Sanée Bell shared the following quote from her book, “Be Excellent On Purpose,” and it has stuck with me:
“Students should have rich, relevant, and authentic experiences at school, across the board. If every educator in every school pursued excellence instead of allowing excuses about what students can and cannot do, we would meet the needs of all students. Our goal has to be to create schools where excellence is the standard.”
I thought about this quote when I was reading an article about how “innovation in education was overrated” I guess my question is, how do you look at innovation in education? Is it about creating new and better opportunities for learning in our schools for our learners and ourselves, or is it about doing cool things? In this episode of “The Innovator’s Mindset” podcast, I will share why this quote is so crucial to the work we do in education and connect it to a post I wrote discussing some misconceptions about innovation in education that I originally wrote in April of 2017.
You can check out the podcast and/or read the article below.
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“Innovation” is one of the most used words in education right now. It is something that I am passionate about, hence the reason I wrote the book, “The Innovator’s Mindset.” I am scared that we use the word “innovation” in the wrong way when there is power to this type of thinking. Words do not become “buzzwords” because they are used too frequently; they become “buzzwords” when they are used often in an incorrect manner.
Here are some misconceptions about the word that we need to dispel to protect “innovation” in education from becoming a buzzword.
1. Innovation is about how you use technology.
Nope…this is incorrect. I believe that this happens because some technologies are deemed to be innovative, which can hold some truth. But innovation is a way of thinking, not merely the way we use technology. For example, is using a “scantron” to mark multiple choice exams innovative? It is convenient, but does this lead to better learning in the classroom?
My answer is that it could lead to worse learning faster. Students do not necessarily become better learners but better test-takers. I am not about absolutes, so if you do a multiple-choice exam here and there, I am okay with it, but it is not innovative. Is using a SmartBoard “innovative” or are we doing the same thing we were doing before, just “cooler”? There are a million ways that you can use google forms, but the ability to use “google forms” is not innovative’; it is what you do with it that creates the innovative practice in the classroom.
That being said, there are many ways that educators are innovative without using technology. Look at EdCamp. This has become one of the best ways that educators have taken ownership of their learning, yet technology is not necessarily at the forefront of this process; it is the process of the professional learning that is innovative.
Dispel the myth that “technology equals innovation,” and you will see more educators seeing that many things they are doing in classrooms right now are incredibly innovative, with or without technology. Innovation is about “mindset,” not a skillset.
This leads to the next misconception.
2. Innovation is reserved for the few.
Again, no. If innovation is about “doing new and better things,” why would this only be reserved for the few? This does not mean you get rid of what you were doing previously, but always evaluating is it working for your students. Many people will stick with things because they know them, not because they are better. This is human nature and happens in relationships all of the time. It is the same for personal as it is for professionals.
The process of innovation in teaching and learning is something a process we should all aspire to as educators and learners. Here is an image that may help you see why it is essential.
Are there only a few educators in your organization that should look at the process of teaching and learning this way, or everyone? This is not something that should be done by the few but should be the norm in school.
3. Innovation is solely a “product.”
People believe the iPhone was innovative. It is in some ways. Yet it is the thinking that created the iPhone in the first place that was the innovation. Someone had to have a vision of what a “phone” could be, but when you look at mobile devices, this has led to other innovations. Uber, Airbnb, iTunes, and a myriad of other developments were created because smartphones were created. Innovation happens in the thinking to create these things in the first place; they did not come to fruition on their own. Many people have great ideas, but making these ideas happen is the innovation. Creativity leads to innovation, but I have met many “creative” thinkers who do not make things happen.
As I have stated numerous times, innovation should not be reserved for the few, but become the norm in education. It trickles into how we do everything, whether that is assessment practices, leadership, professional learning, how we use technology, and so many other areas, but ultimately in teaching and learning. The first step to getting people to move there is to see that this is not an individual effort, but a team sport.
(If you are interested in learning more about “innovation in education,” I would encourage you to read my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset,” if you haven’t already. The hope is that we see innovation become the norm in education, not only reserved for the few.)
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