The word innovation continues to be tossed around education. From the beginning, this buzzword has often been used to describe reformative practices in education. To be innovative is not reformation, but instead would better be described as transformation. Actually, a quick google search of the word innovation will bring up transformation as a synonym for this overly used buzzword.
So let’s look a little deeper into the meaning of these two words: innovation and transformation. Merriam – Webster’s dictionary defines innovation as “the introduction of something new, a new idea, method, or device.” My question is, what are we doing in education that aligns with this definition? I know making a Google Doc with links and calling it a fancy name is not necessarily innovative to me. However, with a fancy graphic and the right people pushing your “product” or “idea” on Twitter you’re immediately crowned an innovative educator. Interesting…
Next, let’s talk transformation. Another quick search of the good ol’ Google and we find the definition to transformation. Transformation is defined as “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.” Say what?!? A thorough or dramatic change?! Wait, so making a worksheet digital doesn’t constitute a dramatic change now does it? I am not degrading anything or anyone here. I just think we all need to rethink the terms and phrases we are throwing out in education.
I believe there are many teachers out there making dramatic changes in their teaching practices. A quick scroll through my Twitter feed and I see many amazing things people are doing in their classroom. I think in order to be truly innovative we have to truly transform education. However, instead of transformation, I see a lot of reformation going on in education: a new textbook, an online textbook, and even better an interactive textbook. This is not transforming education. We have to think how can we better help our students learn while charting their own paths?
I think there are a handful of educators out there that are onto something when it comes to innovation in education. One for example, Don Wettrick @donwettrick who has a class based solely on students critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaborative skills. A class dubbed Innovations. He encourages his students to come up with new ideas and to dramatically change the way they’ve been institutionalized to learn.
Don and his students have inspired me the past few years to really let my students explore their passions through Genius Hour. Amanda Mask and I have tried to allow our students more than an hour a week to work on their Genius Hour projects this last semester. Through collaboration with other educators, I am trying to find a way to incorporate an innovations class into our classroom while still hitting the standards. How can we have innovations class all day every day and really push our students thinking?
Unfortunately, I do not have all the answers to my questions. What I do know is I can reflect on what I have been doing in my classroom and determine what is truly innovative. Through my reflection, I hope to inspire change within myself for a better learning experience for my students. I challenge you to do the same. Think about what you are doing and how you can innovate your teaching practices to provide your students the ultimate learning experience.