Change Education Engagement & Motivation Leadership Tech & Social Media

3 Common Myths About Innovation in Education

1. We’re innovative. The kids all have iPads. It's About Pedagogy, Not Technology

To do what? To do what you already did quicker, more efficiently or on a larger scale?

In many schools the power of the iFad or whatever technology has been wheeled into the school is compromised by the way in which they’re allowed or – more importantly – not allowed to be used.

Even if we adopt the higher order thinking of the SAMR Model, how innovative are we really being?

Innovating in schools is often equated to just increasing the amount of technology in the classroom – and this I think is to miss the point.

What if innovation in education sought to (genuinely) empower rather than control students?

Instead of behaviour management, what if we spoke of unleashing students.

What would innovation look like then?

Of course technology would play a part but so would where, when, who, what and how would you teach.

I’m of the opinion that many alternative education programs that work with kids for whom the mainstream education system hasn’t are some of the most innovative. I touch on this in my latest segment for the TER Podcast.

2. I’m too old to innovate – the young teachers have got it covered anyway

A knock-on effect of believing that the key to innovation is the increased integration of technology in class is that some staff feel they have little to offer.

Imagine if told you that you were too old to offer anything of value? You’d be offended right? And rightly so.

Yet there are many who tell themselves this very thing every chance they get. Every PD day, every staff meeting, professionals actively opt out these kinds of discussions as they see it as the realm of the younger teacher.

But here’s the thing, while new – or soon to be new – teachers may well be able to post a selfie on Instagram or fire off a quick self-destructing (in every sense of the term) video clip on SnapChat, many are not the ‘experts’ that some schools expect them to be around the use of technology and the Internet – and even less so with regards to embedding technology into an effective pedagogy.

So the very premise on which some choose to opt out of the innovation discussion is flawed.

Regardless of your teaching experience, you can be innovative. And yes perhaps having a crack at new technologies, combined with your knowledge and experience of different pedagogies, may just produce a light bulb moment for you, your faculty and your school but do it steadily… and if someone tells you to just jump in the deep end with technology- have them take a look at this post I wrote last year.

But be sure, innovation pays no mind to your age.

Regardless of where you are in your career you have a choice to contribute, push the boundaries or ask “Why?” or “What if…?” 

3. We need to innovate for the sake of our children’s future

Ok, this one isn’t necessarily a myth, but stay with me…

One of the most popular ideas I hear at conferences is that, “We are educating kids for jobs that don’t even exist yet,” or an offshoot from that is blog posts like the  Top 10 Job Titles that didn’t exist 5 years ago genre of commentary.

It gets the juices flowing but you have to be careful, because well-intentioned types will take that to mean the most popular jobs today didn’t exist 5 years ago, rather than it merely being a list of jobs today that didn’t exist 5 years ago. 

A subtle but important different – and even then, most of these jobs you can see have morphed from an existing job. They’ve hardly sprung up from nowhere.

As a little test, ask your students, or kids in your life what career they’d like – how many come up with a job that didn’t exist 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years ago? (SPOILER ALERT: I’m guessing not many)

So rather than using ‘the future’ as a reason to innovate – because things get a bit ethereal here and some can switch off – let’s start using the PRESENT.

Last year, Gallup surveyed 7000 students in Years 5-12 in 36 schools across six states and found that, roughly 30% of kids have disengaged from school by the time they are 11.

How about using that as an argument to innovate?

To compound things, over 50% of Year 12’s – and yes these are the ones that have STAYED on at school – are disengaged.

How about innovating to address this?


Behind the Scenes of my Latest Piece in the Age

Open-Cover-211x300As soon as I downloaded David Price’s book Open: How We’ll Live, Work & Learn in the Future  I thought, “There’s a story here!”

In short, Price suggests that globalisation and technology has impacted the world’s workforce and economies in ways that, for the most part, education has failed to grasp.

For the piece I had the pleasure of interviewing teen prodigy Jack Andraka, who at only 15 developed a revolutionary test for Pancreatic Cancer, using Google and Wikipedia to develop his theory. He gave me a wonderful quote:

The internet doesn’t care about your gender, race or religion, it’s a place where only your ideas count, and we can use it to help people around the globe to innovate and change the world.

Whether you agree or disagree with his position is another matter, but it is a lovely notion isn’t it?

As an aside, I’d originally planned to open my piece by saying, “Jack is sixteen. In the past twelve months he’s perfected his origami technique, designed a device to make kayaking safer, and just for good measure he’s developed a revolutionary test for pancreatic cancer.”

He got back to me… “Actually Dan, I did the dam retrofitting stuff in Grade 9.” – GRADE 9!!!

David Price and I enjoyed a long Skype conversation around his education philosophy and the process of writing the book and he takes issue with the political approach to education reform, particularly the notion that we are involved in some kind of education race.

[The] kinds of skills – demeaned by politicians as ‘soft’ – are exactly the skills that Asian and South American students don’t have – yet. But with China radically changing its curriculum to foster creativity in its students, and Singapore and Korea abandoning rote learning in favour of project and inquiry-based learning, we haven’t got long.

So we want to be more like China – but they want to be more like us??

If there is some kind of education race, it seems everyone is running in different directions!

It was also great to get input from current teachers doing innovative stuff in their schools.

Jenny Luca from Toorak College and Raymond Trotter, the principal of Wooranna Park Public School – seriously if I was a primary teacher in Melbourne I would be knocking down their door to work there – spoke about the ways they engage kids as well as the need for innovative leadership – rather than a back to basics approach.

Unfortunately Christopher Pyne, the minister for education declined to comment on the questions I posed, so if you see him (or you get on Q&A) could you ask him:

1. When you say, you wish to deliver a curriculum that “parents expect” what exactly do you anticipate that looking like?

2. In a world where kids can learn pretty much anything they want, anytime they want via the internet, what role do you see teachers as having in the coming years?

3. How relevant do you think school is for kids today, given that – increasingly through globalisation – we’re seeing that academic performance is no guarantee of success, as workers overseas – across a whole range of disciplines – can do as good a job for a lot less?

4. What will be the defining difference an Australian education provides in order for our kids to compete on the international stage?

You can read the full piece in the Age here. Like it, Tweet it… you know what to do!

Engagement & Motivation Leadership

Do other schools think more of you than your own?

When I’m in schools, I always recognise that the teachers I’m working with are the experts on their

As well as being expert educators, they understand the idiosyncrasies of their colleagues, leaders, students and wider community.

However, what I’m finding more and more is that within schools, teacher “expertise” is often not recognised outside of their perceived domain.

In other words, teachers limit ourselves and each other by our job title. We are there to teach our subject(s), do playground duty and write reports. There is little attention paid to actively recognising and nurturing innovation, collaboration or creativity.

Up until a few years ago this meant that people just got on with what they were paid to do and thought little more of it.

However, with the advent of social media, and Twitter in particular, this has changed.

Online, I regularly see PE teachers from one school collaborating with English or Drama teachers from another. Sharing their ideas, experiences etc. Maths teachers developing innovative ideas with art teacher.

Yet when I ask about such collaborations taking place within the walls of their own school, very often there’s not much doing.

Which led me to ask this question (on Twitter obviously!):

Which led to some interesting debate on Twitter over the weekend… here are the picks…

So with these thoughts in mind, I sought the opinion of school leaders who I KNOW value and actively encourage autonomy, creativity and innovation in their staff.

Ben Jones – Head of Teaching & Learning in Public School in Western Sydney

Stephen Harris – Principal of Northern Beaches Christian School

And to finish with, I couldn’t go past this one… I LOVE the sentiments expressed by John his tweet.

John Goh – Principal of a Public Primary School in Western Sydney