Taken from a painting of Kapiti Island at Sunset.
by Sonia Savage.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Innovation - An Art and Discipline I Can Learn.

I have often thought that innovation in education was something out there, big, and that it was beyond me.  Now, after spending a workshop day with Simon Breakspear -

  • I think that innovation happens to answer the local challenges of a local people and it happens with the people involved.  
  • I think that innovation is doable - by me. Innovation can be a small step - a minimal viable product, that is tried and then reiterated, through various stages until I hit discovery and success. I can start tomorrow.  Innovation is an art and discipline that I can learn.
  • Innovation includes collaboration and sharing.  People working together are going to create greater innovation and success.
  • Failure is an invitation to innovation. Failure is a part of innovation. Fail forward.  Expect to fall into the 'hole' and keep going through it to success.
So this is what I learned today or should I say heard today!  Learning it into activity will be a process.  The following ideas while taken from Simon Breakspear during today are his, they do not fully cover what he said nor does it accurately record what he said. It is just what I heard and wrote down. There will be errors! Do not attribute those errors to Simon Breakspear - those are mine!

  1. Be open-minded - defer judgement and encourage wild ideas.  (Be disruptive)
  2. Foster collaboration - build on the ideas of others, be open to cross pollination.
  3. Be a lifelong kindergartener - find out by doing, have the attitude of play and say, "I'll tell you what it is when I am finished."
'June 18th 'Holly's hands'' photo (c) 2008, Amanda Slater - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Think of 21st century competencies and skills in:
  • the cognitive domain
  • the interpersonal domain 
  • the intrapersonal domain.
For example in the last mentioned domain one skill might have to do with resilience.  How do I as an educator develop resilience in my students?  Grit?

Simon Breakspear went on to list and discuss 7 strategies for innovation.
  1. Provocatively question the status quo.  Be bold, big and unreasonable. Know your compelling mission.  We exist to..........  and then specify the question/challenge to be solved that needs to be articulated, sub-divided, and then minimal viable products of innovation begun.
  2. Embrace pedagogy for deep learning.  He asked us to think of one powerful learning experience for ourselves and then to see if we could list what was an essential part of that learning.  Our core business of learning and teaching we need to have an unrelenting focus on.  How can the teacher be an activator of learning?
  3. Harness human centred design.  Design for people, this staff, these students.  Aim for simplexity. Simple things which can be difficult to get right.
  4. Give permission through conditions.  Have a culture where it is okay to be 'disruptive', fail, share, be creative, question.  Welcome diversity, be open to other disciplines outside education.
  5. Launch, Learn, Reiterate.  Ask what are the minimum set of features that you need in order to start the process of feedback and discovery. It can be something small and you can start tomorrow. What could be your/mine MVP?  Make it as specific as possible. Get going, be prepared to fail, fail fast, fail forward. Ask what did I/we learn from that?  Success and failure are not polar opposites.  Have a propensity towards action.
  6. Build a network of lab schools.  "Competition is so late '90's".  Collaborate, collaborate.
  7. Unashamedly seek out disruptive innovations.    He gave some pointers on this, it was a bit rushed as it neared the end, but in a way self explanatory from the day itself.  He mentioned seek out free content, use learning analytics that are available say in Maths, use social sites e.g. Edmodo, think of how to harness mobile devices and learning platforms. (But am very hazy on that last one, maybe my colleagues who came with me (2 others) will be able to fill me in on that gap.)
He quoted A. Curnow - "Simply by sailing in a new direction, you can enlarge the world."

The biggest take-away for me today was, "Start tomorrow, with some small step."

Today has been very timely as I formulate my goals for this year for my own learning and the outcomes I seek for my students' learning. I have some basic ideas of where I want my inquiry to go. Not literacy this time - although I am sure I could think a good case up for further exploration.  However my area of launch. learn and reiterate will I think be in the area of Maths.  Especially with those students who make slow progress.  Also three of us were at the workshop today. I am looking forward to collaborating with them as we redefine our mission and where we want our school to.... yes innovate!

I am inspired!


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