original ad hoc faculty planning group for greater staff representation and will be having our first official session as the CFI Advisory Committee on April 19."

Shain said the group has lined up a technologist, the assistant director of the Yale School of Management, to speak at the second meeting, planned for May 10. Then, in late May, a group of staff members will travel to the Harvard Innovation Lab and the MIT Media Lab in Boston.

Currently, most of the work in this area is sponsored by university research labs or private, for-profit institutions. The 2012-13 budget that will go before voters May 15 includes $100,000 for startup costs associated with the center.

According the district website , the center's purpose is:

- To re-imagine teaching and learning, develop new models of instruction and explore the role of technology in transforming instruction.

- To foster widespread change, beyond a single classroom or teacher.

- To learn how other organizations foster innovative practices and possibly replicate their techniques and structures in Scarsdale.

Participants in the center will consider matters such as:

- The changing format of content delivery (eBooks, web, infographics).

- The transformation of classroom teaching.

- The potential of collaborative group work, extended projects, interdisciplinary learning, individual research and similar approaches.

- Methods of enhancing critical and creative thinking and the ability to solve "insoluble" problems.

- The use of social learning networks for online learning and collaboration.

- The re-design of school spaces to facilitate teaching and learning.

- The promise of mobile learning devices for providing anytime, anywhere instruction.

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