Saturday, January 14, 2012

Innovation--who is doing it? What if?

This Thursday's #isedchat Everyone's talking innovation. Who's doing it? and @dwillard's Schools don't innovate? Do they?comment got me thinking.

In the "no duh" category, I had a thought this morning doing what I call jogging while listening to 21st Century Learning podcasts. Derek Willard and Josie Holford (Schools are conservative entities) are right--schools don't innovate. However, people do, both individually and collaboratively. While it's tempting to point out the wildly disruptive innovations such as, well, iAnything, most innovations/inventions aren't in that category.

Instead, some schools are intentionally creating environments that foster teachers and students who innovate. They are places where questions beginning with "what if" are met with "tell me more" or "try it" instead of "no" And that, I think, makes all the difference.

Today I listened to two leaders (Brad Rathgeber, Director of the Online School for Girls and Michael Nachbar, Director of the Global Online Academy) in the world of independent online education share the stories of their schools. How did I listen? Via downloaded podcasts while doing the aforementioned "jog." Innovative? Well, the voice interview has been around for quite a while now. The medium that allowed me to listen, not quite as long.

In a similar vein, what I learned was that not everything about these schools was wildly innovative. But something about them was--in this case it was the delivery again. Do schools need to be completely redone? Nope. Is the saying "there's nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9) still true? Yep. Do these two statements mean that there's no such thing as innovation? No. It's just that it's hard to define. Innovation isn't a set thing--a new idea, uncharted territory. Instead, it is an esprit of "let's try" that can exist in even the most tradition-bound environments. If we let it.