I think often when we talk about “innovation” in schools, there is a tendency to accompany that with new devices, or developing new spaces.
The dictionary defines innovation as;
I believe innovation to be a mindset, not a title, nor something that occurs in a special space.
It’s how we disrupt our actions and methods to always seek something better. It may be in the routines we have created or the rules we maintain. It may be in the content we teach or the way we teach it.
It may be hard to conceive of innovation without some form of digital technology participating, but innovation is definitely not limited in this way.
I believe it’s about the willingness to explore and challenge ideas, to take on the status quo and to implement change. To test and try and to respond to the results.
Not everything will succeed nor will all change be sustainable, thus there is inherent risk involved. Whenever there is risk, we need to ensure there is trust. I believe this is the biggest challenge in developing cultures of innovation, they must be cultures of trust first and foremost.
Understanding —> Shared Vision —> Trust —> Innovation
What do you think?
For some articles and perspectives on innovative mindsets check out these links:
Seth Godin is someone I really enjoy reading regularly. I don’t always agree with everything he has to say, but his reflections on stigmas, cultural change, relationships and education are always interesting and often inspire further exploration. The following post had me thinking about our roles in maintaining the status quo in education.
If we think we are, we probably will.
We’re more likely to laugh at the comedy club. More likely to like the food at a fancy restaurant. More likely to feel like it’s a bargain if we’re at the outlet store.
Am I supposed to applaud now? Be happy? Hate that guy? Use a fork?
Judgments happen long before we think they do.
And successful marketers (and teachers and leaders) invest far more into “supposed to” than it appears.
As we approach a new school year, I have been considering how I will support the continued development of learning experiences we cultivate for our students. I often get told that my perspective is fresh because I haven’t always been a teacher. Whilst that may have some truth and I do believe that we all benefit from the richness of experiences we indulge in beyond the school walls, I think it is also true that we need to approach teaching with new eyes every day.
We have all spent at least 13 years in an education system, good, bad or otherwise which means we have an expectation of what school is “supposed” to be. Parents and families (and of course students) also have an expectation. I certainly don’t go to my doctor and say, “yes but when I was a doctor” but our families do have experience of being a student “in school”.
“All to often, on the long road up, young leaders become servants of what is rather than shapers of what might be.” ― John Gardner
I never want to maintain a practice just because it has always been done that way. I want my actions and choices to be determined by purpose, merit and opportunity, to be open to what might be. Part of this challenge is to work with families, community, peers and students to change their ideas of what school is “supposed” to look like, feel like and sound like. Even the smallest of changes can have a huge impact on perceptions and attitudes. Something as simple as committing to welcoming your students each and every day can increase their sense of worth and make them want to be at school, through to developing real world projects that give students opportunities to make a difference in their community or another.
I am extremely excited about the opportunities we can make this year and I will continue to be open to what might be.
Will you be reproducing, or shaping something new?
“People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.” – Michel Foucault
I have previously written about the factory of schools and my early university studies influenced with the philosophies of Foucault, Bentham and Nietzsche. These social philosophies still influence the way I see the world and the structures and organisations I am part of. A colleague said to me recently how much I had challenged the way she sees her role in school. I thought what I was saying was just common sense, but I guess at times my take on the world is far from how many within the “Panopticon” see it.
The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. – Friedrich Nietzsche
There are a few things that concern me about our continued actions as educators:
Firstly we continue to make decisions based on what we have always done in schools, not necessarily what is best for kids. We continue to work within a structure that controls how we measure our students success and even when we have opportunities to step away from such practice, we choose to reinforce old understandings by giving awards/rewards based on academic achievement which reflects a standard external to each individual (that’s for another post!).
Secondly, I hear colleagues saying we should be taking on certain programs, or practice because the school down the road is doing it that way. But I don’t want us to be the school down the road, I want us to be better. I want us to challenge what others do, what is expected of us and take risks that give our students unique opportunities. I don’t want our students to be like other students down the road. I don’t want us to churn out clones of graduates gone before with the same skills and knowledge. I don’t want us to make average. That’s not to say we can’t learn from others, but let’s make it personal not a duplicate.
Finally, I don’t want to hear “I have to teach it because that’s what is in the exam” or “they have to learn it because they need it for year x”. Recently I was in a workshop at a conference and we were discussing how technology should be transformative. I have immense respect for the presenter and agreed with what he was delivering. At one point though he mentioned that he would not replace the pen and paper with a computer because that was purely a substitution. I questioned why would you do that if the child could do better on the device. This started a discussion around handwriting and that kids need to be able to write. There were fair arguments on both sides with access to equipment being the most valid as I could see. One argument was raised by a high school ICT teacher who explained that in his senior computing class he had to provide them with practice at hand writing for long periods because their exam required them to do so! Hang on a minute…….did you say your computing topic requires hand written exams? Does anyone not see the problem with this?
I respect what Wayne is saying, in that he does not want to compromise his students opportunities for university entrance. At the same time, if we continue to comply, how many students will we disadvantage not just in the test but beyond?
I resist doing things the same “just because” that is the way it has been done. I want all my decisions to be based on what is best for kids, not what is expected, or status quo. I want us to say “no” to practice that is constraining our kids. If we don’t say no, who will? Let’s not leave it up to someone else but be “the change we want to see”. Let’s not sit by and play our role in the machine and keep churning out average when we can twist the cogs, shake the machine and help make school better.
Nothing ever changed with a shrug of the shoulders and placing it in the “too hard basket”. Change will only happen if we are prepared to make some tough choices and stand up for what is right.
Are there other actions we need to change to eliminate the school factory?