To examine one’s professional practice and decide to change it, improve it, grow it, takes two things in my opinion: courage and energy. At points in my educational career, I was satisfied with what I was doing, had done and wasn’t particularly interested in doing anything differently. In fact, I used to joke that I was full, I couldn’t learn anything else. I’d learned all I needed to learn. I didn’t see the need to grow. And that was the fatal flaw in my reasoning. It wasn’t ever about me.
The needs of students and teachers changed on me. Not surprising over 30+ years. But there it is. I needed to exercise courage and find energy. So, with a new professional role, I set out to challenge myself to try new things. Writing a blog for example. We don’t learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience. Writing is a great way to reflect. Even if no one reads what you write, the intellectual exercise is the point!
Educators should read The Innovator’s Mindset, by George Couros. Almost every page resonated with me and challenged me. It’s almost laughable how much of that book I highlighted. I use Kindle Reader for professional reading. This allows me to report that I highlighted 203 passages and made 11 different notes. I’ve read it twice. And am about to read it again.
George Couros has established a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) based on his book. So with the idea that one should try new things and grow, I signed up. We’ll be discussing chapters with colleagues around the world. We have our first prompt.
Why is “innovation” so crucial in education? What impact do you see it having on our students and ourselves long term?
Couros on innovation, “I’m defining innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” (a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of “new and better,” it is not innovative. That means that change for the sake of change is never good enough. Neither is using innovation as a buzzword, as many organizations do, to appear current or relevant.”
And further, “Technology can be crucial in the development of innovative organizations, but innovation is less about tools like computers, tablets, social media, and the Internet, and more about how we use those things.”
So innovation being crucial in education? That’s a big yes. 21st century skills for our students require them to create new knowledge, solve new problems, with new tools. They need to learn how to learn. Fewer will care about what they know. More will care about what they can do with what they know. Our teachers need to have the opportunities to grow learning experiences for their students that allow them to innovate. Practice 21st century skills. Collaborate. Create new knowledge. Share. Write. Communicate.
My daughter is a recent college graduate with a degree in Communication. Her first job is at a shipping distribution center. A big one with big, well known companies shipping products through the center around the world. It is entirely safe to say that neither her K-12 experiences or even college did too much to prepare her for her job. Yet her employers check with her weekly to be sure she’s not planning on going anywhere. She’s had a raise, a bonus, and a promotion in a year. What skills does she inherently possess that make her so valuable? She collaborates with others to solve problems. She creates new knowledge and solutions. And she shows up on time, works hard, has a good sense of humor, and is a self-starter. She is also a cusp kid. I literally think the game changed while she was a student. I know that in her previous school district, kids are now having the opportunity to practice the skills that she lucked into having as part of her make up. This is good. That’s the long term impact of innovation. Kids need to have opportunities to practice innovative skills. Teachers need the opportunities to be free to design such opportunities. They also need the opportunities to practice these skills themselves. We are already seeing examples in our own district of teachers creating these opportunities for kids. One of our teachers posted on facebook last night, that her 4th grade son was teaching her about ‘growth mindset’ and was doing some work around that idea. 4th grade! We have veteran teachers trying twitter for the first time as a learning and sharing resource. We have teachers redesigning their classrooms to create collaboration spaces for students.
We are seeing courage and energy centered on our professional practice and focused on our students. Creating something new and better.