When I think innovation my initial thought may be similar to yours, ‘technology.’ However, we need to remember technology is not the innovator or the innovation, but rather technology is just a tool in learning, kind of like a book or a pen. To me innovation is a culture. It is a community where “being innovative” is the norm and can be seen effortlessly and everywhere. It uses the newest studies, tools and passion to prepare all of us for a rapidly, ever-changing digital world in which we reside. Below is the answer to George’s question in the form of my “5 W’s and an H” that I used in creating my schools 2015 Innovation Plan.
An Innovation Plan, or should I say transformation, alteration or metamorphosis away from the stagnant, comfortable, repetitive school planning, needs to be at the forefront of your 2015 school vision. Then every year after, as our world changes, a new focus needs to be adapted to match the world we live in.
EVERYONE. Successful sport teams are united in everything they do and school systems should be no different. All members including curriculum creators, district senior administrators, school administrators, teachers, education assistants, students and parents need to create, work, rely and lean on one another for optimal results. We all live in the same world. We all see the changes that occur, and it is clear that the 20th century model of learning does not match the world we are in. If the focus is on the culture then all must be involved, tugging the innovation rope together. “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” (Eric Shinseki) Let’s take it further, if as and administrator or teacher you refuse to change due to comfort levels, fears, workload etc… then the potential trickle-down effect may just be a school or class of irrelevant students.
The answer is easy: ENGAGEMENT, CONNECTIONS, and INSTANT KNOWLEDGE. To answer the “why” turn the question inward. What makes you want to learn? The answer will echo your students. ALL people learn best when they are engaged in what they are doing. Engagement begins by feeling creative and having a purpose. Here technology is a tool that must be used. The internet not only creates a global community, but it also gives more opportunities to find your niche. So that device, which is unfortunately sitting locked in the cupboard or told to be left at home, needs to be on the desk or in our palms to unlock new opportunities.
But an innovative classroom does not necessarily need to be technology filled. For example a classroom that gives play, allows the creation of cool contraptions, addresses and solves world issues, and are designed by and for the individual are being super innovative, and no devices are required. Simply put, an innovative classroom gives more learning opportunities and will hit more learning styles.
EVERYWHERE TOGETHER! It is no secret that schools need to get better. I have never been at, or seen, an interview where the employer asks to see a worksheet or an elementary/high school test score. However, I have been asked if I have any relevant, HANDS-ON, experience. But if you look at our schools, the majority of classrooms are still giving more worksheets to cover outcomes than student centered, passion-filled, authentic, meaningful learning opportunities. Too many classrooms today mimic the classrooms of when we went to school. Moreover, we are assessing the 20th century way in a 21st century world. Of note, a good place to start improving your assessment practices is with Myron Dueck’s book “Marking Smarter not Harder”. To sum up, all schools need to adopt an innovative, holistic approach that matches the world we are getting the kids ready for.
Get feedback from all in a community and shape a culture around the needs, wants and wishes from all involved. Have one eye on the world we live in and another on future trends. Together create a district and school innovation plan, and don’t allow comfort levels and fears get in the way of creating a learning environment that is more meaningful for everyone. “Be a coach/mentor, go with the big ideas and go wild!” (Jan Unwin) Embrace change! Have a community full of leaders spearheading a more personalized, student-centered, hands-on, deep thinking, meaningful approach.
“Transformational leaders don’t start by denying the world around them. Instead, they describe a future they’d like to create instead” (Seth Godin)