Innovation: Necessary or Hype?

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Innovation has become such a buzz word today. What does it truly mean? Do we need it in schools? By definition it is a new method, idea, or product. Do we always need NEW in schools? If what we’re doing is working, is that okay? I challenge us as a profession to dig deep. Is everything we’re doing working?

In some ways, certainly. We build great relationships with students. That works. We know this. This is the basis for everything and should be where it starts. No innovation needed here!

Sometimes though, classrooms look like the picture above. Do these promote the skills that today’s students need to go into the workplace TODAY and TOMORROW? Probably not. Innovate & change.

Here we can see students learning skills that they need for today’s world. They are collaborating and communicating with one another. The classroom is organized so that they can do just that. The teacher is working with students helping them be engaged in the learning. Students are learning by being immersed in it rather than passive recipients. Simple innovations that allow students to learn the skills of today rather than yesterday.

DC blog

Innovation. Change what we teach. This has become a controversial topic in our profession. Computers. Phones. Internet. These can all automate so much of the content that we used to need to keep in our brains. Don’t get me wrong, we still need to teach it. However, problem solving, collaborating, team work, critical thinking, organization curiosity, and LOVE of learning are possibly more important. These are not skills that can be automated. Shifting our priorities a bit can have a huge impact!

The quote above from David Culberhouse demonstrates how quickly the world is changing and has changed. We the educators can equip ourselves first to prepare our students. The time is now. Innovation and change are banging on our doors.

Are we ready?

Let’s make them excited about school. Let’s make every child run into school. Let’s make it so that teachers can build relationships and meet those students’ needs so that they cannot wait for each day to come.

It is possible. This should be our goal in INNOVATION.

 

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Student Ownership. For Real.

Student ownership. I’ve watched my student tech team develop into this amazing group over the past year. Last year, I had a vision that I wanted to come to fruition; but even with that I couldn’t have imagined what it would become, what we would become in one short year.

Let’s go back to the beginning. I put out applications for students who were interested. I work in a middle schools, so there are sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. I simply wanted students who had some interest in technology, being a team, advocating for their school, and promoting through social media. Students joined for one or all of these reasons.

Soon after joining last year, ten of my eighth graders joined four other middle schools to be inspired by iSchool Initiative and create a three-year plan for our school. They set their sights high. They came together as a team and became leaders. Some of the initiatives they wanted our team to do included the following:

  1.  teach teachers and students more about technology; we are a 1:1 iPad school and they felt this was a need
  2. open media center in the mornings for students

Empowerment has become our middle name. Maybe our first. Students led app speed dating where they taught apps to teachers. Our student “my iPad has an issue” Google doc went to their iPads, so that they could be first on the scene before it went to our local IT. They did team building through activities like building virtual computers. Currently a few of them are trying to get a budget to build the computer for real!

The project that has generated the most excitement is their modern-day technology lab created in a room from a broken down computer lab. They created the floor plan. They  worked with me to determine what we needed to purchase for it. As a result, they own this lab.

These are middle schoolers who feel pride in what they do every day. They have a purpose in coming to school and are quick to tell me what they need and advocate for it.

Now that is real life. That is what school should be.

 

Creating a Positive Culture for Innovation

For many of us the year either has started or is about to start. Those first few weeks are the most important in establishing positive culture in our classrooms. In my school we’re moving to 1:1 iPads, so creating a risk-taking culture where students know the boundaries but aren’t afraid to make mistakes is so important.

#satchatoc had a meaningful discussion about establishing a culture of innovation in schools. Building this culture of innovation and creativity is essential to bring schools and students into the present and get them ready to lead in the future.

This idea of creating a culture where students and educators alike utilize technology to problem-solve and create a better world is an ongoing theme in education.

How do we encourage creativity and innovation in the classroom? Creation tools like iMovie, Educreation, Explain Everything, Thinglink, blogging, and Book Creator can help.

So, how do we get people to this place of innovation?

As educators we are always working to better ourselves, trying to learn so that we can share our ideas with our students. By being connected, we open a whole world (literally) of information and people to learn from. This chat is a perfect example as it is called #satchatoc; is based in Oceania yet draws an international crowd.

Modeling multiple solutions to questions as well as big ideas is huge! If we as the model in schools can get this and show our students that often problems do not have just one answer, it makes it okay for them to take risks, grow, and seek multiple answers to questions.

Moral of the story: what we do week one with our teachers and our students to create a positive culture where taking risks becomes the norm will determine how our year goes.

How are you starting your year?

Innovate * Inspire * Lead Change

If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow. John Dewey

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