Key Findings to the CoSN ‘Driving Innovation Accelerators’ Report

CoSN (Consortium of School Networking) is the premier North American professional association for school system technology aims.

We are pleased to announce CoSN has released their second report on driving innovation in the K12 market.

Want to know what this all means for you? Don’t worry we have put together the following simplified guide summarizing their findings along with our thoughts on what we think this means for the industry. If you'd like to read the full ‘Driving K-12 Innovations- Accelerators' report simply click here.

What is an accelerator?

Accelerators are megatrends that drive the needs and skills expected of students and educators. Some disruptive shifts are moving rapidly (and some suddenly), while others are happening so gradually that their effects may not be felt for years.

Top 5 Accelerators
  1. Learners as Creators - The idea that students don’t have to wait to graduate to change the world is motivating schools to embrace real-world learning experiences that promote student-generated ideas and solutions.

  2. Data-Driven Practices - Schools are increasingly leveraging data about the student experience, measuring engagement and skills acquisition to inform decisions about curriculum, hiring, technology investments and more.

  3. Personalization - Just as the consumer sector has exploded with new ways to customize user experiences, products and recommendations, schools are finding ways to provide individualized learning pathways and promote student voice, choice and autonomy.

  4. Design Thinking - Design thinking is a strategy for creatively exploring and ultimately formulating solutions to challenges based on empathy and iterative processes.

  5. Building the Capacity of Human Leaders - When leaders take actions to strengthen the professional community of their schools, providing and incentivizing opportunities for leaders and educators to learn and master new skills. It opens the door to innovative practices and approaches that can further student engagement.

Spotlighting Two Accelerators

Accelerator Number 1: Learners as Creators

This accelerator recognizes that creativity is a valuable, essential competency in workplaces and communities today. Future-focused learning means learning by doing and making the application of knowledge and skills to solve real problems not just theoretically, but practically. As a result, creating engages students in active and meaningful learning.

Exploring the Opportunity

Sparking students’ creativity might not seem like a radical new idea. However, in traditional schooling, reliance on assessments and typical learning spaces don’t allow much time or space for this to be a central focus point of learning. However, educators are aware that students are often naturally curious and full of ideas and questions.

Key educational titans like Jean Piaget, Seymour Papert and Reggio Emilia regarded learning through a constructivist lens.  Piaget believed educators have to make inventors and innovators - not conformists. He advocated fostering curiosity and providing experimental activities to help students build new knowledge from prior experience.  Papert believed that ‘the ability to physically make, test, analyze, rethink, remake, and retest, as often as needed, allows for deep learning on the student’s terms.’ Emilia believed that constructivism through pedagogy in studio or workshop-style spaces enables artifacts to become tools for reflection.

The appearance of Makerspaces and the Maker movement in general is one trend that captures the spirit of this body of inquiry about student-focused experiences. Makerspaces are popping up all over the world, enabling children to create within these multi-purpose areas.

“Learners as creators really goes to the core of the mission of education: To develop independent, robust citizens of the future.”

Oystein Johannessen, Chief Executive, Somna Municipality, Norway

Imagining the Potential

Internationally, this model is proving to be vital.

In Singapore, improving student achievement has developed a reputation for didactic teaching, rote learning, and academic brilliance. It is now undergoing a silent revolution by combining students’ ability to ‘ace tests’ alongside becoming innovators and creators.

One such example is Woodgrove Primary School, which transformed their library into a Makerspace. Students are encouraged to let imaginations run wild after school by creating a variety of different materials - from 3D products to stop-motion films, digital art to building mechanical objects, coding to creating a game console. The school gives students regular innovation challenges - design tasks that stretch their problem-solving skills.

In El Salvador, DAI Maker Lab is supporting two Makerspaces where young people can build and demonstrate technical skills in 3D computer-aided design and digital manufacturing for rapid prototyping, among a range of other creative learning opportunities. With access to this technology and skills training, young people can turn their physical work products into credentials for employers. This is part of a wider innovative initiative called Bridges to Employment (Puentes para el Empleo).

In the U.S., Pittsburgh has a thriving Maker community. Remake Learning is a regional network of more than 350 organizations across early learning centers, schools, museums, libraries, after-school programs, community non-profit organisations, colleges, universities, edtech startups and major corporations. All of this enables young people are able to access Makerspaces across the region.

It’s important to understand that the maker mentality isn’t just about physical spaces. It’s fundamentally about integrating choice and autonomy into everyday learning activities, enabling students to actively demonstrate their knowledge and skills in a creative and innovative way.

Driving Innovation

This accelerator is growing in education at a fast, intense pace - and sometimes changing learning in an unplanned and surprising way. Fortunately, an emerging body of research and thought leadership can prepare education leaders can champion learners as creators, integrate creative learning into the core instructional program and channel students’ imaginations toward productive learning activities.

The CoSN Advisory Board members offer the following advice:

  1. Take an expansive view of creativity

  2. Integrate creative learning with the core instructional program

  3. Develop meaningful literacies

  4. Pay attention to rigor

  5. Set challenging parameters to deepen learning

  6. Broaden assessment

Accelerator Number 2: Personalization

Personalization exemplifies pressure for schools to stay relevant in the midst of a seismic shift away from a one-size-fits-all to tailor-made interactions. Technology enables anything to be personalized, from playlists to social media to footwear and fashion. Products value bespoke experiences, which now seeps into education with students and parents increasingly expecting the same within their schools.

Exploring the Opportunity

Educators have long recognized that a one-size-fits-all schooling now does not work for many learners. With students entering schools at vastly different places on their learning journey, with varying degrees of needs, styles, interests and preferences, something new is needed.

This has been changing slowly over the last decade. This uniformed, structured model has been giving way to a more flexible, student-informed and student-focused instruction. Engaging and motivating students is becoming the starter point for a deeper level of learning.

The issue of offering personalization can be confusing. As it has become a buzzword, there is no one definition of what it actually means. For example, some definitions include:

  • Personalization is ‘instruction that is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content, as well as the method and pace may all vary. Personalization, in turn, encompasses differentiation and individualization.
  • Personalized learning is learning that is focused on, demonstrated by and led with the learners, connected to students’ communities and cultures.
  • Personalized learning is a progressively student-driven model where students deeply engage in meaningful, authentic, and rigorous challenges to demonstrate desired outcomes.

In short, what is personalization if nobody can agree on a defined meaning?

Imagining the Potential

Personalized learning is akin to the kind of education expected for students with special needs or disabilities. Those that educators and parents already have developed an individualized education program (IEP). In short, personalized learning is about enabling every student and giving them a personalized/individual learning plan.

Technology is already assisting in this area. It can simplify and amplify personalized learning. Such tools already exist which is starting to scratch the surface.

  • Student Information Systems/Management information systems
  • Formative, interim and summative assessment systems and results

As with any technology, schools must take into account the vast privacy and ethical concerns associated with capturing storing and sharing data. Further, it is vital for school leaders and practitioners to collaborate on the aspects being measured and to accurately capture a holistic picture of learner and engagement and needs.

An emerging body of research can help make learner profiles much more personalized. Adaptive learning systems may one day capture a range of cognitive, affective and behavioural personal traits.

Learner profiles empower educators to meet students where they are and tailor teaching and learning to leverage individual strengths. Digital resources also can help teachers adjust the pace and content of instruction for individual students.

Driving Innovation

How can educators craft systems where students can pursue learning as a thousand ways, one destination?

As Guy Levi, Chief Innovation Officer at the Centre for Educational Technology in Israel says; ‘The one destination needs clarification. It is not that they are all the same when they get to the end, but they do need to get to a mutual place. There is a need for some common denominators.’

Where can you start? The OECD wrote a paper called ‘The Future We Want’. It looks at the position on the future of education and skills that calls for personalized learning environments. Among the recommendations in the paper; Develop student agency, shrink the curriculum and move to competency-based education. The paper sets out a shared vision and design principles for changing curricula and education systems.

Don McLeod, founding director of the University Council for Educational Administration’s Center for the Advanced Study of Leadership in Education (CASTLE) identified, ‘four changes that are key to making the learning process relevant and personalized.’ These are;

  1. Moving from factual recall to higher-level thinking

  2. Moving from teacher control to student agency

  3. Moving from traditional activities to authentic work

  4. Moving from traditional resources to a technology-rich environment


The two accelerators featured in this report- learners as creators and personalization - present enormous opportunities to educators. Both accelerators put students at the center of learning. 

To expand acceptance of these accelerators, we recommend initiating conversations with your stakeholders, considering how to leverage the accelerators and turn them into opportunities;

  • What would it take to provide students with innovative learning experiences?
  • How could you help students become agents of their own learning and creative learners?
  • How could you help teachers personalize learning for every student?
  • How would you have to change your education system, curriculum, instruction and assessments to embed creative and personalized learning into the student experience?
  • What changes might you need to make in your learning environments and spaces?
What we think

One aspect of the report we think is also valuable to mention is the final accelerator; ‘Building the Capacity of Human Leaders’.

When leaders take actions to strengthen the professional community of their schools, providing and incentivizing opportunities for leaders and educators to learn and master new skills, it opens the door to innovative practices and approaches that can further student engagement.

We believe that this is the key to opening the doors for innovative learning to take place.  If it is not common practice to offer personalized learning opportunities or allow students to be creators of authentic and unique products to demonstrate learning, this will be a significant paradigm shift in your district.

Transformation cannot occur in your classrooms without first offering educators and leaders the opportunity to engage in modern professional learning that might challenge antiquated instructional practices.  We must provide educators with access to learning that strengthens technological and pedagogical skills if we are to empower them to transform learning for our students. In addition, educators must comprehend the why behind new initiatives, which is even more vital than the how.

Change is difficult, and MobileMind is here to help transform learning with G Suite in your district! To get started, you can check out our planning tool, here, that will help you plan for meaningful professional learning for your educators!

We hope you’ve found our simplified breakdown of the CoSN ‘Driving Innovation Accelerators’ Report useful. Keep an eye out for our next blogs covering a breakdown of CoSN’s final reports due to be released later this year!

Click here to read our abridged guide to the CoSN report on ‘Driving Innovation Hurdles'