Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday's Five - Catalysts for Innovation


Friday's Five is a feature every week where I pick a new topic and list five items that I think fit best.  Then I ask you to share your thoughts in the comment section.  For an archive of past topics, check the Friday's Five Page
Flickr: Ewa Rozcosz
In order for our students to become more innovative, it is important that their teachers become more innovative.  We need to model 21st century skills for our students to learn them.  In today's educational climate, teachers face great resistance to this type of change and are encouraged to standardize their practices.  Often they are told to teach canned lessons from a textbook.  Here are five changes that would act as catalysts for innovation.

  1. Switch the focus from standardized testing to formative assessment. - Standardized tests are taken once or twice per year and give a broad range of data on student achievement that is returned to teachers months after the student takes the test.  Formative assessment yields specific data on student understanding that is delivered to teachers and students within lessons allowing changes in instruction to happen instantly.  Teachers can then use that data to instantly determine the best way to change teaching in order to reach students that are falling behind.  Formative assessment allows teachers opportunities to do what is best for students in creative ways.  It also is proven to be highly effective in increasing student learning.  Standardized testing leads to standardization, the opposite of innovation.
  2. Showcase innovation. - Instead of faculty meetings and in-service days being spent on fire drill procedures, special education law, or months-old assessment data, administrators should identify the most innovative teachers and ask them to share what they are doing with their colleagues.   
  3. Replace textbooks with on-line versions created by teachers and students. - I came across an article yesterday about Minnesota teachers who created their own textbook.  In doing so, they saved their district $175,000.  Creating a textbook in itself is incredibly innovative.  Because the textbook is on-line and easily editable, innovative pedagogy, alternative methods, and new ideas can easily be added as teachers and students discover them.
  4. Limit filtering - Schools should embrace social networking and the exchange of ideas.  Creativity inspires creativity.  The more amazing ideas one is exposed to, the more likely they are to come up with amazing ideas on their own.  The internet is not something to be feared, but rather something to be harnessed. 
  5. Encourage risk taking by allowing teachers more autonomy. - Fear of failure never led to greatness.  We have a culture in education right now that places great emphasis on not being wrong.  There is no emphasis on learning from mistakes or trying new things.  Obviously, innovating is difficult in such a climate.  Give teachers the freedom to try new things and to learn. 
Now it's your turn.  What changes do you think could be made to current educational practices that would encourage more creativity and innovation?  What have you seen work in your school?  What do you see holding teachers back from taking risks and being creative?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, and pass the post on to others via Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and Plurk so that we can hear their ideas.

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