What does innovation mean for education, and should every educator be an innovator?
Taking the second half first. Knowing that the semantics will get in the way: yes, every educator should be an innovator. We’ve all had that teacher or college professor that comes in with the ancient binder full of yellowed notes; they can’t deviate from the script. It. Is. Oh. So. Boring.
Every educator should constantly be looking at their work and the students they teach. Is this still the right format? Is it the right time to introduce this? This lesson was awesome 5 years ago, but it seems trite now. In the now classic “Shopping Cart Video” Kelley explains that innovation isn’t always completely new, but it might be just adding something different that makes a product better. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taJOV-YCieI) Education should be the same.
Using Couros’ definition that “Innovation [is] a way of thinking that creates something new and better,” (The Innovator’s Mindset, p18), then I think it should be a mandate that education is innovative. As he also notes (p20) it need not be a long stretch to bring innovation to the classroom. Didn’t we do it when we added projectors in addition to overheads (or dare I say film strips)? whiteboards over chalkboards?
In many ways we need to recognize that educators are inherently innovative, and it’s not something wicked to be feared.
How do we start to innovate inside of the box?
I started this journey originally with an online course from San Francisco’s Exploratorium on the ‘Art of Tinkering.’ (https://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/ ) I’d gone hunting because generous parent donations had enabled me to upgrade a good deal of equipment in our science department. I knew it would take months if not years to revisit curriculum to get some of the cool stuff I wanted to get into the hands of the students. I proposed a weekend activity based on tinkering ideas (I teach at a boarding school). The proposal was accepted and the path was marked.
That’s a long way to say that to innovate inside the box must begin with one of the tenets of tinkering: start with what you have. I am lucky to have administrators that support creative tools for learning; and that I have the ability to try something new without fear of losing my job! But I think that comes partly from being a life-long learner myself; and always reading and keeping my mind open and wondering if that or this new idea would work for this or that. In addition, as a scientist, I know that most things are not going to work the first time – I have to be able to see the positive nuggets and pull those out for a new setting, a different twist etc.
I don’t think it’s the “how” that is often the impediment, nor the fear of failure. I think it’s the idea that innovation must be new and radically different. I once took a course on technology in STEM education. The first lesson was how the pencil was technology – it was a tool that made a job easier. And that’s all it takes.
So the next few posts will be just about wrapping my head around and reflecting on readings and posed questions. The start of #IMOOC could not have have come at a worse academic time – but it’s spring break and I can do a little more than just think about things.
How do you move from “pockets of innovation” to a “culture of innovation”? Tha’s part of my goal in participating in this. How can I halp by colleagues thing more intently on ways to improve the learning in their classrooms. I am not trying (in most cases) to make them trash all they are doing and start all over again; but to think more intently about their students – and how their lesson plan goals and objectives are reflected in real human minds.
I know that part of it must be offering opportunities for teachers to jump in themselves – in some non-threatening way – and challenge their ideas that it’s hard or threatening. I like that in the artist video (was it there on in Episode 1?) the idea of picking some non-high-stakes day to give something innovative a whirl in the classroom. But I want to do it for teachers. I know that when may places were pitching Makerspaces, some would offer “brews and builds” or other “adult” centered events to encourage people to see what it’s all about.
We need something like that in order to help shift the idea that innovative teaching is not just one more thing; it can be fun; and once you’ve experienced it, the culture is addictive.
The devil made me do it? or the fact that it has been strongly recommended (required?) by a couple of online courses that I’ve participated in, that I blog. Can’t think of much that I’d rather do less.
The idea of sharing the learning journey doesn’t bother me. Nor does exposing mistakes along the way. Just the idea of sitting still long enough to write it – rather – to keep at it on a regular basis.
So, after promising myself to look at the wordpress upgrades after/during the Genius Hour Master Class; and in the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC… here it goes.
First Epic Failure: misreading directions and having apparently lost the stuff on my earlier WordPress. sigh….