Learners Are the Driver of Innovation in Education

One of the things that I am often asked: ” Is innovation all about technology?”  I can understand why I often receive this question because a lot of times when I am sharing some new ideas with a group, it is while I am using technology.  But my issue is that I am comfortable with technology and don’t think of it much while I am using it.  To me, technology is as much of a factor to the idea of “innovation.” is as a pencil is to writing a book.  The pencil, in this case, is a tool you can use, but it has very little to do with the ideas, nor is it the only option in the process.

Innovation in education is about doing “new and better” things, and I have argued that technology can make things worse if we are not thoughtful in the way it is used.  In a post I wrote in 2017, I wrote about some of the misconceptions regarding the idea of “Innovation in Education.” This is an excerpt from the post:

Innovation is about how you use technology. Nope…this is incorrect.  My belief is that this happens because a lot of technologies that are advertised are deemed innovative, which can be true.  But innovation is a way of thinking, not simply the way we use technology.  For example, is using a “scantron” to mark multiple choice exams innovative?  It is definitely convenient, but does this lead to better learning in the classroom?  My answer is that it could actually lead to worse learning, faster. Students do not necessarily become better learners, but better test takers. I am not about absolutes, so if you do a multiple choice exam here and there, I am fine with it, but it is not innovative.  Using a SmartBoard; innovative or doing the same thing we were doing before, just “cooler”?  There are a million ways that you can use google forms, but the ability to use “google forms” is not innovative’; it is what you do with it that creates the innovative practice in the classroom.

How we think and what we create that is better for our schools is the innovation. Technology can be a part of that process, but it is not necessary.  For example, here are some ways that we can be innovative in education in that has nothing to do with technology;

  • staff professional learning time
  • how we use spaces, modifying schedules to promote deep learning
  • shifting thinking from classroom management to classroom leadership
  • focusing on the health and wellness of our communities
  • how we use our budgets to serve the needs of our communities
  • empowering learner voice and choice in learning
  • ensuring we create opportunities for all students to be successful
  • amongst a myriad of other things within the realm of education.

None of these ideas focus on “technology,” but technology could be a part of the solution or not.  I have discussed this “process of innovation in education” often and shared the following image in “Innovate Inside the Box“:

The “process” is not about the question, “How do we use technology in innovative ways?”  That question is not a good starting point. The focus is always on helping the individual learner. Technology can be a part of that, and we can use it in transformational ways, but serving the learner will always be the driver of what we do.

Source: George Couros