Monday, April 20, 2015

Should ALL Educators Be Innovative?

For the last few days I've been thinking about the definition of innovation and the place it has in education. I may be an EdTech person but I'm a "wordie" as well. I believe in the importance of words used well. It's why I feel adamant in choosing the words "facilitator" or "coach" over "para-pro," and "lead" over "master." It's why I dislike the word "rigor" and get so livid when I hear the word "fart" that I write blog posts about it. I need a definition to a word that I can wrap my head around and I need to know what it means to others. In education, you hear the term "buzz word" a lot. "Innovation" is the latest buzz word or "fail forward" or "personalized learning." I'll admit, I've reacted strongly against some words but often it's because my definition does not match that of the speakers. Being a wordie is probably why I like to blog as well.

So today's word in question is INNOVATION and it's place in education. At a meeting I was in last friday with educators and computer programmers a comment was made that "innovators find each other." It got me thinking...what is an "innovator?" So I pulled up the definition that said, "1: the introduction of something new. 2: a new idea, method, device" and in my head, it became the place where passion and need intersect. I have been accused of being a passionate educator on several occasions, and quite frankly I take it as a compliment (I'm not sure it is always meant that way). Because I am an instructional technologist, I think about how technology can aid the path of learning far more than I should. I stand firm in my belief that technology in the classroom can revolutionize the way students learn. I passionately try to convince the naysayers and I dig deep to find ways to prove the worth. What I enjoy the most is when I see a need and get the opportunity to look for ways to meet that need with technology. Like the figure above- when my passion for EdTech meets the needs of students, innovation occurs often. 

Does innovation have to be technology based? I don't think so. Technology doesn't have to be the only option of meeting a student's needs. Perhaps it means teaching a student how to take efficient notes by training them in some way using both visual drawings and words to stir remembrances. In that case, technology doesn't have to be a part of the equation. (Did you see how open minded I was with that idea just then?). What I do believe is that innovation works with an overarching cover of creativity. I believe innovators are creative souls. I believe the passions they have for their disciplines lead them to creatively think about how to best reach their students. I do not believe innovation and creativity can be separated. I do believe even non-creative types can see the benefit of innovation and want to use it. I do not believe non-creative types will be the ones that have that lightbulb moment of "Heyyyyyyy, what if we could make this happen!"

So what does this theory I have mean to education? When we place people in roles, I think it is important to decide what the level of innovative thinking needs to be for the job at hand. Are innovators also design thinkers? Perhaps this is also true. Are innovators risk takers? I think that is probably the case as well. So as educators, what positions require this type of personality and what positions don't? Is there a difference? Should there be a balance? Should ALL educators be innovative? I leave you with questions that I choose not to answer but would love to hear the thoughts of others. "Hmmmm moments" are some of my favorite to ruminate over. This is mine for today.