Innovation in schools of any type needs to start with the idea that the goal is not to force kids to abandon their passions and interests for our curriculum.
- Will Richardson, Stop innovating in schools. Please.
Dictionary.com defines innovation as:
Something new or different introduced
The act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods.
There is so much innovation going on in our schools. Leaders and teachers are coming up with new ideas, and new ways of doing things all the time. But what innovation looks like to one school could be completely different for another as each school has different goals and philosophies.
George Couros states in Innovation and best practice, that his “belief is that innovation in teaching and learning starts with empathy; truly trying to understand those that you serve.” He expands on this to say that it’s “not only a starting point, but a continuous part of the process”.
As with all things in schools, we need to ensure that student learning is foremost on our mind. This includes in how we innovate. Will Richardson made this very clear when he says,
To put it simply, innovation in schools today is far too focused on improving teaching, not amplifying learning.
What does innovation look like to you?
What does innovation in your school look like?
Are the innovations in your school amplifying learning? If so - how?
How is digital technology supporting innovation in your school?
Where do the tensions/challenges lie if any?
Image source: Thom Lunasea - Flickr CC BY-2.0
Hi. Maurie Abraham here from Hobsonville Point Secondary School. We are a new school in our third year with only Years 9 - 11 at the moment.The 2 innovations we are currently involved in are:
Student Voice to determine the contexts for learning
Combining Learning Areas to create a more relevant and authentic setting for the student contexts in a way that models collaboration in action.
As a result of these 2, students experience 80% of their learning in an integrated and blended fashion with 2 teachers facilitating the group.
How Do We Use Student Voice?
8 Big Concepts are covered by our Year 9 and 10 learners (who are viewed as 1 cohort) over a two year period. Our modules cover 2 terms (1 semester) so are related to 2 Big Concepts. Term 1 this year is Identity and Term 2 is Space and Place. We met with student representatives to explore what these concepts meant to them and then we brainstormed contexts they would like to explore (they came up with stuff like How did the universe begin and how will it end? How do refugees maintain their identity while being dislocated?)
Teachers meet in teams to use this information to create modules that combine 2 Learning Areas.
The levels of engagement impress us and all of the visitors who come and have a look. That's about all of the evidence we have at the moment!
I'm happy to post on either of these and provide resources if this post sparks any interest.
I like the way you ask for student input prior to designing your curriculum. Something for me to consider going forward.
My name is Vicky Crawford and I am Head of Social Sciences at Albany Junior High in Auckland. My passion seems to be about providing the space for student driven initiatives. I love allowing them to create and lead their own initiatives and I am constantly surprised about how mature they are when they are given responsibility for something they love.
In terms of student voice one of the initiatives I have started this year is an online forum (much like this one) on our Social Studies at AJHS website. Every week I post a new topic which I have noticed students talking about. Topics this year have included: A new flag for NZ? Who should be the next US President? We had 80 students commenting on the flag post so I can say that at this stage it appears to be working. All the teacher has to do is get students to join the forum once and the student will then be regularly updated online. I really like this initiative as it helps in building a school wide Social Studies community (rather than individual classes who rely on the teacher to ensure students engage).
The motto for Social Sciences at AJHS is Activism not Apathy and I'm hoping that our SS forum is a step in the right direction in improving youth participation in civil matters.
"…innovation floats on a sea of inquiry and curiosity is a driver for change."
Timperley, Kaser & Halbert
Thanks everyone for sharing. My name is Julie Mills and I’d like to share an initiative that has become synonymous with innovation – embedding Financial Capabilities into the curriculum.
A group of nine schools and a tertiary institution (Upper Harbour Sorted Schools Learning Community) collaborated to embed Financial Capability teaching and learning into their school curriculum. The shared practice across the sectors was definitely a critical factor in the development of new thinking, practices and resources. For more on which schools were involved and how this initiative came about, go to Innovation and Financial Capability.
The outcomes from this project are more than exciting. Students participated in Trade Shows, writing of apps, Young Enterprise Challenges, Dragon’s Dens, Caine’s Arcade Games, Boot Camps, Stock Market Challenges, technology challenges and fundraising events. Teachers involved students in planning school camps including the comparative pricing of services, budgeting and purchasing food. The Financial Capability learning experiences were all integrated into existing learning areas and programmes.
For more on how this innovative practice has come about, the details behind the programmes created, collaborative processes and creative outcomes for students, go to the full page dedicated to this story @ Innovation and Financial Capability.
School leaders will share their thinking and perspectives on innovation through this forum:
Vicky Crawford : Albany Junior High School: Vicky will share her thoughts and resources on innovation through the perspective of student engagement.
Di Cavallo: Hobsonville Point Secondary School: will discuss innovation in curriculum design and will share exemplars from the maths department.
Leisha Barnes: Upper Harbour Primary School will discuss the outcomes from a junior level and share her practice through teaching and assessment strategies that have impacted on her practice using SOLO Taxonomy
Hi, my name is Alexia Hilbertidou and I am a Y13 student at Albany Senior High School in Auckland. My school is innovative in the way it allows its Year 11-13 students one day a week (Wednesday's) to complete an Impact Project of their own choosing.
This year my Impact Project is an initiative called GirlBoss NZ. My mission is to encourage young women to dream big and consider fields in which they are under-represented such as STEM, business and governance - areas in which they can create large scale change which benefits us all. I want young women to become educated about the Third Wave of feminism and to develop strategies to overcome potential challenges. I want to tear down the pale, male and stale patriarchy of old. I want women's voices (and other under-represented groups) at the table so that policies reflect the diverse nature of our society. Yes, I'm a millennial and I'm not afraid to want, want, want!
I have been passionate about gender politics, tech, leadership and entrepreneurship since I was 14. At that age, I was the only girl at my school's first Tech Team meeting. When I was 16 I was the only girl in my year level taking Digital Technology. And this year, at age 17, I am the only girl in my year level taking Physics for Engineering (Advanced Physics.) These years have allowed time for reflection and to consider why so many girls are discouraged from STEM fields. I believe it is due to: a lack of women role models; lack of community and support (in a male dominated area); and misconceptions of difficulty.
On the GirlBoss website, you can see some of the initiatives we have set up to start addressing these challenges, including GirlBoss PODS at other school's, regular facebook updates linking to relevant news and events, and a conference featuring inspirational NZ women such as Jacinda Adern, Theresa Gattung, Michelle Dickinson and Mimi Gilmour.
I am excited to be able to work on something that I am so passionate about and which I feel can make a massive difference to the lives of thousands of high-school young women.
If you or your students are interested in attending our upcoming conference at AUT in Auckland please follow this link The Third Wave conference.
I am so grateful to my school leaders for allowing space in the curriculum for students to create innovative projects like these. The skills I am gaining are invaluable and I am so lucky to have a secure environment in which to learn and develop.
Wow Alexia, THANK YOU so much for sharing, actually thank you for more than that! Thank you for being brave to fight the pale, male and stale (I love this), and for having the vision to be such a strong, influential role model.
Your drive and capacity to be so forward-thinking is going to hold you in good stead in a world full of changing roles and expectations. This is even more important; as technology and robotics rise the predictions are that women will be the most disadvantaged in the workforce. As quoted in
Robots Will Replace 5 Million Workers By 2020: Report,
Women will be the biggest losers as their jobs are often concentrated in low-growth or declining areas such as sales, office and administrative roles, the report said.
While men will see approximately one job gained for every three lost over the next five years, women face more than five jobs lost for every one gained.
How refreshing and exciting to have young people like yourself, proactively raising awareness for the potential of young women to succeed. Congratulations to your school for providing an opportunity (time) to create moments of 'impact', and no doubt thanks should also be given to your parents - for their support ‘behind the scenes’.
I’ll be sharing your web links and up-coming Third Wave conference (only $5) as well. Good luck with your endeavours Alexia.
Image source YouTube
It was great to see Tessa referencing the World Economic Report, and its focus on the implications of technology on the future workforce. I was so inspired by the articles and information which I read about this issue that I wrote a Social Studies Unit which all of my 500+ Year 9 and Year 10 students at Albany Junior High are currently working on. It is called "2025: Will a robot steal my job?" and it brings together careers education, social science and technology just beautifully.
Our students and teachers have been fully engaged in comparing and contrasting jobs today with 2025; identifying skills which will remain relevant - creativity, decision making, negotiation ...; looking back at the impact of industrialisation in the 1800's; and exploring the positive and negative potential consequences of the Fourth stage of Industrialisation in which we are now living.
I will attach the unit and assessment tasks here and hopefully others might want to play with it for their own classes or share it with their Careers advisors. We need to educate students about how they might package themselves in an increasingly short term, contractual workplace in which they will be competing on a global scale. We need to encourage them to look forward rather than back (at what their elders did) and to be aware of the impact of their choices on their future prosperity, lifestyle and opportunity.
In her post above Alexia Hilbertidou shares how she has set about to encourage young women to become empowered in 'under-represented areas such as STEM, business and governance.' Come and find out what innovation looks like when it’s student-driven and motivated to meet the needs of young women in education. REGISTER NOW to meet Alexia and her mum tomorrow in, LIVE WEBINAR: Innovation in your school, 3.45pm, 30 November.
Just to elaborate on STEM...
STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It is a multidisciplinary way of looking at curriculum with the understanding these form a sound basis for learning and…with the high-tech era fuelling job growth in STEM areas, more and more, a degree (or equivalent) is seen as the minimum requirement to enter the workforce.” So why the STEM push?
Our country (and the world’s) economies revolve around maths - accounting, economics, etc. Advancements and developments in science, technology, and medicine are rapidly evolving, therefore building a solid STEM foundation through a well-rounded curriculum is the best way to ensure that students are exposed to math, science, and technology throughout their educational career. https://teach.com/what/teachers-know/stem-education/
The Ministry of education is implementing a number of initiatives to help promote STEM subjects in schools (SNUP, N4L, Communities of Learning, A Nation of Curious Minds – He Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara because;
As demands for innovative thinkers and STEM specialists increase, so does the need for initiatives such as the ones in place already to encourage and support students and educators in these fields. So why the STEM push?
For all those who missed it, Alexia's webinar presentation yesterday was very inspirational. For a group of young women to have this much vision, passion and energy to grow an important project like this across NZ is truly inspiring. View the following recording and find out more about GirlBossNZ and the push to help girls into more areas of STEM education and careers in New Zealand.
Why girls? Because as Alexia shared, if all we see in the sciences, engineering, maths, technology, gaming, coding, social media fields is men - then, "We cannot be what we cannot see."
Webinar: What does innovation look like in your school? (11/2016). Part of this thread: FORUM: What does innovation look like in your school? | An Enabling e-Learning event Please view, feel free to spread the word to others and provide feedback on this event.
In a hurry to see more? Then why not watch this Youtube clip of Alexia's presentation to the Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka Awards where she was a finalist.
Thanks again Alexia Hilbertidou for sharing and good luck with those lofty goals. We'll be watching in anticipation.
Hi Vicky this is AWESOME - i will send it to my extensin and Gifted and talented and science groups at school - thank you very much for the post initiative and ideas
For me innovation is about being courageous and taking risks. It is about re-framing ideas and pushing the boundaries.
Interestingly enough being in a new school this year has stumped my innovation a little. I have had to find the baseline, the status quo, the flow (or quite simply where the cups are in the staffroom) before I was even in a place to think about innovation. I'm in that place now.
Our school has been doing some PD on maths which has completely flipped some ideas around teaching and learning for everyone involved. I am most thankful for the opportunity to take these new ideas and try them out in a way that makes sense to me. I am allowed to fail and I am allowed to dream. Innovation requires a safe and supportive culture of practice that includes constant reflection and communication. As a staff we "get it" so our next step is how do we communicate these new ideas to our whānau?
I am very much like you. I moved from a single cell class where I believe I was very innovative in terms of the things that were happening in my classroom. Being in a smaller rural school PD at times was limited, through my own desire to continue to grow and learn, through my own PD and my networking I found things to try and explore.
It was through a trip down to Wellington with a group of principals that my eyes were opened wider into what was happening and the changes that were being made to the way in which educators were teaching our students. ILE's, greater student agency, greater engagement from the students were things that really grabbed me and on reflection I was only just skimming the surfaces in my classroom, somethings I hadn't even thought of.
I decided to make a change, and was appointed a job in a school where they had made the move into ILE's. I was in a class with 55 students and 2 teachers. At first it was quite overwhelming, I was simply trying to tread water as I learnt how the school ran, built relationships with my new staff, students and community. I too feel as though my innovation has been stumped a little, as I too find the baseline, the status quo, the flow in which the way my new school worked. The big challenge was being new to the way of teaching as well as being new to the leadership team. I was in awe of the new things I was part of, the new PD/readings I was being opened up to. It was exciting yet daunting all at the same time.
I have never done quite as much professional readings as I have in the last 8 months and I absolutely love it. I am in an environment where learning is valued and taking risks is part of the job. We are well supported when it comes to trying something new, if it doesn't quite work the way we thought it did then we use it as a learning opportunity and ask why/why not? what could we change? If it worked then the success is celebrated.
Innovation is thinking outside the box, having the child at the heart of the matter. Being in at ILE we certainly have had to look at different systems we have in place to ensure we are meeting the needs of all of our students and that every student is held accountable. Through pushing the boundaries in terms of student agency, we have been able to see greater attendance, greater engagement and greater enjoyment not only for our students but for our staff as well as they see the joy in the students faces as they explore, persist and engage in the learning journey.
Thanks for sharing your story! It's amazing what we can accomplish when we put ourselves in situations that we know will stretch and challenge us.
I wonder if you could expand a bit on the statement, "through pushing the boundaries in terms of student agency"? What did you do? What led to the greater attendance, engagement and enjoyment?
Wow this is the first reply I have had to a post I have written. I must admit I have seen as quite daunting posting my ideas, but I guess the more you do it the easier it becomes!
We have really pushed our kids in terms of knowing exactly where they are at and what they are working on to make progress, their next steps. We have progressions written in kids speak but we have also broken them down further so they truly understand what is means. Students set small achievable goals that they work on over a 2/3 week period (longer or shorter if need be). A small goal maybe 'to write complex sentences', first of all they find out what they are and how you write them, we then identify good examples in their reading and they begin to identify them when they are writing them. This can be used in any genre at any time. Through doing this our students at no matter what level, are achieving success on a regular basis. They are able to see the progress they are making.
We also use Student Directed Learning SDL on a regular basis. this is where the students (after spending a lot of time in term one learning how the brain works, and learning about the different learning styles) plan their own day, using must do's and can do's (or something along those lines). The place just hums when the students are part of this. We have the high self managers mentoring the students who know that self managing themselves is a work on. The students plan for when they will meet and work in their groups, when they will attend workshops, time to korero with their mentor/mentee.
Students are not afraid to ask for help, they will quite regularly request workshops for a skill or knowledge that they are not quite sure of. When we first started with workshops they were just held by the two classroom teachers. Then other students started to ask if they could hold the workshop as they knew the skill. This blew us away; the students who attended the student workshops respected their 'teacher' they listened and they learnt. We now have 57 teachers in our class and we are all seen as learners.
We also use motivators such as new events or videos to help set a maths problem or as a writing starter. Some of these motivators have lead to student inquiries. We have started to use mixed ability grouping a lot exposing students to all levels of problems.This has also helped the students to identify what they need help with, having them request a workshop if they want to know more. The people we have used to help develop and create a maths programme with greater student agency are Jo Bolar and Dan Meyer.
Thanks for sharing further Nikki! I really think this might help others who are looking for ways to develop agency in their students. Totally love that your students have chosen to step up and offer workshops.
We now have 57 teachers in our class and we are all seen as learners.
That statement really excites me!
I must admit I have seen as quite daunting posting my ideas, but I guess the more you do it the easier it becomes!
So, just to encourage you a bit further (I hope!), I wonder, now that you're experiencing this level of student agency, what your next steps are to develop it further? Or perhaps what your students next steps are, if they've already got further ideas they would like to implement?
Kia ora Leanne,
Great to hear your reflection on starting in a new school and working in a collaborative environment. I have recently started at a new school and we are currently putting together our collaborative teams and through much professional reading and rich discussion it is interesting to see the differences in the practices and perceptions of 'innovation' and what this can/does/will look like in our kura. I came across this blog post today on twitter (a great collaborative workspace!) discussing how to be a 'Reimagineer' in your learning area and beyond. The blog points out the brightspots and challenges of working collaboratively and poses some good questions for us to think about as we undertake this adventure.
Innovation in my current kura is going to be through collaborative teams of 2-4 teachers delivering 3 decent blocks of learning per day in a learner centred environment. I am looking forward to learner agency being at the forefront of everything we do in our kura. I am also mindful of the depth we need to encourage in our learners how do we ensure they go deep with their learning? More reading to do here I suspect!
I agree with Leanne
Innovation is failing early failing often, and failing spectacularly - and learning from every failure to be better, smarter, wiser - This is what we are doing with digital innovation and BYOD at WHS in Science this year - Innovation is Easter Saturday morning with a paddling pool of water and talc students studying waves or rigging up a blowtorch to test flames and sound late in the evening over easter, Innovation is the halls alive with students debating and arguing moots while the rest of the town slumbers through easter dawns. Innovation is girls with vicky crawford making a better future for all women and all girls - innovation is the anzac folders in the POND and the short courses to teach students the Art of War and the War of Art.
Innovation is what we do when we think outside the square the box, the job description and rediscover and invent the best ways to teach ourselves and our students in a community of scholars. innovation is disruptive, difficult and demanding. We rely on our colleagues partners and schools to help and support us in these endeavours and its wonderful when this happens too.
A few thoughts on "innovation" in schools
Aorere College students completing homework 200m from a traditional classroom
Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking more and more about the distinction between mere change and substitution, and true innovation.
The further Aorere College travels on its digital and modern learning journey (aoreredigital.com), the more I see the importance of people, pedagogy and then devices being the priorities. Often innovation does not have to be something completely new to a school. More effectively (arguably), successful and sustainable innovation comes from the spreading of a pre-existing initiative or strategy that has kept quiet for too long by one or two individuals! In every school, we have the "nutty professors", those that have a fear of failure but an even greater desire to succeed, to innovate for themselves and primarily their students.
For innovation to really take flight in schools, it takes teams but also a degree of arrogance that "this will work, no matter what." People tend to quickly dismiss something innovative and dismiss it immediately not because they believe it won't work but in my opinion, because it just might. Teachers en masse tend to practice somewhat conservatively in the classroom context. It is often isolating and indeed lonely being someone who feels the need to innovate and sees the future now but is not surrounded by like-minded people. Considering we are only a country of approximately 4 1/2 million people, for an innovator to survive in isolation is not tenable long-term. It is almost as if we need actual positions in schools aka Specialist Classroom Teachers, titled "innovators" or our school term "nutty professors"
Innovation must also be preoccupied with the thinking and doing journey over the destination, the "how" and "why" as much as the "what". If teachers accept that they have no real option of not being part of the innovation journey and that the destination is now no longer the priority, schools will become innovation hubs and a greatly improved context for innovators to not just survive, but thrive as well.
Not every teacher has to be an outrageous high risk-taking daredevil. However, what is now essential for teachers to stay relevant in 2016 and beyond is that their learning space must be considerate and open to innovation. Even if the teachers don't bring it, our no-fear students certainly; something I increasingly enjoy, look forward to whole-heartedly embrace.
Hi Stuart, your post is inspiring and a 'wero' or challenge for leaders to become strategic in the way they nudge and nurture teachers to become more innovative in their practice - so that it's the 'norm' rather than the isolated instances of something amazing.
As a parent, I think this is important too - otherwise it's a hit and miss game if your child will ever experience some truly magic learning experiences - like everyone else has shared in this forum so far.
This little video shared by Roger Sommerville is a wonderful representation of how to achieve that 'tipping point' you've touched on Stuart.
Hi Stuart and Tessa, thank you for sharing these ideas. I like this clip too as it captured something I'm trying to think about in leading some change with our staff. I particularly liked the part about using the people who have recently adopted the new idea to model for other teachers so that it doesn't become the message of one person but the "whole choir!".
Thanks Tessa and Roger for sharing this clip. It sums up a lot of the struggle we are having in our school with getting people to embrace the use of technology and in fact, innovation in general. I have fallen into the trap of trying to work too hard and too long with those on the third carriage and this only leads to either burnout or frustration! To counteract this, I also spend time with those early adopters in the front carriage, as they keep me sane, but know deep down that this isn't helping bring the others on board. My aim now is to concentrate on those in the middle carriage and see how many I can encourage to take a risk, trust me and eventually move towards the front of the train.
With ILEs looking like they are going to become a reality in our school in the not too distant future (we have property upgrades to do), our focus on innovation has been primarily on the pedagogy associated with working collaboratively and in innovative ways, with a minor focus on the use of technology. We have begun this journey through teachers working to their strengths, flexible groupings within and across classes, student and teacher inquiry, promoting self-managing and growth mindsets within students. We have also visited numerous other schools who are all at various stages of the move towards ILEs and have picked up both things we like and things we don't like. It is an interesting journey!
While I like simplification, I think this is probably going a little to simple.
The best model is one many of us will have encountered - Roger's diffusion of innovation model. It plots the different stages of adoption, looks at total level of uptake and indicates that you will need 4 cycles of adoption (on average) to bring on board innovation. How many of our initiatives are planned around 4-5 cycles of training and adoption.
The diffusion of change matches loosely the changes we would expect in uptake of innovation. Roger’s identified 5 different types of individual adopters, each of whom have different characteristic but are representative of the work force in most organisations.
Innovators – also known as mavericks. These are the risk takers who will experiment with change to better there teaching. They are self motivated. They are approximately 2.5% of the teaching staff
Early adopters – these people watch the mavericks and are quick to adopt strategies and approaches that they have seen work. Again these staff are self motivated. These are the opinion leaders. They spread the positive or negative opinion of the innovation. In many ways this is the critical group to bring onboard as they have the greatest degree of influence. This is approximately 13.5% of the staff
Early Majority – This group will adopt new innovation once it has been seen to work. They are about 34% of the staff. Often they will need some encouragement to adopt innovation.
Late Majority – this group also represents about 34% of the staff. They are often skeptical of the change, and will reluctantly come onboard after the majority of the staff adopt the changes.
Laggards – this final group representing about 16% of change are change adverse. If not compelled to change, this group will prefer to stick to traditional approaches. Adoption for this group is often tokenistic or compliance based and given an opportunity they will revert or find reasons not to adopt the innovation.
img alt="Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/11/Diffusion_of_ideas.svg/2000px-Diffusion_of_ideas.svg.png" height="750" src="https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/11/Diffusion_of_ideas.svg/2000px-Diffusion_of_ideas.svg.png" style="width: 1000px; height: 750px; " width="1000">
Andrew, thanks for this model. It certainly reflects the school I have taught in. I think this would be a very effective model to plan strategically when leading change. I wonder if this also applies to the school community who often critique a school on what they know from their experience? This model would be a powerful tool in planning strategically to introduce change but also a way to support the Laggards, maybe through tuakana teina like we do with the leaders in our class!
Stephen Eames - Assistant Principal at Raroa Normal Intermediate
Is innovation largely due to influence?
Thank you for the posts so far - Thanks Nathaniel for pointing me in the direction of this discussion. - Sparked some pondering.
- Is ‘Influence’ the driver of innovation in schools.
Who is influencing you to be innovative?
If we are to be truly innovative, we need to be in an environment where innovation is encouraged / fostered. The people we work with should be the people we are getting the most inspiration and motivation from, (including student). So that we can: innovate, try new things, experiment and look for opportunities to enhance learning potential.
Teaching and Learning Partnerships
I am extremely lucky to be working with and within a number of Teaching Learning Partnerships this year. These have been extremely influential and have definitely encouraged me to push the boundaries, try new things and ‘innovate’ - Sharing, discussing and even the occasional argument (creative abrasion). We are continually looking for opportunities to ‘amplify learning’
We are also continually influenced by others, through readings, networking, involvement in online discussions, inquiry, edchats ect. As we look for ideas
Thanks for the opportunity to reflect.