What is innovation in education?

The term innovation is being tossed around a lot in education circles.  Many leaders are repeating the term like a battle cry, calling for teachers to innovate without explaining what this really means or why we should take on another buzzword. Why is innovation?

In my own classroom, I’ve witnessed a growing number of students who fail to engage in the academic environment around them. Too often, students see the skills that they are learning as something that only exists in class, without making any connection to the real world, or their world.  Teachers may try to demonstrate or explain relevance, but unless students can see how the skills they are learning will integrate into their lives, they may not see value in learning.  In the past, this type of student was the exception, but now we are seeing more and more students disengage and seemingly choosing to blow off their education because it doesn’t seem to integrate, and therefore doesn’t seem important.  Student engagement is a problem for many teachers, so how do we improve it?

Some teachers still get bent out of shape over the idea that we have to entertain kids while teaching. Unfortunately, it seems as though these teachers might have lost sight of the bigger picture, putting more emphasis on their content rather than on the kids they are teaching. It happens to the best of us at some point in our career, but hopefully, those teachers can be persuaded to shift perspectives.  Kids can’t learn if they are bored, but that doesn’t mean that teachers should sacrifice content.

In order to keep kids engaged in the learning process, innovation is needed in education. Innovation allows teachers to put students at the center of their focus.  Innovation is about creating learning opportunities where skills are needed, rather than teaching skills in case they ever need the skill.

Learning opportunities can be catered to student interests, allowing personalization of curriculum in a way that is impossible with traditional content delivery.  Why not let that student focus on video game design, building cars, or cosmetology?  Innovation is about shifting our goals so that we target student interests in order to provide authentic learning opportunities.

This blog series will explore how teachers and schools can make the innovation shift happen. More about personalization of curriculum will follow in future posts. To learn more about innovation, check out Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.

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