Thanks to people who were brave risk takers in our past, we are able to have many modern conveniences to enjoy today. As an educator thinking of the historical figures who were brave enough to go against societal norms and create new things makes me excited for what could be coming in the future. It then falls upon us, the classroom teachers, to provide our students with an environment that inspires innovation and allows students to wrestle with problems and find solutions.

In my study of innovation, I focused on ISTE Student Standard 4:

Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.

This is an area where I don’t have a lot of hands-on practice in my own classroom. A lot of times I find myself falling into the pattern of following the scripted curriculum and doing teacher-centered instruction. Because this is new territory for me I started my research into student innovation with a broad question:

What are practical/efficient ways to teach students to be innovators?

It seemed fitting to start my search with ISTE. In the article, it immediately started talking about how our students could someday be working in jobs that haven’t even been invented yet. It then had me thinking if my students will be working at jobs that aren’t invented, how am I to prepare them? It continued talking about how students need to learn how to learn, rather than learning to find the right answer. I really like that thought because sometimes we do get focused on the right answer and forget about the process. If we can teach our students to love the process of learning and apply it to whatever situation they find themselves they will be able to solve new problems.

Creativity vs Innovation

Previously I had always considered creativity and innovation synonymously. In my research, I found that this is not entirely true. The main difference I took away was that creativity is hard to measure and is subjective. Innovation is measurable. Creativity helps with coming up with ways to solve problems, but innovation takes those ideas and brings them to life. A quote from the article that struck me said “Organizations often chase creativity, but what they really need to pursue is innovation. Theodore Levitt puts it best: ‘What is often lacking is not creativity in the idea-creating sense but innovation in the action-producing sense, i.e. putting ideas to work’” (n.d.). I feel like sometimes at school we strive for creativity with our students, when instead we should try focusing on innovation.

As I continued my research, I found a Forbes’s article that gave a list of 10 ways to make classrooms more innovative. I enjoyed how it talked about creating a safe classroom environment encourages students to be risk takers which then allows them to create solutions to problems. It also said teachers create the mood and tone of the classroom which then invites students to authentically learn with the content if the environment is positive. With this being a new topic for me I was very excited to read this part. One thing that I feel like I excel at is creating a classroom environment that is positive and safe. That has always been my top priority in my own practice. Reading this was encouraging because I feel like I am already partially there to helping my students learn to innovate.

In the list, I found 4 items that were particularly interesting to me:

  • Mindset – teachers also need to change their mindset. Think of your students as leaders
  • Self-reflection – use this as an opportunity to look back on your teaching and reflect on how students responded
  • Let students take risks and fail – provide real-world projects for students to try and solve. It is important for them to learn to fail and pick themselves back up
  • Use the design-thinking process – incorporate the process into your classroom and model it as a way to problem solve with students

The reason that stood out to me the most was allowing students to take risks and fail. This is something that is hard for me in my practice because I don’t like to watch my students struggle. I also worry for my students who get frustrated with failure because I don’t want them to give up. As I continue to learn how to incorporate innovative thinking in my classroom I am going to keep an open mind about ways that I can help my students fail in a way that allows them to fail in a safe environment and gives them strategies on how to pick back up.

Conclusion

I’m not really sure if I have answered my question, or found myself continuing to ask more. I find myself with a strong desire to work on my classroom and lesson structures to incorporate more innovation. I am thinking of ways to change our normal work into real-life situations that students can then problem solve through using the design process. As I work to do this with my classroom, I will continue questioning and researching ways to do better.

References

Briggs, Sarah. (2013, August 2). Educating Innovators: 25 Ways to Prepare Students for a Changing Job Landscape. InformED. Retrieved from https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/educating-innovators/

Honey, Margaret., and Kanter, David. (2013). Design, Make, Play : Growing the next Generation of STEM Innovators. New York, NY: Routledge.

ISTE. (2016, January 19). Here’s How You Teach Innovative Thinking. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/ISTE-blog/Here%27s-how-you-teach-innovative-thinking?articleid=651

ISTE Standards for Students. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students

Shulman, Robyn D. (2018, November 19). 10 Ways Educators Can Make Classrooms More Innovative. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/robynshulman/2018/11/19/10-ways-educators-can-make-classrooms-more-innovative/#54852c657f87


4 thoughts on “Innovation in the Classroom

  1. I appreciate your honesty in the beginning about innovation being something you don’t do a lot of in your own classroom. It is so easy to just get into a zone and stick with the scripted curriculum sometimes, but it is great that you are thinking about how not to do this. I like what you said about failure and how often times as teachers we don’t want to see our students fail. I am wondering if through the design process and a safe classroom environment if that might be the perfect time for students to potentially fail. It also makes me wonder how often we as teachers allow our students to see us fail and learn and grow from it, growth mindset right? That way instead of failure being something negative it can be something positive. I can’t wait to hear more about how you take some of the ideas that you wrote about and use them in your own classroom. It sounds like your students are very lucky to have such a caring teacher.

  2. Rachel,

    I really appreciated your take on creativity vs innovation, and I thought your reflection on both your experience and observation with this was honest and insightful. I too thought these ideas were pretty interchangeable, but in reading your post (and looking at some of your resources) see a clear distinction. Thank you for helping me to clarify that, and for providing helpful strategies for improving innovation in the classroom! I also appreciated you sharing your realization after researching, that you don’t feel as far away from an innovative classroom as you initially thought. I imagine that your reflection will also provide others with a sense of comfort in knowing that this is an exciting (but manageable) transformation.

  3. Mrs. Batschi, I really enjoyed reading your post. Your statement about viewing creativity and innovation as the same thing struck me, because I did too! As I read more of your findings, I can see now that creativity is almost more basic, but can lead to innovation. It seems that creativity may be the strategy to reach the skill of innovation.

    “If we can teach our students to love the process of learning and apply it to whatever situation they find themselves they will be able to solve new problems.”

    What a great goal! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Rachel, what you shared about creativity versus innovation is very intriguing. So often, we talk about creativity as one of the 4 C’s of 21st Century Thinking without diving deeper into how best to quantify and measure the output. Thinking of this in terms of measurable innovation goes a long way toward accomplishing this. I also love the four things you shared around creating an innovative classroom. Mindset shifts are a huge aspect and pave the way for more self reflection, incorporation of design thinking, and creating a space where it’s safe for students to fail. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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