I am beginning to read The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros. It’s been on my reading list for some time; however, Couros has begun a second round of his MOOC which uses this book as the text, so the incentive to join in the conversation has met a point of opportunity.
After working through the introduction and the first chapter, I’m hooked. Couros introduces the idea of innovation in education as what we should be doing in order to break free from the traditional, factory-based learning models and pursue learning as a genuine skill to hone and cultivate as a pedagogical priority, a change of direction I fully embrace. Yesterday’s model of educating a child is antiquated; yet, we as an industry seem lost in the cycle that this model precipitates. Couros presents a new track for us to consider with precision and a sense of urgency. Granted, it’s not breaking any barriers or introducing a silver bullet; he is writing about what many (myself included) have been thinking for some time. The linear-based curriculum model needs a refresh, and innovation must remain the core of this change.
Couros describes innovation as “a way of thinking that creates something new and better” (note that I’m reading this book via Kindle, so I don’t have page numbers to cite). He dives into the definition further by referencing the words of Katie Martin from the University of San Diego Mobile Technology Learning Center. Martin states that educators don’t necessarily need to be transformational (as this is not making “new and better”); however, a classroom leader should always seek ways to provide the optimal learning experience for his or her students. In today’s classroom, that usually means employing a new technology or digital application. However, he does not mean to replace a current system with a high-tech option as a solution. As the SAMR Model suggests, Couros is decidedly advocating for disruption in the way we do things in the classroom so that students can learn better.
I greatly appreciate the angle that Couros takes from the very beginning of his introduction. In order to foster innovation in our students, we must first learn to be innovative classroom leaders. As an administrator, I must make time for the teachers who work in my division to grow as educators. It just so happens that I have introduced the “FedEx Day” concept to the middle school teachers this past week. In essence, I want them to pursue something innovative that will make them a better teacher (see a film, start a course, visit a school, etc.). I will teach their class while they are away researching their idea. Upon returning to school, my hope is that they have found something of the disruptive ilk. I want them to bring new and exciting into the classroom. As Couros states, if a student leaves a course without further questions or curiosity about the topic he or she experienced, then the teacher has not done adequate work throughout the school year. Asking tough questions about “how we do business” is the first step:
- What is a student more likely to need: knowledge on how to write an essay or a blog post? (This one is from the book.)
- What is more relevant: naming all the parts of a machine or knowing how to take it apart and put it back together?
- What is more pressing: knowing the difference between Impressionism and Cubism, or being able to speak eloquently and in detail about a piece of art and its impact?
- What provides the most long-term value: comparing and contrasting two historic battles in history, or presenting ideas on what war teaches us about intention versus perception as as it relates in a student’s everyday decisions?
I don’t have all of the answers. In fact some of the questions written above flirt with a “need part A to do part B” design, though I would consider them mutually exclusive and therefore separate tracks of teaching. As I reflect and gather information from the MOOC and the text, I like where this conversation is going and where I hope it will teach me to lead my division.