Innovation has been a buzzword in education for quite some time now, but as Dr. George Couros sees it we often don’t have a clear definition of what “innovation” means prior to declaring that we are ‘innovative’. He rightly emphasizes that using technology is not innovation and, argues that we need to question what we do and why, and in this context, we’re talking about what we’re doing in our schools and with education in general. (without limiting the discussion to technology) Couros draws our attention to the visual (on the right) you may have seen before, which is credited to Bill Ferriter (@plugusin), stressing the point.
George Couros gives us a great example of how education can stifle innovation. For those who haven't heard the story, the demise of Blockbuster Video (or the old VHS / DVD rental shops) still teaches us heaps. Blockbuster missed its chance to innovate and paid the price. The Onion had a ‘mocumentary’ online as far back as 2008, a telling example of the importance of innovation in any field or industry. (see the hilarious video here)
Fixed vs growth Mindsets. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Couros discusses the difference between fixed and growth mindsets, and the need for educators and curriculums to accommodate student failure to foster success. However, he stretches this thinking further, challenging us to move beyond the simple idea that “failure is good”, and explains the need to help learners develop an unwillingness to give up. (in his words, resilience, and grit) *Following Dr. Couros' lead, I'm including several excellent Sylvia Duckworth sketches found in the book and elsewhere.
|The Iceberg Illusion is a great visual showing us|
what kind of commitment success requires
The growth mindset discussion left me questioning what I was doing about my own professional growth: Would I want to be a learner in my own class? Truthfully, not always. How can I challenge myself to be a more innovative teacher? How can I adapt the tools to build better learning? Couros again has a great visual produced by Sylvia Duckworth. (@sylviaduckworth) See the visual below and a deeper explanation of each of the following characteristics here.
- Problem Finders
- Spending time with smaller groups of people and asking what they want to learn (students, teachers, staff)
- Shadow students
- Manage things, lead people (which Couros quotes from Steven Covey)
Couros outlines the characteristics of the innovative leader as:
- Models Learning
- Open Risk Taker
- Team Builder
- Always Focused on Relationships
See his ideas in more detail here and another Duckworth sketch below.
|Are you this kind of leader? Keep in mind, leadership isn't simply school administration|
We are all leaders in some capacity.
- Time for Reflection
- Opportunities for Innovation
- Critical Thinkers
- Problem Solvers/Finders
- Connected Learning
See Dr. Couros’ more detailed explanation here and yet another excellent Duckworth visual.
|Asking and answering the question "Is this obvious in my classroom?" for each area|
intimidated me, but I have clear ideas for improvement.
- Literate = can use the tool or device
- Adaptive = technology can be used to replace “low tech”
- Transformative = you can do something you haven’t done before
In the process, he suggests that leaders allow faculty to seek out and explore tools that may be useful for learning. Moreover, he comes back to an earlier point and reminds us that innovation isn’t limited to technology; we should also be thinking about structures and direction in learning.
- The bigger the group, the more potential for innovation
- There is visibility to see what other people are doing
- There is a desire to change, grow, and improve
- Go into other classrooms and see what is happening *this reminds me of School Reform Initiative protocols: one on peer observation is called Ghost Visit; Student Observation Protocol; Person Observed as Coach; Video Camera; Observer as Learner
- Use social media to share good teaching ideas
- Use social media to find good teaching ideas
- Foster a competitive collaborative environment (avoid the bad - no sharing means kids lose out)
- Create new experiences rather than mimic old ones
- Do things: take action after the talk
*You can subscribe to Dr. George Couros’ blog "The Principal of Change” at https://georgecouros.ca/. Learn from him on Twitter (@gcouros).