Friday, October 28, 2011

What Is Innovation Anyway?

What we need is more innovation in schools.


Over the past few days I have been tossing around the idea of innovation, especially when it comes to schools and learning. And the more I think about it, the more I just don't like that word.

In its simplest form, the word innovation means "the introduction of something new." But when it is tied to learning I believe folks that want more "innovation" want something more than just something new. Innovations are supposed to be life changing and ground breaking. Take Steve Jobs. Most would agree he was an innovator. The products and vision he created at Apple were true innovations. Cell phones are the way they are because of him. Personal computers, the way we listen to music and more are the results of his innovations.

But what happens when we want that of everyone?

We should be pushing kids to think differently and to be creative in the classroom. No doubt we need much, much more of that. But when it is said that we need schools and kids to be more innovative I wonder, what happens after? Let's assume we get to a point where folks can proclaim schools and kids are now innovative. Ok. What next? Where do we go from there? After everyone and every classroom is seen as an innovator or innovative what happens?

What we need in schools is more creativity. We need to create environments where kids can explore and learn and grow together and on their own and especially environments where they can fail and feel good about that failure and learn from that failure.

I understand where the want for more innovation comes from. Many schools and classrooms have remained static for more than a century, with only a few changes in thinking here or there. So an "introduction of something new" is definitely needed in some places. But as pointed out in this piece, we have to be careful with the words we use because many of what is called "innovation" is just smoke and mirrors for failed initiatives already in place now in many schools and districts.

I think the best part of this week was the feedback I got about my questioning innovation on Twitter. There were a wide variety of opinions and ideas on what is needed. But it seemed even through all those conversations it came back to fostering a community of creative thinkers and doers.

Lets just choose our words carefully. Forget about buzzwords and words to just get a rise or reaction out of people. Kids are more than buzzwords. Learning is more than buzzwords. Let's create communities of learners where they can feel like they can do and try and be anything.

What do you think about innovation in schools? Or that word in general? Should we be using it when it comes to kids and learning? What does that word really mean when it comes to kids and learning and schools? Leave some comments below.

Photo From thinkpublic Under CC License
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