Saturday, March 4, 2017

Innovation is essential: #IMMOOC week 1

This is the first in a series of posts for the Innovator's Mindset MOOC. I looked like a bobblehead as I read the introduction to The Innovator's Mindset because I was nodding appreciatively to nearly every sentence. It looks like it will be a great book, and there is still time to join the free MOOC if you are interested.

Image courtesy of
The purpose of education is to build kids into learners and intelligent consumers of information that can adapt to any situation. Our world is constantly changing. Many of the kids I teach will end up working in careers that don’t exist today. When we work to inspire a zeal for learning and help our students develop the tools to evaluate information, connect it to things they already know, and use mistakes to further their learning, we prepare them for whatever their future holds.
This was the last thing I wrote before picking up The Innovator's Mindset. Even though it doesn't contain the word innovation, it goes hand in hand with our purpose as educators. When the world changes, schools cannot be stagnant, nor can we expect them to be the sole source of our children's education. Giving students the tools to go on and self-educate requires us to be flexible. We need to adapt to our students' needs like we have always done, but we also have to take into account how our kids can use all of the resources available to meet their needs when they aren't in our classrooms. George Couros makes a great point about how we approach new tools in school in the Introduction to The Innovator's Mindset.
Think about it: we have the world at our fingertips. the ability to connect and create with people around the globe through so many different mediums. Yet what do most schools focus on when talking about technology? "Cyberbullying" and "digital safety." Yes, these are important concepts that should be discussed, but we need to go way beyond that. We are spending so much time telling our students about what they can't do  that we have lost focus on what we can do. (pg. 6-7)
Innovation is all about finding out what you and your students can do. There is absolutely a need to set boundaries, but we can't let them get in the way of the learning our students can do. One of my favorite lessons each year is figuring out the total number of gifts in "The Twelve Days of Christmas." I give my students just enough information to get started and then I get out of their way. They always impress me with the wide variety of strategies they use to figure out the answer. A couple years ago, I extended on this activity by asking them to figure out the approximate cost of the gifts in the 12 Days of Christmas. Since I didn't want my students to find the answer from the Christmas Price Index and I understood that some interpretations of "nine ladies dancing" might be school inappropriate, I gave them a list of sites to use for prices. After working on it for two days, I could see my students were bored and going through the motions without learning much. My fear of inappropriate content and desire to keep students from a readily-available answer cost us a chance for innovation. This year we explored the Christmas Price Index and students created lists of their own modern and extravagant 12 Days of Christmas. They were motivated, they explored, and the project was a success because it was an actual project, not an exercise with one correct answer.

I'd keep the Little Free
Library, but move it outside
One of this week's blog prompts was to share things to include (and leave out) if given the opportunity to develop a school from the ground up. If I were creating my own elementary school, I would begin with an environment where students felt safe and cared about. I am lucky to teach in a school that excels at this, and I think it is the foundation for success in elementary. As a result, I wouldn't change much from the current model of students in classrooms where they can work together with a teacher to build a community of trust, respect, and enthusiasm for learning. I would also continue to give students time with specialists in the arts and physical education. In fact, I would love students to have more time with these specialists and with a librarian who helps instill a love of books and reading.

My changes would be in the curriculum and how students share their work. Students need opportunities to use their curiosity. Every classroom would embrace curiosity projects or genius hour and give students time within the school day to explore their own interests. Not only does this give students the opportunity to bring what matters to them into the classroom, it provides real opportunities for them to practice the reading and writing skills they learn. Math instruction would include more problems with multiple answers and paths to get there. Students need opportunities to wrestle with ambiguity and develop their own problem-solving ideas rather than parroting back algorithms and defined steps for problem-solving.

The gallery at Mobius Spokane's previous location
looks like the perfect school museum space
The biggest difference between my school and most current schools would be a focus on sharing student work. I've always dreamed of having a school with an on-site museum that was open to the public outside of school hours. It would feature student-created exhibits of all kinds: art, history displays, interactive exhibits, video, and more in addition to temporary hands-on exhibits borrowed from other museums. There would also be a flexible performance space where students could present coffeehouse nights, stage plays and concerts, and hold town hall meetings. In addition to these opportunities to physically share their work with our immediate community, students would be able to share worldwide by posting work online and frequent communication with students in other places.

My school would challenge students, nurture their curiosity, and give them opportunities to engage in rich dialogue about their learning with others. I picture it as a place where students truly get to innovate as they get to use the things they learn to solve problems and make their own creations.

I had to share my #IMMOOC 
selfie here, too!
This is only a fraction of the thoughts in my head at the end of the first week of #IMMOOC. I can't wait to see where it goes from here!

1 comment:

  1. "schools cannot be stagnant, nor can we expect them to be the sole source of our children's education. Giving students the tools to go on and self-educate requires us to be flexible." How true this is! As our school moves toward personalized learning, I often find that my high school students need access to experts in specific fields. How ridiculous to think that we can be the primary source of information. It is exciting when students can teach me about what they are passionate about.