The 10 Things I Know About Innovation In Education

I write this while sitting at a marvelous presentation all about creativity at the 2012 CALI Conference. The presentation is all about encouraging you to creatively approach problems, recognizing when there’s a solution, and how to basically be at your best.

Which got me thinking about the current structure of education. It’s currently seeing an insanely fast evolution in terms of technology. But all that evolved technology is being shoe-horned into a very old model. So you could have the best cutting-edge Web 2.0 apps, iPads out the wazoo, but still have a school with no wi-fi or even Internet connectivity. You could have the most robust student portal but a group of administrators resistant to change.

The Current State Of Innovation In Education

In my professional life, I run into these road blocks every darn day. I like to think up creative solutions to problems, deploy those solutions, and then evolve them into something even better. Thanks to free / cheap web 2.0 tools (like those I write about on Edudemic), it’s relatively easy to do this. But that’s because I’m blessed with a job that rewards me / expects me to beta test, deploy, and discover exciting new technologies.

But most schools don’t have that flexibility. In my experience over the past decade, I’ve met and worked closely with hundreds of teachers, admins, students, and parents. The vast majority are crippled by inaction at some level of their school. Whether it’s a principal who doesn’t have time to decide or a dean without the resources he or she would need, there’s always something standing in the way of innovating education.

Today’s Revelation

Which brings me to today’s revelation: you shouldn’t need to be told to be creative or innovative.

Schools are molding the minds of the future generations. These minds need to be given the most options, the most technology, and the most advanced forms of education models on the planet. Let the students decide and figure out what works for them. There are so many teachers out there ready to bring amazing technology into their classroom, but there’s usually something standing in the way.

The Solution

So here’s my solution.

Treat your classroom like a startup. Nurture the idea that each student needs to feel safe and comfortable making a decision. Let each student make mistakes. Let each student learn from their failures. Let each student figure out what works best for them.

Don’t let your students (or you) be paralyzed by shiny tools. Figure out how these tools work for you and then move on. (That’s a beautiful thought from the presentation at CALI by Jill Smith, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and Vicenc Feliu, Villanova University School of Law.)

By treating your classroom like a startup, you should feel free to try out exciting new techniques. Flipped classrooms, 1:1 technology, BYOD, mobile learning, polling in the classroom, everything. Figure out a way to integrate these low-cost and innovative ideas to instill the creativity bug into each student.

There Is No Single Solution

When you view your classroom, school, or even your district as a place for innovation and exploration, you’re enabling all the constituents to learn in the most powerful method: the way that works for them. After all, everyone learns differently. Everyone wants something different. There’s no single piece of technology or innovative teaching idea that will work for everyone. Know that and move on.

Edudemic is focused on bringing the most innovative, exciting, and cutting-edge tools to everyone on the planet. But it’s up to you to figure out how to integrate these tools into your personal world. So this is my small plea to remember that, despite the never-ending flow of new products and services, be sure to make time to try out at least some of the new fun goodies.

So even if a particular tool doesn’t work for you, it tells students (and others) that there are always new ways to do things. It shows that being creative and exploring new ideas is the over-arching goal of every single education innovation.

This is the driving goal behind Edudemic and the Edudemic Magazine (our home for all our top-shelf thought-provoking material), my work at Harvard, and Terry’s professional life as well. We want to explore and innovate to keep the creative juices flowing. We love being creative and hope the future generation feels the same way.

A Must See Video By Ze Frank

Found this via the presentation at CALI and wanted to share. Warning, it has a few swears in it but nothing NSFW. It’s inspirational and helped me crystallize some of my thinking about innovation, failure, and solving problems. Enjoy.