07 November 2014

What's It Mean to Innovate?

Source: dictionary.com
Do you think of yourself as an innovative teacher?
What do you think of this definition?
verb (used without object)innovated, innovating.
1. to introduce something new; make changes in anything established.
It's all relative, I think. What may seem like innovative instructional methods (new, challenging to the establishment) could be common place somewhere else. What I might do with my students on my class iPads when we are writing or even drilling with interactive practice might look innovative to a teacher who doesn't have individual devices for each of their students, but would be ordinary in an established 1:1 environment.

Here's a quick list contemporary buzz-word areas of innovation:

  • STEM-integrated focus
  • STEAM-integrated focus
  • Game Based Learning
  • Project Based Learning
  • Flipped Classroom
  • Flat Classroom
  • Virtual School
  • Global Classroom
  • Parental Involvement
  • Special Needs Learning
  • Makers Spaces
  • Robotics
  • Coding
It doesn't take long reading blogs, scanning social media, or sitting at a technology conference to know that there is a wide range of implementation across education of all of the items listed above. Imagine you were in a school that does the flipped classroom very well and you were feeling very average as far as your implementation. If you were to move to a school in which NO ONE was flipping, you could make quite a name for yourself using the exact same instructional methods you had been using at your old school. When you have new skills and knowledge to share, don't you feel more innovative? I wonder if +Jon Bergmann still feels like an innovator now that he's been doing the flipped classroom for a decade. 

Do you have to be pushing the envelope on more than one of these areas to be "innovative," or just hitting one really well? Is there a layer of influence to earn the title of "innovator"? If you are the only teacher you know doing something new and no one knows about it, is it a "worthy" innovation?

Perhaps the answer is that "innovative" must be have a dynamic meaning because its definition is so subjective to its context. Remember, incandescent light bulbs were once an innovation.

Here's my own definition of innovative education technology practice as we teach at the end of 2014.

It should really go without saying that the teacher is using technology in the classroom, but where the "innovators" are defined begins in the varying degrees of student use of technology in the classroom. During an accreditation visit two years ago, we lost a lot of points for student use (or lack thereof) of technology in the building, so you don't have to be too far on the scale here to be a tech "innovator," but in a different setting, more would be required. 

So back to the "Are you an innovator" test. Let's just use the definition for where you are.
Are you making changes to what is established? Do you introduce new ideas?

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Thanks for sharing!