Jumping on the Innovation in Education Bandwagon

“Innovation” by Thomas Hawk is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Our school’s leadership team is reading Tony Wagner’s book “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World” as we grapple with what innovation looks like in schools. (You can follow our discussion on Twitter – #gradedllt) I highly recommend Wagner’s book along with Suzie Boss’s book “Bringing Innovation to School: Empowering Students to Thrive in a Changing World”. It’s extremely easy to find definitions on innovation that we can all agree on. The really difficult step is to change practices to become innovative. I recently attended a conference where the word, “Innovation” was overused and mis-used. I went to one presentation where the presenter was convinced that his school had been innovative by adopting a program that has been around for 40 years. The new program changed their culture but it certainly wasn’t something that was innovative to the world of education.

“Innovation may then be defined as the process of having original ideas and insights that have value, and then implementing them so that they are accepted and used by significant numbers of people. By this definition, a major innovation is one that is so successful that soon after its introduction few people can even remember what life was like before the innovation was introduced.” Rick Miller, President Olin College

“creative problem solving.” She said, “Problem solving without the creative element is not truly innovative.” And creativity that is not applied to real world problems cannot be considered innovation either. Innovation is our lifeblood at P&G—but not just innovation for its own sake. It’s about taking real needs and creating a bridge to a solution.” Ellen Bowman

Our question is, “What is innovation at Graded?”  My thinking has gone in two different directions lately.

  1. What are we doing at Graded that is innovative?
  2. How are we cultivating innovators?

Since our Core Values state, “Learners at Graded strive to be Innovative: They engage in creative and imaginative thinking that enables them to extend their learning in original and insightful ways.”  I’ve been focusing on #2.

Montessori schools have been cultivating innovators for over 100 years.

“Maria Montessori has a posse yes she does” by cho girl is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When you ask someone to list the schools that they consider innovative, how often do Montessori schools make the list?

What do you suppose the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin; Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos; Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales; Julia Child; and rapper Sean “P. Diddy” Combs all have in common? Gregersen’s research, cited earlier, uncovered an extraordinary commonality among some of the most innovative individuals: they all went to Montessori schools, where they learned through play. (Wagner, pp27-28)

If you consider Wagner’s characteristics of a learning culture that cultivates innovators, you can see why Montessori schools most definitely should be on your list.

  • collaboration
  • multidisciplinary learning
  • thoughtful risk-taking, trial and error
  • creating
  • intrinsic motivation: play, passion, and purpose (Wagner p. 200)

I’m currently a participant in the Deeper Learning MOOC (#DLMOOC) which is organized by High Tech High and supported by a number of organizations. One of which is Expeditionary Learning Schools. I don’t know much about EL Schools other than I have worked with several educators who once were involved in the organization. I’ve frequently heard from them that, “The EL schools organization, and their schools, aren’t what I would call innovative.” If you look at their website you find no mention of innovation in the “Our Approach”section,  yet, it’s easy to argue that EL schools provide students with the type of environment that Wagner has defined.

Maybe a truly innovative school focuses on answering both questions.

“What are we doing that is innovative and how are we cultivating innovators?


Exploring Passions = Maracuja Time for 4th Graders

Passion Fruit = Maracuja

The word for passion fruit in Portuguese is Maracuja. Here is Brazil the fruit is eaten fresh, in a mousse or in Caipirinhas. This is also the name that our 4th grade teachers chose to name the 1 hour per week that their students unstructured time to explore. Below is the note that the teachers sent out to parents. This is just one of the ideas that came from our Innovate 2013 Conference.

Earlier this month, Graded had the privilege of hosting the Innovate 2013 Conference. It was a time where teachers from around the world were welcome to engage in discussions about the changes that are happening in education today. One result of the conference is that we, the 4th grade team, inspired by companies like Google and 3M became excited about being innovators in our own field. These companies have given their employees time set aside to do something they are passionate about and eventually share it with the company.

In that spirit, the 4th grade team is proud to announce the opening of our MARACUJA Time, on Wednesdays from 1:25-2:25! This time will be dedicated for students to explore and create based on something they are passionate about. We would like to welcome you to our Maracuja Time on any Wednesday that you are available as there are no appointments needed. If you are curious about what students are doing or are interested in supporting the discovery process, the door is certainly open for you. You can begin conversations with your child at home about what inspires them. Ask them, “What is something that sticks to you? What are you most passionate about? Is there something you always wish you had the time to learn about?”.

Students will document their progress weekly in order to track their growth and thinking. At the end of each quarter students will present their learning.
In order to guide our process we will follow the ICT standards of:

– apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas products or products

    –  create original works as a means of personal or group expression

    – communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats

We are looking forward to where our students will take us.

Caipirinha de Maracuja