As we think about innovating in education, it’s always valuable to spend some time thinking about why we do what we do. As I begin my participation over the next 6 weeks in #IMMOOC (Innovator’s Mindset Massive Open Online Course), I’m driven to think more intentionally about why we innovate, and what innovation means in education. Below are 3 reasons that stand out to me as why we need innovation in education.
- The Factory Model of Education – Let me describe something, and you tell me if it sounds familiar: a publicly funded system where groups of about 28 students who are about the same age are taught by one teacher in a room of about 800 square-feet. This is the system of education that developed as a result of the free public education movement put into place in Massachusetts over 150 years ago. Pieces of today’s curriculum can be tied directly back to decisions that were made about the initial curriculum in the late 19th In today’s classrooms we continue to teach skills to kids that the iPad they carry can do for them, and then seem surprised that they don’t find value in it. To give you some ideas of what 21st Century Education might look like, TeachThough.com created a great graphic:
- Growth Mindset – Last school year I read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. While there were many parts of the book that had great value to me as an educator, my favorites came from chapter 7: “Parents, Teachers, and Coaches: Where Do Mindsets Come From?” How we interact with the children in our lives can have such an impact on the mindsets that they develop. In the portion on parents, I took away the appropriate ways to praise children. When we give praise that is focused on a child’s intelligence (“you’re so smart!” “you did such a good job on this paper.”), we may harm their long term motivation and performance, because taking a risk would mean possibly not getting that same praise. Instead our praise should be focused on a child’s efforts and achievements (“I can tell you worked very hard on this!” “I love the effort you put in, but let’s work together on this part to figure out what you didn’t understand.”). As the chapter continues, it talks about the importance of the words that teachers can use regarding learning. I think we all know that at times learning is hard. We need to let our students know that the hard things help us to learn, but only when we put forth effort. I love watching some of the teachers in my building who are teaching the concepts of growth mindset directly to their students. The kids in those rooms understand that ideas like struggling and failure help us to continue to grow.
- Risk Taking – Intuitively I think all educators understand that risk taking is an important part of the learning process. Whether we realize it or not, our students are taking risks every day. For some, simply talking in the classroom is a risk, for others the risk is in trying something new. But what about us? How do we model our own risks to our students? Recently I was in a classroom and there was an issue with technology. I overheard the teacher say “I never should have done this” and then shift gears into something entirely different. What message do we send to our students when we give up at the first sign of failure? How can we expect them to continue to take risks if we have modeled our own hesitancy to take any kind of risk? We have to shift our own mindset and be willing to take risks for our student. If that innovation works, then you may have created a truly meaningful learning opportunity for your student. If the innovation doesn’t work, you have a real-life lesson on mindsets and how we deal with adversity. By making ourselves vulnerable in our classrooms, we will show our kids that it’s ok to be a little vulnerable themselves.
These are just a couple of thoughts on reasons why we need to innovate. What thoughts might you have? Share your own additions or thoughts in the comments below!