It’s about making things better!

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As I think back on tonight’s first session for #IMMOOC and consider the many, many salient points presented, I realize one prevalent theme: I am so thrilled to learn from the disruptive talents leading and following this course. And tonight, in that we are to utilize a writing prompt to reflect on the first lesson, I (as most who know me would expect) will choose the final prompt, which is basically a “free write.”

No one can tell me what to do.

But that is exactly what innovation is about, right? Diving off the cliff, eating the 64 oz steak to get a free meal, building a lesson involving a fulcrum and using humans for weights (an awesome request from our 5th grade science teacher last week) – these are all disruptive behaviors that most people would tell you 25,000 reasons why you shouldn’t  do them…yet you persist. You are paving the way. You are being innovative. So let’s reflect:

“I could think of things I’ve never thunk before…”

Scarecrow is looking for a brain and sings about hope that comes from gaining a tool that would elevate his ability to thrive in the world. He wouldn’t remain a “straw man” in the real world, but he would become something more. Now, the Wizard does grant our flame-sensitive friend his wish; however, I’d argue that he never needed it to be the man, er…scarecrow, he always was. For he was not simply Dorothy’s follower or lackey. The Scarecrow is an encourager, and courageous friend, and a devoted teammate to Dorothy as they make their way to the Emerald Palace. So he had an enormous value, even without his flashy new tool. One could argue that the gift of a brain only confirms what Scarecrow already knows: the smarts he wanted were there all along; he just needed the key to unlock the magic.

Thinking of the example above and looking at the image pasted at the top of this post, perhaps you see where I’m going with this idea. There are devices and tools that already exist in our every day repertoire. Our learning spaces are chalk full of things that are waiting for a reboot. “We don’t integrate pencils” refers to the idea that pencils don’t need a special program or system to be innovative; it’s our own creative thinking that makes the pencil the most powerful tool it can be. The image shows a stack of pencils being used in a very unique way. Quite frankly, I don’t know what they are being used for in the image. But I’m intrigued, and it makes me realize that teachers and students may have bold new designs for the objects that already exist in their learning spaces. It’s up to you and me to give them the keys that unlock the magic. They will trail and fail; failure is the first step on the way to success. So it isn’t tool-centric, but mind-centric thinking that builds innovation.

Older Could Be (but maybe isn’t really) Better

John Spencer (spencerideas.org) takes some time during the course this evening to talk about the reason behind some schools reintroducing traditional methods, such as cursive writing, into the curriculum. He asks a very good question: what is the reason for going back or hold onto this methodology? If an old-school tool is coming back to the limelight, or a traditional method is holding strong in a classroom, then before we think to ourselves, “oh, that teacher or student just isn’t being innovative,” we need to make sure we understand fully the reason behind the decision to use it. Let me be clear: I’m not saying cursive is necessary…but it may be for that teacher.

Every classroom must find a way to innovate and empower students. George Couros said it very clearly: what is innovative in one learning space may be totally unnecessary in another! First, we have to try new things (thanks, AJ Juliani). Next, we have to analyze and reflect on the value or success of the new endeavor. Perhaps there is a tool that would enhance an idea…but never let the magpie conspiracy (think: nests of flashy new things) guide your innovation.

I’m loving this conversation…it’s so real in a time of “the next best thing.” Thanks to all participating.

4 thoughts on “It’s about making things better!

  1. Thanks, Sarah. It is my hope that more teachers feel innovation is close at hand because they have a wealth of tools around them to use, not just the new and shiny ones.

  2. I rhink you hit on a key piece for the “new” classroom and it boils down to knowing the “why” behind what you are doing. If you are using cursive and can explain why it is of value, then it is meaningful. If you are using personal devices with purpose, then go for it. It is not all about the newest and best tech, approach etc, but how and why you are choosing that to meet the needs of the students in front of you.

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