"Real innovation changes the course of industry or even society."
(Yes, it's a day late but I wrote this in the spirit of #leadershipday12.)
In his book, 'Start with Why', Sinek (@simonsinek) references many examples from the business world (Motorola, Colgate, Apple) that we can draw parallels to in education.
As I listen to and participate in conversations face-to-face and through social media I sometimes wonder if our quest to create innovative approaches to learning has somehow resulted in our overemphasis on the shiny new tool. Is it good to be a trailblazer and be on the leading edge of a new approach to teaching and learning? Of course! However, we should also strive for our new approaches to lead to lasting improvements for all learners.
The newest laptop, the most recent version of the iPad...these are examples of shiny tools with added features, but in short order they will all be replaced. It wasn't long ago that the first iPad was being introduced and now people have the iPad 3, equipped with new features, in their hands. When it comes to added features, Sinek writes, "They are added in an attempt to differentiate, but not reinvent." So the question to ask before investing big dollars in the latest technology is whether the tool will help the teacher 'reinvent' education for today's learners or simply be a temporary engagement 'fix' that learners will become bored of once the technology is replaced?
I'm as guilty as anyone else of being dazzled by the most recent shiny tool. I enjoy the flexibility of working from my iPad, MacBook or smartphone, depending on where I am and what I plan to do. But, it's not the shininess of the tool that has captured my long term attention. Instead, over the past few years these tools have supported my shift to become a globally connected learner. On a daily basis my network of educators exposes me to new ideas, challenges my thinking and inspires me! Is the technology itself engaging? For a while it was! But what keeps me coming back to these tools is that they have helped accelerate my learning. In other words, the way in which I am learning is the focus of my shift and the tools are simply supporting this shift.
In schools, we need to be approaching investments of time, energy and money with similar thinking. We're better off encouraging innovations in pedagogy that can be accelerated through the use of new technology instead of focussing on the learning of a new technology without a shift in pedagogy. Supporting teachers in their learning of new pedagogies such as inquiry-based learning or project-based learning, that can incorporate and be accelerated by technology, will lead to lasting advances in teacher and student learning. We should be supporting teachers' attempts to transform their students into active learners who are proposing questions, seeking answers and creating solutions to their own problems. And if their students' learning can be accelerated by becoming globally connected and they can share their learning by having access to creative presentation tools then we should be investing in the technology that allows them to do so.
While simply investing in the latest tools and training teachers to use the tool may lead to temporary improvements in teacher and student engagement it will not magically lead to a pedagogical shift. Consequently, teachers and students will likely revert to traditional forms of teaching and learning when the novelty of the tool dies down.
New frameworks for learning will demand our investments in technology. Investments in technology won't demand new frameworks for learning!