The great innovators in history solve important problems that the world faces once in a lifetime. The great INNOVATORS in EDUCATION solve important problems that student’s face on a regular basis. In teaching, innovators in education are curious, they look for fresh approaches and tend to see a bigger picture than just their classroom. They are always on the lookout for processes, systems or new ideas to cut through complexity, reduce time or combine many tasks into one. In effect, they are implementing design thinking at its best, incorporating “proven-effective teaching techniques such as self-directed inquiry and collaborative problem solving” into their planning at all levels. Ultimately great innovators in education’s work ends up being “of service” not only to themselves but to their colleagues, their school, their district and most importantly their students.
So, what do great innovators in education do?
Innovators intuitively follow a model that guides them as they craft new and creative solutions. In the beginning, they spend critical thinking time understanding what their students really need—not just today but for tomorrow. Using critical thinking processes, they:
- SCAN their teaching environment to understand what is going on and identify and clarify opportunities. Then they prioritize each opportunity, so they are ensured of working on only the most important ones.
- Next, they analyze the opportunities to get at the feasibility of the idea and what could cause it to happen. They critically think their way into solutions using Design Thinking which encompasses and promotes the use of other tools that capitalize and promote actions to drive implementation.
- Finally, they SELECT the opportunity makes the most sense to implement by determining which is the most desirable for students, technically feasible and financially viable. This helps to ensure they are working on the game changers for their students and their districts.
4 Ways to Support Innovation
The Innovation Model needs four important supporting elements to thrive, flourish and succeed in each school district:
- A leader with a coherent vision to modernize, old, out-of-touch systems, processes and people
- Genuine collaboration between teachers, principals and administrators
- Use of lean design methods to develop a minimally viable solution that is brought quickly to the classroom with agile implementation
- Critical thinking processes which develop, nurture and support the innovations
Doing things Differently
In today’s rapidly changing classroom, those that use a model to shape their thinking and have these elements in the work environment and as a part of their culture do things differently. You have seen these teachers and leaders in your schools. Their innovation efforts start with a vision and a deep understanding for whom they are designing. They use their peers and administration to quickly generate and test new ideas. They think critically and collaborate their way into solutions. And finally, they rapidly prototype and relentlessly implement; constantly evaluating and refining the innovation as they go.
Creating great solutions is exhilaratingly difficult. But with this Innovation Model and four supporting elements, Innovation in Education can become the “way we think and work” at your school.
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