Adding to My Classroom Innovation Toolkit

Adding to My Classroom Innovation Toolkit

What does a transformed and deeper learning experience look like, and how can schools move intentionally in that direction?  Last year I was honored to co-present a session at NAIS with Bo Adams in which I focused (in a general sense) on the strategic or organizational side of this coin, and Bo focused on the evolution of the classroom. I am increasingly called upon to help school teams complete the arc from a forward leaning vision to what is taking place each day amongst their (hopefully) co-learning teachers and students. In adding to my toolkit I am adopting some of the elements that Bo has adapted from The Innovator’s DNA by Dyer, Gregersen, and Christensen. The key elements that the authors prescribe to build organizational innovation DNA are:

  • Observing
  • Questioning
  • Associating
  • Experimenting
  • Networking

Not surprisingly, these five elements align closely to design thinking routines, which align closely to what I would have just called “great problem solving” in the past.  In following this guide, here are a few of the points I try to emphasize:

  • Gather and use data.  Don’t default to the easy anecdotal evidence that everyone has on the tip of their tongues. You don’t have to have a data reduction model, benchmarks, or a PhD in quantitative analysis to get started.  Remember that data are just data; they do not have the qualities of right and wrong, good and bad, high or low.  Those interpretations are up to you as you continue to gather, iterate, and refine your techniques.  Data gathering can also be highly time consuming, so be realistic and start small.
  • THE biggest failure of problem solving, in my opinion, is solving the wrong problem. We leap to solutions way too fast. Asking questions leads to understanding of the nature of problems…and only then can we move on.  Good problem solvers and innovators will ask dozens or hundreds of questions before they even begin to search for solution pathways.
  • Mapping French grammar via Chris Harte

    Mapping French grammar via Chris Harte

    We filter and start to focus by mapping, associating, grouping, “bucketing” questions and observation.  This is the starting point of effective solutions, and I love the suggestion from Ewan McIntosh in his book How to Come Up With Great Ideas to map our ideas using hexagonal rather than rectangular sticky notes as they allow much more complex and accurate relationship mapping of ideas.

  • Connected networks are cited time and time again by knowledgable authors of innovation as THE key to successful innovation. Importantly, we must connect not only with those “close” to us (other educators), but those less proximal in thought and discipline. Diversity of viewpoint, and working at the edges of multiple areas of thought and knowledge are key ingredients of innovation.

Off to Malaysia for a week to give a series of four workshops at the annual conference of the East Asian Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS); will be tweeting using #elc14.What a great way to find areas of overlapping and possibly divergent interests and insights!

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