People, as the superior beings the are, are supposed to build upon the collective knowledge of everyone that ever lived and come up with innovative ideas to make the world a better place. But what is innovation anyway? Can it be learned? Better yet, can it be taught?
I believe it can. It may not be easy, neither for the teacher nor for the student, but I doubt that it’s impossible. All innovative ideas have sprung from a human brain. And what else is there in the heads of students and teachers alike? Of course, just having a brain does not lead directly to innovative ideas, but it’s definitely a starting point.
Considering that innovative thinking is and will continue to be a very sought-after skill in the job market, what can teachers do to equip their students — the future employees, freelancers, consultants and entrepreneurs — with it?
Tune in to find out a few strategies teachers can use right away to encourage any human brain to come up with great ideas and pave the way to innovation in the classroom.
A few ways to nurture innovation in the classroom
Before getting into the meaty HOW, one thing needs to be clear: there is no perfect way to to bring innovation in the classroom, there are only thousands of ways to do it.
Just ideas. You’ll figure out the potential for innovation later. Look around you and steal any idea that can improve any aspect of your classroom.
You read that right; I used the word steal. (Not to be confused with the word plagiarize.)
You see, ideas are not like apples. If I have an apple and you have an apple, and I steal your apple, I’ll have two apples and you’ll be left with none. But, if I have an idea and you have an idea, and you steal my idea, you’ll have two ideas, but I’ll still have mine. As Seth Godin masterfully puts it,
Ideas can’t be stolen, because ideas don’t get smaller when they’re shared, they get bigger.
The only responsibility that comes along with stealing an idea is to always look for ways to make it better.
So go ahead and steal ideas.
Find the right sources of potentially innovative ideas
Steal them from your colleagues. Maybe one of them used a new app that students loved. Maybe they found some new tool that saves time with grading, or they figured a way to gamify a learning activity and witnessed better student performance.
Steal them from other teachers. Go around your school or campus and meet with people teaching totally different subjects than yours. You never know what you’ll find out. Blended learning or the Flipped Classroom model did not spread because they were used by one teacher only.
Steal them from your professional online communities. Teachers from all over the world can contribute to your idea mining exercise. Perhaps the view of a different culture is exactly what you need. A great example of such a community is ISTE.
Steal them from people working in unrelated fields. For example, if you’d like your students to write the code for a simple application, you could connect with people working in web development, mobile design, marketing, psychology and so on. Their input can be priceless.
Last but not least, steal them from your students. No matter if they just joined the educational system or they attend your course as experienced college students, their main characteristic is to ask questions. And these questions can lead to an innovative idea — in your brain, or in theirs.
Think about the future
What will a typical school day look like in the future — tomorrow, next year, in five years’ time, in 2030?
How much edtech will be in that classroom?
Will blended learning really be the norm?
Will the flipped classroom model continue to develop?
Will students use VR gear or mixed reality on a daily basis?
You can’t know the answers to these questions now, but you can surely make an educated guess for some of them. Especially if you think you’ll be a teacher in 2030 or any other future time mark.
Some of the things considered far-fetched in the classroom of the past have become normal and expected today. So don’t be afraid to be bold with your ideas for the classroom of the future.
Create a culture of failure
Again, don’t be afraid to be bold with your ideas and encourage your students and everyone around you to do the same. Failure is necessary for learning. It’s a sure-fire way of getting better. F.A.I.L. may mean a First Attempt In Learning.
Just like Thomas Edison said when referring to his light bulb invention:
I did not fail. I just found 2000 ways of how not to make a light bulb; I only needed one way to make it work.
When you transform your classroom into a safe learning environment where mistakes are not stigmatized and the possibility of failure is not something to be afraid of, you open the door to plenty of new ideas that can turn out to be as innovative a Edison’s light bulb.
It’s hard to teach and practice innovation in the classroom, but it’s the only way to prepare for and thrive in the world of tomorrow. Teachers that steal ideas from various sources, try to predict the future of education and let room for mistakes will find that innovative ideas are everywhere. And these ideas can change the school organizational system, pedagogy methods, learning content and eve the physical learning space for the better.
In the end, allow me to repeat myself:
There is no perfect way to to bring innovation in the classroom, there are only thousands of ways to do it.