Some people may immediately think of “technology” when they answer these questions. Without a doubt, innovation is easier to do because of the technology available in our school. Students are able to connect with outside resources via videos, blogs and other Internet resources. They can easily find information, discuss their findings with others, which may include the source, and create their own opinions.
But, true innovation is more than just technology. Socrates stated, "I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think." John Dewey stated, "we only think when we are confronted with problems." Both Socrates and Dewey advocated problem-solving, critical thinking and reflection as a key part in a person's learning.
Technology does not in and of itself make people problem-solve, think critically or reflect. However, if you are inclined to problem solve, think critically, and reflect these technology tools can be magnified in the effect they have due to their ability to connect and impact other people in authentic ways.
Innovation is a tricky word. We often use it to describe something new and shiny. Still other times we use it to explain how certain people think. Mostly we throw it around without ever defining what it means. And that is the simplest way for any word to lose its power and meaning.
One of the clearest and simplest definitions is coined by Geoff Mulgan: “New ideas that work.” It’s short but very clear. Innovation is one part “new ideas” and one part “working.”
That does not mean it can’t be based on something old (and reinvented), or that it can’t have failures along the way. But when we truly innovate we’ve taken something new and made it work (regardless of how long the process was).
George Couros, an Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership consultant, identifies eight important things to look for in today’s classrooms. They include: voice, choice, time for reflection, opportunities for innovation, critical thinkers, problem solvers/finders, self-assessment, and connected learning.
Intentional innovation and student engagement have been necessary throughout our history. If you look at all of the great events in history, the people behind those events used the skills mentioned by Mr. Couros. Teaching students to analyze, problem-solve, think critically and reflect should have been part of our educational history from the beginning. These are skills that are necessary no matter what time period you live in.
In addition to having a need in today’s world to innovate in education, it also has to be intentional.
It seems that many schools, people are looking to innovate.
The challenge is how to innovate to engage students, and do so with purpose in order to have an impact on your organizational, institutional, or educational goals.
The key is intentional innovation.
To be intentional is to have a purpose and goal for what you are going to do. And intentional innovation is so powerful because we are innovating for a reason that is both meaningful and relevant to the cause/work.
But, please be intentional. Be intentional in the innovative work you do in schools, with students, and in any organization or institution. Be intentional with what path we set students on, and what paths they choose for themselves.
Just as we must use technology for a purpose for it to be successful, we must innovate in ways that are meaningful and relevant for it to have an impact. And, to be truly effective, you not only need to innovate, but that innovation has to come to scale. It has to grow enough within your school district and organization to tip the scale in the direction of true change.
That can be a very difficult task to achieve.
A.J. Juliani, is currently the Director of Technology and Innovation for Centennial School District. He is the author of books centered around student-agency, choice, innovative learning, and engagement, and his book titles include: “ Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning,” LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every “Student, Inquiry & Innovation in the Classroom”, and “Learning By Choice.” A.J. Juliani is a leading educator in the area of innovation, design thinking, and inquiry-based learning. Juliani has worked as a Middle and High School English Teacher, a K-12 Technology Staff Developer, educational consultant for ISTE; and educational speaker.
Learning Forward PA (LFPA) is honored to announce that A.J. Juliani has agreed to be our presenter for our annual fall conference on November 1, 2018. It will be held at Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim, PA, 17545. More details about conference registration and the cost is located here.
Please mark your calendars, register, and save the date. We would love to have you join us.