Defining Innovation

I have an admittedly difficult time with the term innovation, especially as it deals with education. It’s a term that is closely related to creativity, and I tend to think of it as a type of application of creativity. But the term is so often used, within different contexts, that it’s hard to apply consistently, especially when you speak of things like innovative technologies in an educational context. Is it the technology that adds innovation? Or the teaching style (pedagogy)?

Today I had the pleasure of visiting the high school and middle school in instructional rounds. It was fun to see different teaching styles, how students engage with their class material, and of course, I’m always on the lookout for innovation.

Go on creating

The most innovative thing I saw all day was very refreshing. I encountered two teachers in a noisy classroom; they had re-arranged seating so that kids were grouped into small circles, and students were talking, comparing, sharing, and collaborating. This was the good kind of noise you encounter, it’s the sound of engaged learning. One of the teachers admitted that “this was the first time we tried something like this…” And that was the thing that made me smile.

Those two teachers had the will and confidence to try something new. There was no guarantee it would succeed, but it was exciting. Taking chances is part of the recipe for innovation. And best of all, this innovation had little to do with computers, iPads, or Promethean boards. But it had everything to do with meeting the needs of students with real challenges. The biggest take away was a responsibility for my own learning, and the success of my peers.

It was a good day to take stock of learning!