Saturday, November 14, 2015

The 5 A's of K12 Innovation

I had the honor of being asked by a local EdTech company to be part of a mom focus group to give feedback regarding what parents want from camps/programs and what 7-17 year olds interests are in terms of technology. As a technology coordinator, it was interesting to listen to the other 10 moms participating that didn't represent my own school. I left the lunch curating the information in my own head and I am wrestling with 2 big thoughts:
  1. For the most part "tech for tech sake" doesn't appeal to the masses of students age 7-17, integrating technology into things does appeal to them. It is how they do life. While there will always be people that enjoy the calling of coding, programming, and technology-based things- most students look at technology as a way to do something they want to do- it's a path to something else they are trying to accomplish.
  2. Which leads to my second thought- innovation doesn't have to be technology-based. In a previous post, I discussed my definition of innovation being the intersection of passion and need. While technology is often an innovating factor in a classroom, I'm finding more often that  innovation is so much more than integrating technology well. 

So if I go with the definition that innovation happens at the intersection of "passion and need," I find myself looking at this not just from my techie viewpoint but from the viewpoint of students, non-techie teachers, parents (present and potential), administrators, and stakeholders. Thus I am thinking what this looks like in terms of the following 5 "A's" of Innovation:

Academic - We are constantly looking for innovation to streamline our classrooms and help students at their point of need. In my position, this means always trying to find new options for using technology for personalizing the learning of our students. This also might mean collecting all the cardboard I can find, like Gwinnett Co, Georgia's Teacher of the Year- Trisha Connor to meet the needs of her STEM classroom. It might mean helping teachers from different disciplines and grade-levels collaborate on a project together- with or without technology being a major player of the concept. Innovation might mean more options for students/teachers/administrators to connect, consume, create, and curate data in ways that they haven't traditionally tried.

Athletic - Perhaps with the growth of augmented reality, technology can truly create opportunities for training of athletes against "that weeks opponent more than ever before, even in the K12 arena. With the ease of videoing events these days, apps like the ones mentioned in this article create ways for athletes to make corrections to better themselves immediately, also personalizing athletics by way of technology-based training playlists for workouts can benefit each athlete where they are for the betterment of themselves and the team. But innovation in athletics might mean creating opportunities for the fans to feel more "involved" in their favorite sports via game day updates, weekly video updates, incentives for attending events. Innovation in athletics might mean creating a class for news broadcasting to develop students into sports broadcasters beyond their desire to tweet their updates at games now.

Artistic - The ability to give our theater students a global audience through live streaming is definitely an innovation in the area of the arts. But perhaps innovation in arts means giving students opportunities for graphic arts and understanding that CAD design opens the doors for interior designers. Perhaps it means classes in design thinking to create the next generation of innovative thinkers and planners for our community. Innovation in the arts means using recyclables to change our world aesthetically, using visual arts to speak what words can't say, using language arts to share visions and thoughts beyond the comfortable or normal language barriers. And perhaps technology bridges all these things for a broader way of sharing.

Advertisement - Social media has opened the door for free advertising as often as we are willing to post something. In that, it has also now become common and acceptable for "self promotion" both personally and academically (school) speaking. Innovation means looking for ways to brand your school in a positive light- perhaps it's QR codes or augmented reality triggers throughout campus where visitors can learn more about the school's activities, students, faculty, and facilities-linking to friendly professional looking videos that maybe were even created within a classroom curriculum. Maybe innovation in advertising means looking for local offerings that your "target audience" attends and marketing the positive aspects of your school at those events. Maybe innovation in advertisement means giving your faculty/staff opportunities for growth or sharing their knowledge outside of the realm of your school so that the world knows more about your faculty/staff. Perhaps advertisement means there is a push for your students to perform, participate, attend events beyond the walls of your campus that allow them to show their learning and passions to the world at large. 

Adventure - When I think of the word "innovation" I don't think of status quo. I don't think of every day being predictably the same. Innovation can mean change or it can mean adventure. Innovation means taking chances on new ideas and allowing for failure. Innovation means prototypes, adjusting, constant communication for growth, preparing for change, looking for opportunities. Innovation means keeping your ear to the ground in your community so that you can turn a "local problem" into a problem-based learning adventure and possible solution. Innovative schools act, they aren't reactors.

Innovation means sitting on the edge of potential and having the vision to find the balance your school needs on that edge. Smart innovation means being adventurous but being leaders that think things through- not just jumping on the latest buzzword in education. Innovation means finding opportunities for your circles of influence to work hand in hand. Community, stakeholders, alumni, teachers, students, administrators, parents interested in innovation should all be able to find ways to plug into innovative thought processes in the K-12 environment...with the wind blowing through their hair. (Ok, so that may seem a little idealistic, but I do believe innovation is the place that opens the door for involvement- where passion intersects with need.)