I don’t remember the first three Educon conferences having a theme (certainly not the meaningless alliteration used by most educational conferences) but this time around, at the very least, the word of the year seemed to be “innovation”.
Friday night at the Franklin and at the Sunday morning session panelists were asked to reflect on the concept and the term seemed to be woven through many of the conversations during the rest of the weekend.
While many of the panelists and others at the conference offered some great insight, I’m still not sure I understand what innovation really is.
Is it unique? Or do you call anything new and unlike what we’re used to “innovation”? Can anyone who does things differently from what is considered normal be called innovative? Where is the line between being innovative and just plain nuts?
Maybe the concept is similar to that of creativity: very subjective, and the degree to which someone or something fits in the category is in the eye of the beholder.
Certainly from the people on all sides of the education reform debate we hear plenty of talk about “innovation” and “creativity” being two skills we want our students to learn, and traits we want teachers and administrators to have.
As the concept applies to education and teaching, one of the best points was made by Kathleen Cushman, author of Fires in the Mind, during the Sunday morning panel when remarked that she has trouble with term innovation since for students it looks a lot like learning.
Anyway, regardless how you define it, I can’t help but wonder if our educational system even wants to teach kids to be innovative in the first place.
Because, people we think of as being innovative will often talk about their many failures before they made the big breakthrough for which they received the recognition.
However, when it comes to school, we don’t handle failure well.
Teaching kids to be innovative would require encouraging them to experiment, try new things, many of which will fail, and then helping them learn how to recover. That is not how our cookie-cutter, test-driven system works.
So, the bottom line to all this rambling is that I still have more questions than answers when it comes to the concept of being innovative.
But I’m very sure it has little to do with what we currently think of as school.