Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Innovation starts in the classroom

On Sunday night I PVR’d the GRAMMYs hoping to skip thru all the meaningless commercials to get to the best part of the show - the performances. Aside from the killer Bob Marley tribute (big shout out to Sting and Bruno Mars), the defining moment of the evening was the announcement of an award to honor music teachers – the GRAMMY’s Music Educator Award

Presenter Ryan Seacrest expressed that, “For every GRAMMY winner on this stage tonight, there are thousands of great music educators working behind the scenes to provide the inspiration, the passion, and the skills our young musicians need.” I agree – innovation and creativity begin in the classroom thru collaboration and empowering our students to think big.

For me, that teacher was Terry English – a bold no nonsense  educator who had a love of music. I was about to go on stagein front of my classmates to do my “thing” when she stopped me and said, “If Willie Nelson can do it, so can you!”  While Willie might not be your cup of tea, he has a loyal following and continues to be successful - which is more than you can say for Billy Bob Thornton who opened for Willie in 2009 and barely made it through his set based on his interview on Q with Jian Ghomeshi (Watch Billy blow it) Lessoned learned, be polite and gracious you never know when it might come back to bite you. Secondly, not everyone will like your idea the first time out –  failure can be followed by thought provoking breakthroughs for those that are patient enough to innovate and learn by their mistakes  – see Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln. To learn about Willie Wonka's take on innovation see my previous blog post

Recently Desire2Learn held a one day Thought Leadership event called Mobilize. The conversation was focused around learning, sharing, collaboration, and proved to be a great opportunity to connect teachers with industry leaders – students with potential employers and provided partners an opportunity to showcase innovation. You can view some top notch speakers / highlights here: Reflecting on this event, I learned that student crave a personalized learning experience such as a hands on demo that they can engage with while others appreciated a highly heated debated about social learning and a lecture on bring your own device. What are we doing to allow for personalized learning in our schools? Are we allowing students to learn on their terms?  View a lecture on the bus? Share digital notes with their classmates?

In Cathie Norris’s and Elliot Soloway’s  blogpost Mobile Learning: It's Not Just About theKids; It's Also About the Teachers! – they stress the opportunity to have impact on student achievement. “Pedagogically meaningful apps need to be developed; no question about it. But if we don't equip a teacher with curricular-based lessons that use the apps--in interesting and provocative ways, and if we don't make the software environment teacher-friendly, then the impact on student achievement that we know is possible--will not be realized. We can't waste this opportunity or our teachers' valuable time!!”

How are we encouraging more teachers to take advantage of technology in the classroom?
Are we offering adequate training for instructors?
How do we make learning technology fun and engaging for both the student and instructor?

Big Stat :65percent of today’s grade-school kids will end up at jobs that haven’t been created yet.

Recently we posted an invitation to Ontario based teachers to explore the possible:  How do we prepare our children for their careers and equip them with that rights tools and knowledge they might need in the future? eCampus News reports that according to “Futurework: Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century many jobs haven't been created. How do you prepare to send man/woman to Mars with all the unknowns? You prepare the best you can, take calculated risks and improvise.

We are fortunate in our region to have world class teachers (thumbs up Lisa McEwen and Andrew Bieronski) that inspire our children to think outside the box, encourage us to build something that matters and engage in authentic learning opportunities that enrich our youth. Best of all, we have pillars in our community that lead by example and are driven by a mission of life-long learning (John Baker) and are never satisfied with what has been done – because we can do better.

Do you have any teachers / mentors that have inspired you?  Do you know someone at work who pushes you to do your best work? Is there someone that you can lift up and encourage?

Innovation starts in the classroom, at home, at play and at work – what are you doing to feed the fire?

Share your ideas and thoughts on innovation.


  1. A teacher is quite influential in this way... What I learned pretty quickly as a teacher was to tell my kids what they were good at -- and be honest. Seriously, how often does someone tell you what you're good at? Feels pretty awesome. And keeps you motivated to work harder, take more risks, and do, well, what you're good at.

  2. Throughout human evolution, people have by their very nature been inclined to be innovators in their environment, inquisitive in what they see, intuitive in what they feel, exploratory in what they don’t know, and certainly leaders in carrying the torch down roads less travelled. It's our role as peers, parents, teachers, institutions, and employers to ensure that we don't dilute these still imperative lessons within today’s learning environments. Labeling all learners with the same product SKU, squeezing more kids into a classroom, and having them simply memorize something are all surely efficiency wins – but nothing more. The business side of schools will continue to make tough decisions that allow them to remain accountable for their increasingly ridged fiscal spend – and they should. This doesn’t, however, mean that schools can’t ramp up the need to better drive student innovation, to foster growth, and to in fact make it both more effective and efficient…skills every business, every family, and every individual seek every single day. So here’s the good news: Today's advancements (and decreasing costs) in technology are allowing educators to do just these things - to no longer just inspire students to iterate but to once again allow them to innovate. Early LMS adopters are already singing the praises of blended learning, letting individuals learn the way they learn best, raise a digital hand or even interact via real time virtual class voting that identifies whether a teacher explained a math principle effectively – before it’s too late. And that’s just the day to day. What’s further inspiring is how today’s LMS systems deliver large amounts of data that can provide predictive insights into each individual student, helping them to become a better learner and ultimately a better person. There’s also equal value to the teacher here as well – enhanced student collaboration, being able to spend more 'quality' time with their classes, and quantifiably analyzing the quality of assessments they are providing list a mere few of the abilitites at their fingertips. The tools that now exist are incredibly innovative, and those in their formative first 25 years are probably the most exploratory group we know. Coupling the two together isn’t just of intuitive logic but to me of deep necessity. Good teaching and inspiring innovation is no doubt an investment, but more alarming is that underdevelopment is a mere a societal cost.