What You Need to Be an Innovative Educator
Innovation isn't a matter of will.
Like most things worth creating, critical ingredients pre-exist the product. In the case of innovation in education, many of those necessary ingredients are simpler and more accessible than they might seem -- which is, of course, good news to an industry already up to its nostrils in oh my gosh for the kids we must have this for the kids yesterday for the kids admonishments.
Whether you're innovating a curriculum, an app, a social media platform for learning, an existing instructional strategy, or something else entirely, innovation in education is a significant catalyst for change in education.
If our data is correct, you're probably a teacher.
And if you're a teacher, you're probably interested in innovation in the classroom, so let's start there -- with project-based learning, for example.
Project-based learning is an example of innovation, but probably not the way you'd expect. While learning through projects is indeed innovative compared to sit-and-get, drill-and-kill, teacher-led and textbook-sourced instruction, PBL's primary innovation is probably its flexibility. There's almost no other learning trend or innovation than can not only co-exist with PBL, but also fit seamlessly and entirely within it.
PBL promotes innovation in education by making room for it.
But creating that innovation -- what does that require? What kinds of ingredients can you put into the tin, shake up, and end up with innovation?
1. Sense of Priority
First and foremost, there needs to be a sense of priority. What's most important? What must the students learn? What must we use? What must we achieve?
And note that priority here doesn't mean "rhetorical hyperbole." Real priority requires a kind of honesty that can look at a giant list of academic standards and say, "Yeah, but . . ."
Innovation requires that kind of honesty, the kind of priority that allows your team of teachers or students to see what's most important in any given circumstance, and cultivate what's necessary from there.
Selflessness is also a factor when trying to innovate. Innovation is not carrying a single idea to a predetermined destination. At some point, innovation must be inclusive. While creativity certainly needs quiet reflection and independent thought, anything done from start to finish in isolation depends on a kind of genius -- or at least inspired cleverness -- to succeed.
If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.
By serving a greater cause and removing your sense of self from a situation, you greatly increase the chances of a truly innovative end result.
3. Time and Energy
It goes without saying that to be innovative, you're going to need stuff. The most tempting resources typically sought for innovation are money and permission. Ironically, these are two of the least critical resources.
What you will need to innovate in education is time, and the boundless energy of a second-grader hopped up on Mountain Dew.
Exemplar models can stifle innovation by suggesting a path that you didn't need suggested. There is a time and a place for models, and it depends on the circumstance when you'll need yours. But by looking at existing models -- cool stuff that has been accomplished by others before you -- you'll have an idea of what's possible. And of what you might be missing.
5. Willingness to Take Risks
A lot of people say they want to be innovative, to "take risks."
To have what we've never had, we have to do what's never been done -- and 47 other cliché quotes that show up in educator signatures everywhere.
But a real willingness to take risks means being prepared for failure. And failure might come in the form of lost funding, an article written about you in the local newspaper mentioning a "project gone bad," unflattering data, and a million other possible outcomes.
Being willing to take a risk shouldn't empower you to implement wrong-headed, half-baked ideas under the guise of an "innovative spirit," but you should be prepared to fail. Which is fine, because education's been failing long before you got here.
While you don't always need green lights, district "buy-in" or outright permission, you do need trust, and that starts from the students backward. They're your most vocal critics and your most critical audience.
It will be in their curious, intellectually playful demeanors and long-term academic performance that you'll see the end result of any given innovation. (If not, what's the point?) But students -- of any age -- are incredibly good at sniffing out a rat. If something is murky, sterile, boring, stifling, cliché or downright clunky, they'll let you know.
The trust of administrators, colleagues and parents certainly matters. You can lose your job or professional standing without it. But without trust from students, you're just a well-dressed, silly person with your name on the placard by the door.
And the innovation will never come.
Shakespeare Unlocked is a new video based resource for students and teachers of Shakespeare. Actors and directors from the Royal Shakespeare Company explore three of Shakespeare's most popular works, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Filmed workshops explore the language and different interpretations of key scenes from each play.
A downloadable teachers' pack for each play offers ideas for class activities and discussion to accompany each film.
The Teachers' Pack is aimed at the teaching of Key Stage 3 and 4 English. It can also be used for Key Stage 5 and Theatre Studies.
- An introduction to each of the three scenes
- Suggestions for ideas to consider with your students before and after watching each scene and workshop film
- Activities to further students' understanding of the play. These require a cleared space to work in.
The activities support students' understanding of:
- Character and motivation
- Themes and ideas
- The author's craft
- Plays in performance
- Speaking and listening
Fun Free Apps that Promote Student Centered Learning & Literacy
I have discovered many cool free apps that are incredible for creating digital stories, reading stories, and interacting with stories. These apps are incredibly engaging and meet the needs of our diverse learners. They allow learners to interact with the plot, characters, and even design of the story. They also support multiple learning styles because they are visual, have sound, and animation. Students can even begin to craft their own stories using their voices, drawings, images, videos, and so much more!
Lesson IdeasBelow are a list of the apps and a few activities.
- Woices.com Location Based Audioguides- students can create tours about various locations around the city. Have them research the history behind a place and tell the story behind that place for others to listen to when they visit.
- Animation Creator HD Lite For IPad- students can create their own animations for a story. They can use this app to create the characters for a story and even add audio. Have them create dialogues, flesh out characters, or create graphic novel type stories with the animations they create.
- IAnimation I App- instruct students to take a series of pictures for a story they will be creating. Students can use this app to animate these stories, then string these together for a digital story.
- Bubble And Pebble Story- kids will love helping these lovable characters undergo adventures. Kids can then create their own Bubble and Pebble drawings of a new adventure then share these stories and drawings with their peers.
- Toontastic – students can create stories based on cartoon characters.
- Journal Jar – students simply shake this app to get a writing prompt. Give them about 5 to 10 minutes to come up with stories based on this prompt.
- StoryKit App- students can create detailed books about their lives, what they imagine, or change the ending of a classic story. This app allows students to take old classic books like the 3 Little Pigs and edit the pages. Students can even tell the story from a different point-of-view.
- Fotobabble App- students take a picture and tell the story of that picture. Have students take a picture of their favorite place and talk about it or if you are reading a story, have your students take a picture that reminds them of a scene from the story and explain why they chose that picture.
- VoiceThread- students can post videos, drawings, images and more then have their classmates comment on what they upload.
- Choose Your Path Free – students finish this Choose Your Own adventure type of story.
- Videolicious- have students create video stories about themselves. They can try a 3,2,1 introduction where they list 3 places they would like to visit, 2 of their hobbies, and 1 embarrassing moment.
- Posterous- have students create poems or audio stories.
- Flixlab – another great app for making movies.
- Sock Puppets- great for collaborative stories in pairs.
- Puppet Pals
- Animoto Video Creation App
- Shmuppet – students create a podcast or tell a short story with a puppet and send them to their friends via email, Facebook, or Twitter.
- Bunsella Bedtimes Story- students narrate a children’s story and send to a children’s class in the local elementary or a younger brother or sister or for children in another country. They children then can respond to these read stories.
- Audioboo- create a podcast of local news around the school
- Create A Comic Android App- students can create comics about any topic you choose
- App Store – Narratavius Story Engine – Interactive Fiction And Text Adventures- a choose your own adventure story
- MindBlowing App For Idevices- students collect audio and video clips as well as images under any theme. This is a multimedia mindmap app.
- Talking Tom & Ben News Reporters- students create dialogues that reflect any news item worldwide and around the school. Kids will love when Tom and Ben report that news.
Free Teacher Resources
TES – resource bank http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resources
Over 600,741 free teaching resources to use in your classroom and school today
Teaching expertise http://www.teachingexpertise.com/
Teaching videos: http://www.teachingvideos.co.uk/
TED – www.ted.com
Guardian Teaching Resources: http://teachers.guardian.co.uk/resources.
Mind mapping and essay preparation: http://www.jcu.edu.au/tldinfo/learningskills/mindmap/
Exploratree – thinking guides and skills http://www.exploratree.org.uk/