If we’re going to improve student achievement, we have to embrace innovation and the sometimes-radical techniques and outside-the-box approaches to teaching. Innovation is happening every day in classrooms around the world, but the ideas overwhelmingly are locked inside one classroom with one teacher. Helping educators become innovators and entrepreneurs has become a current and valuable focus of teachers, investors, education reformers, researchers, and schools globally.
I’m surprised to see that most of the problems facing our K-12 education system have taken a back seat to the economy and the turbulence of the global arena. It’s these very economic concerns and our ability to compete in an international marketplace that should be spurring us to find the most exciting and jarring changes for our public schools.
Helping educators innovate requires support in multiple ways during the incubation and growth phases. First, educators need support to convert ideas into prototypes and to receive feedback from teachers and students. New ideas need time to grow, as well as access to programs that provide financial and technical support. Second, new initiatives need to be pilot tested and then implemented in multiple sites during the launch phase. The third phase is taking the innovation to scale.
In education, history shows us that the most promising innovations address the individual student. Efforts addressing the child stem from the concept of “disrupting class.” Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn coined the term “disruptive innovation,” which refers to new ideas that change the fundamental assumptions about how learning occurs, when it occurs, and where is occurs.
Education is a local endeavor, but to make innovative change, we need leaders who understand the national and global importance of new ideas. Educators need to understand how to balance costs with change, knowing that innovative ideas are often driven by emotional energy and not just dollars. We need leaders who are not afraid to take risks in education and who want to disrupt the status quo and realize that an innovation that failures is an opportunity for learning. Our students and our country can no longer wait for change.
It is incumbent upon the investment and entrepreneur community to help create structures and environments that promote innovation. We need more effective incubators and accelerators that address the specific needs of educators. We need education policies that provide support for teachers and principals to embrace new ideas. We need to believe that this generation of educators wants to make a difference! Once we embrace change, we can begin to help educators become innovators.
- For related information, access recordings by featured organizations from the 2012 Global Education Conference strand on Tech-driven Innovation.