50 Crazy Ideas To Change Education

daveparker-50-radical-ideas-change-education50 Crazy Ideas To Change Education 

by Terry Heick

This post has been updated from previous publishing.

Below are 50 ideas for a new education. Note, most of these are about education as a system rather than learning itself, but that’s okay. It’s often the infrastructure of learning that obscures anyway.

Few of them may work; even fewer would work together, and that’s okay too. As long as we’re dreaming anyway, let’s get a little crazy.

  1. Make connectivity and interdependence the catalyst for all learning.
  2. Stop claiming every child will be proficient. (Find find something else to promise.)
  3. Have students design their own quality criteria, and develop frameworks to help them understand how.
  4. Celebrate learning by celebrating learning models–every school is branded by that model and approach, rather than historical names and empty mascots. Embrace that there is no best way to teach and learn.
  5. Don’t require students to come to school.
  6. Stop using the words and phrases proficient, best practice, and student engagement; stop reporting proficiency through demographic groups, and instead do so individually.
  7. Have a group of successful professionals document the 10 most important things they know, and the 10 most important skills. Then compare and contrast them with national academic standards.
  8. Let students use smartphones in the classroom. This is not a school problem, it is a learning model problem.
  9. Mobilize learning by mobilizing and empowering students in communities they care about.
  10. Make classrooms places students want to be.
  11. Make school walls invisible—literally made of glass. 
  12. Ditch internet “filters” and instead making all access transparent to parents and guardians, and published in schools for all to see.
  13. Be honest when things suck, are boring, or are wastes of time. Stop rationalizing, making excuses, or using confirmation bias.
  14. Transform all schools to 21st century cultural centers with cutting edge experts, technology, and programs.
  15. Stop encouraging students to go to overpriced colleges that fail to improve students’ lives, and that perpetuate a system that stifles innovation and equity.
  16. Make elementary school about literacy, creativity, and play–and that’s it.
  17. Make middle school about self-discovery, accountability, and an introduction to how to find and evaluate information they care about.
  18. Make high school about citizenship, thinking habits, and guided participation in physical and digital networks.
  19. Fund schools with the precision and zest of a Fortune 500 company.
  20. Treat the best teachers like rock stars: Give them reality shows, endorsement deals, and huge contracts.
  21. If students underperform (regardless of the terms of said performance), hold them accountable as well. Find a way–and it can’t be punishment. It has to be meaningful, possibly social, and absolutely knowledge-based.
  22. Make students accountable to one another, not teachers. And use a different word–make it positive.
  23. If we don’t celebrate learning the way we do swagger and controversy in entertainment, let’s stop being surprised when students love Beyonce more than Aristotle.
  24. Ditch formal professional systems. Every teacher is an expert in something. There’s your PD team.
  25. Educators: Stop patronizing edtech like brand fanatics.
  26. Use a grading system that starts at zero, not 100.
  27. Make school budgets entirely transparent.
  28. Throw out letter grades and test scores forever. At most, move to a 0, 1, 2–didn’t complete the work, completed without meeting quality criteria, completed while meeting quality criteria.
  29. Stop asking so much of teachers and administrators.
  30. Stop oversimplifying teaching and learning.
  31. Make sure anyone on a school board or committee understands what it means to understand something, and the realities of leading a dizzying mix of students to that point for dozens and dozens of standards. Then they can vote, make policies, hire, etc.
  32. Promote learning through networks, not curriculum. (And while we’re on the subject, ban all scripted curriculum.)
  33. Make joy, curiosity, and the ability to ask the right question at the right time the criteria by which we measure a school.
  34. Worry less about teaching evolution, and more about evolving teaching.
  35. Rebrand teaching and learning completely the same way Apple has done with computers, Starbucks has coffee, and Nike has jogging.
  36. Stop demonizing teachers for the increasing cultural apathy to formal education.
  37. Push the government out of schools completely.
  38. Design complex mentorship and apprenticeship programs for all students older than 13.
  39. Use curriculum based around thinking habits, and the ability to know what’s worth understanding rather than “content.”
  40. Use curriculum based on the ability to self-direct and design their own learning pathways.
  41. Require parents, community experts, and business leaders to teach or co-teach.
  42. Stop teaching–which is a push-pull action; instead, promote learning.
  43. Use YouTube channels instead of textbooks.
  44. Eliminate all hierarchy in schools.
  45. Use podcasts and social media channels instead of classrooms.
  46. Make libraries more like app stores with technology that excites students–that they want to use.
  47. Create curriculum that functions like a playlist, and that browses like Google search results; require students to document their own understanding.
  48. Allow students to decide what they do and don’t want to learn; insist only that the learn something.
  49. Treat the goal of education as self-knowledge: Who am I, and how do I relate to the world around me?
  50. Design every school as a think tank to understand and address local problems and opportunities.

Image attribution flickr user daveparker; 50 Crazy Ideas To Change Education; 50 Radical Ideas In Education

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Tyler Matlock

I love a lot of your ideas, like some of them, and see others as not that worthwhile. But I like where you’re going for the most part. I like to think that every teacher needs to find their own personal “gamechanger”. Some crazy idea that they latch onto that totally revolutionizes their classroom.

I like your list. Let me add my post “13 Subversive Questions for the Classroom” Reflective prompts for #edreform #edchat http://bit.ly/P4HjWz

Geri Peak

This is an awesome list for stimulating the mind, making us think about what fuels learning. Our school (www.byihs.org) focuses on learning, transformation and equity and our goal is to raise champions who will place community building at the forefront of their life efforts. We’re only at the beginning and your article comes right at the nick of time for me. I’ve been shy to vlog, but I can start with vlog responses to some of the ideas on your list. Thank you for the inspiration.

Robert Schuetz

Thank you Terry. To me, your list is more common sense than crazy. I love lists, and this one helps acknowledge that schools and educational organizations need to accommodate personal learning. Why? Because personal, informal learning opportunities are readily available at minimal cost. Here’s my detailed take on the need to support informal learning in schools; http://goo.gl/UR0WHj
Terrific post Terry – hopefully it generates some meaningful conversation. Bob

I like you’re #5. And I’d 2nd it by adding that we should prohibit job discrimination for lack of a degree or credential. That would force schools to create their own value add. So that gets us to well over 60 ways to stir things up.

Andrew Jacobs

Thanks for this list, it prompted me to produce this as a response.

Keri Lamle

I would like to add: Include more cognitive science in teacher preparation programs.
Often teacher preparation programs include only one or two classes in “learning theory”. This is just not enough. Having a strong understanding of the science of learning and understanding various cognition strategies has been proven in several studies to be a catalyst for improved student achievement.

its relay a great post i totaly agree with #7 & #13 Point thanks for share.

Floris Koot

Love the concept and quite a few ideas. Here’s a few more: 1. Have pupils grade the teachers daily too. 2. Explain to the students that teaching is offering a service and thus students are clients who can demand quality. 3. Have students hang their biggest questions, about what they’d love to learn, on the wall. 4. The big Prize idea: every year in primary school the pupils craft a gratitude prize for their teacher. Biggest, most heartwarming prize wins. Teachers should act worthy to win. 5. Have students co-create part of the program (or all of it, if you… Read more »

Philippe Greier

Nice like that! Create space for appreciation!

Joerka Deen

Why are these ideas crazy?

I wonder what happens if you look at lifetime education


How does a National Recommended Reading List not make the list?



Sarkari Naukri

great info..Interesting and informative (http://www.recruitmenti.net). Thanks for posting.


#16and 17 Part of those two deal with student’s understanding who is in charge of the show when they come to school which needs to begin as early as posible and have the fullest parental involvement plus support from day one until they graduate or the chances of drop out increase dramatically. The student’s in the most trouble had one sentence in comon “You are not the boss of ME”. and they also ended up in more trouble then punished more often then other students. This obviously leads to a miserable school experience. If a student can’t do anything right… Read more »

Derek Bailey

Gives rise to a lot of thought , the list is applicable to FE and HE as well if not more so.