Innovation. To be innovative. To innovate.

In much of my reading on “21st century learning” and teaching, Innovation seems to be THE thing we need to do to be successful. Whether it is as an eLearning-focused educator like I am transforming into this year, or a teacher with a full load of classes and all the duties and responsibilities that come with it, we must innovate.

I get the feeling that innovation happens in slightly random splutters or excellence and momentary explosions of insight and delivery. A school is a big system, made up of many interconnected relationships and changing priorities. However, I really would love to be in a school where innovative practices are so regular and integral that it’s like a humming in the background rather than a backfire on the street.

Tim Kastelle, senior lecturer at the University of Queensland, argued in one of the presentations for the AITSL Leading Curriculum Change (www.aitsl.edu.au) program that most institutions are ideas rich but innovation poor. That is, many people within an organisation have IDEAS as to how to run the place better but very very few (he said 5%) actually INNOVATE.

His definition of innovation is as “executing a new idea to create value”. So there are three parts (as he explained in the LCC presentation):

1) Having the new idea (which is where most people believe innovation stops)

2) Executing the idea

3) Creating value as a result of successful execution of the idea

After all, what is the point of having the IDEA for (or ‘ideating’) a new kind of app that changes your face in a photo to look like a zombie? It’s an idea, certainly. It’s playing on our obsession with consuming new, cheap, ways to laugh at ourselves, definitely. But does it add value? Perhaps to a film producer who wants to quickly help the make-up crew for The Walking Dead sort out which kinds of paints to use. (If the producers wish to contact me to ask for my permission to use that idea….but then is it my right to own that idea? What about the guys who created the app? Hm..)

So from zombies to those kids who grunt and groan and shuffle around in our school corridors (only when they’re tired): our students.

If we are to innovate at a school, we surely have to have an end point in mind. We have to set goals. We need to have some kind of timeline for implementation and reflection in order to measure how successful the action was. This is something I will attempt in 2013.

As my role is focused on teacher professional development, I intend to work with my new colleagues to set some clear SMART goals that we can review at the end of the year (or as we achieve them before then). Hopefully, I will be able to foster an environment of risk-taking, reflection and, perhaps, innovation that will see real value being created in the learning experiences we deliver.

We will start small, but grow in our skills and knowledge to the point where we become that community of practice that has innovation pulsing through our pedagogy, humming in the background as we walk around the classrooms.

Comments questions: Is your school ideas-rich or innovation-rich? Do you create value by executing new ideas? Does it focus on the student experience or does innovation sometimes remain with the teacher?

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