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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Innovation Paths

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Systems are often created with obedience in mind.  The system creation includes process and rules.  It is the job of those working within the system to follow the process and rules in obedient ways. These systems are static and don't take into account that the world is continually changing.

Similar to Edna Sach's post, From Teaching to Learning, the way I teach has changed significantly. When I first became a teacher, I created static systems.  I developed a management and classroom system, introduced the system to the class, and worked to maintain that system to effect learning throughout the year.

My thinking and work in education has changed dramatically in the past few years.  I no longer create a static system for students to follow and obey, instead I create paths of learning--fluid paths of exploration, discovery, voice and practice that build students' skill, knowledge and concept foundation while also offering students real-time opportunities to develop communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration skills and understanding.

These new learning paths leave room for spontaneous challenge, innovation and change.  We begin the paths with the creation of goals and vision, then as we meander down the learning path we stop repeatedly to look back, analyze, revise and move forward again.  Typically the broad vision at the start is met, but the project itself takes many unexpected twists and turns along the way.  In a sense our learning paths mirror the paths of life with our essential drives and dreams moving us forward, yet all the while we are revising and rethinking our path as we live and grow.

As I write and think about classroom life, I wonder about school systems in general.  In what way does your school system create and support innovation paths for educators?  Recently, I wanted to revise a unit of study.  I wanted to transform the static nature of the unit to make it an inquiry driven path of discovery and response. The new unit created stress and conflict as many did not want the change.  I had to spend countless hours proving that this change was reflective of the way education is moving and changing, and that the unit responded with depth to students' needs and interests.  Even after the successful conclusion of the unit, one administrator questioned the level of challenge remarking that it may have been too sophisticated for the children.  The remark was made in passing and served as a bit of a slap after all the extensive time and effort the students and I had employed to make the unit a success.

The administrator's remark may have had merit.  Perhaps there was a real reason for the "too sophisticated" remark and perhaps my initial effort at creating an inquiry driven learning path missed the mark in some ways.  As an educator, I know that I don't have all the answers and I am happy to collaborate with others to best innovate and move education forward.  I do believe though that education systems need to create opportunities and paths for educators to innovate and explore as that's what will move our work and efforts forward to better effect education for all students.

What do your innovation paths look like in your professional development life, classroom and school? What kind of support does your organization provide for innovation with regard to time, professional development and collaboration?  How are you moving from systems based on obedience and predictability to flexibility and innovation?

I want to innovate in ways that will best meet students' needs.  I am open to the natural debate, discussion and challenge that innovation brings to organizations. I also want organizations to think about how they respond to innovation and ideas as hours wasted in unnecessary debate related to whether to innovate or not could be hours utilized for effective debate related to the details, rationale and process of effective innovation.

As I revise my units for the 2012-2013 year, I will be thinking about the dimensions, design and direction of innovation paths.  I look forward to hearing about your process and design in this regard.