Innovation: Without It We Would Still Have Bag Phones

This afternoon there is this word that keeps popping up on twitter and Facebook. “Innovate” One was someone asking what was innovative and another saying we need to be innovative. The thing about innovation is that we always think about making “a new thing” but that is wrong what would be the definition of invention. If you have been to Epcot at WDW, they have the “Innoventions” pavilion. Not inventions, not innovations but innoventions. I always loved that part of the park bc it had cool things from “the future.” I remember it was the first time I saw a cell phone that was not a car phone! It’s a whole area devoted to making existing things better. Wikipedia says the definition of innovation is “to renew or change.” I love that. It’s not redo something. It is not create something different. It is to take something old and make it better or change it.

Last week I had the awesome opportunity to visit the Ron Clark Academy. (There will be more posts from last week, and more posts on things he was doing in his room – right now they are drafts I am picking through and cleaning up.) Watching his class, there was no doubt kids were learning, kids were growing, kids were excelling. Just different than what I am used to. I wasn’t even back to Birmingham and I was getting messages asking if the class was mostly rote memorization. That made me pause. At the first if the visit I was very uncomfortable because I was noticing the rote memorization but then as the class went on I was realizing they knew this stuff and even understood it. It was not here are steps of a problem or a vocabulary word, memorize it then regurgitate it. They took it and did some amazing problem solving with it. Give me a kid that can explain what a square root is then find it in his head and there is more than rote going on here.

Innovation is taking that old way and renewing it right? Some kids learn that way, some kids don’t. But if this helps kids move on the higher thinking, that is ok. So often we dismiss old teaching ways because it is the old way or that was what was used in 18 century learning. I really do not see a problem taking the old way and changing it to meet 21 century skill teaching/pedagogy.

One example is how flipped classrooms are getting a lot of flack. I will go ahead and say I am not a fan – a lot of my kids don’t have internet access and those who do I am sure don’t want to listen to lecture on their off time. But teachers are using class time to push higher level thinking, conversation and PBL but also reaching those who learn from watching/lecture (I’m one of those). Is it oh so wrong if learning and creating is taking place?
Also, I had a convo with a coworker today and we were discussing how not all direct instruction was bad if done correctly. She is so right, I get kinda tired of hearing kids need to be taught this one way that works on middle class white suburban America. We need to try all methods and see which way fits kids from our community. Once again, its ok to take something old and used but you MUST “renew” it. We need innovation. We need to “change” our teaching over the years. That is why it is so important to research different methods. But take that method and make it better. Innovate it.

I am sure if we all found the perfect teaching style, it would be time to innovate and change it, right?

The most important thing about innovation is that our kids are being innovative. They must be creating & thinking. No matter how we teach them, we need to make sure we are giving them what they need to become innovative people. We need them to take skills and adapt and change, no matter how we do this. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the phone, or even the cell phone, but he did innovate it. He made it better. Students who make our world better needs to be our ultimate goal.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Philip Cummings says:

    I agree with you that we can take the old way and renew it through innovation, but I think it’s also important to realize that students need to learn things by seeing them from multiple perspectives. Direct instruction isn’t bad, per se. But if that’s the only tool in your arsenal, you can update it all you want and you’ll still only reach the learners who feed off direct instruction. What about those who don’t? We must vary our strategies, and if we really want learning that lasts, we must get out of the way and let the kids do more of the teaching.

    Just my two cents – from someone struggling to rethink and reinvent himself as a teacher. Great post, Amanda!

    1. amandacdykes says:

      Ok Philp I am finally getting to reply. My other reply deleted before I could finish. I don’t think that Direct Instruction should be used everyday. I haven’t even used it this week, but I think that using it to model, along with multimedia, formative assessment, etc, it can be a great thing. My kids love lectures (haven’t figured out why, it is 1st time that has ever happened) so I try to do about 5 minutes of lecturing about 3 days a week. But when we do use direct instruction we do need to change the way we do it, we need to make it a blend. When direct instruction is digital story telling, not ppt, a lot of questioning, we model good presentation skills which kids need for the rest of their lives. BUT direct instruction shouldn’t be as you would say “only tool in your arsenal” I was just using it as an example of how things need to change and are not always bad if change happens.

      Also, I understand the reinventing yourself as a teacher, though I am learning not all methods work in all classrooms. We need to really think about our students when planning in this way.

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