Posts tagged The Case For
Can Creativity and Innovation Be Taught?
Shifting back to the Barn
On Wednesday night, 175 educators got to play together with a revisit to the Barn in Milton.

The theme of the evening was “Can creativity and innovation be taught?”.  We’ve come to believe that the answer is a resounding YES!  As we have been exploring here at the Shift, there are learning conditions that foster innovation, in our schools and for our students.  This is where we started with The Case for Innovation and exploring these conditions, followed by Community Building and Risk Taking, and more to come soon.  Rethinking the structure of our classrooms and our schools is what we are aiming to do as we aim to answer the important questions of whether creativity and innovation can be taught.  This is our BIG why as shifters.  This goal is in context to changes happening at the Ministry level as well.  Our report cards are on the verge of a major overhaul.  The stated goal by the Ministry of Education is to “help students of all ages meet the changing demands of today and tomorrow.”  We don’t know what tomorrow might look like, but we do know that navigating the 21st Century world will require skills in communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity and global citizenship.  

If we want to teach Innovation and Creativity we need to realize that each school is different, with challenges that are big or small.  Some of the solutions to the various challenges can be found inside our home schools and some challenges need the experiences of those from other buildings.  Yet, everyone on the team has a role to play in overcoming the challenges we are facing today.  Things go faster if everyone shares their successes and failures.  You might possess the experiences that another school needs to overcome their particular challenge, so share your strengths and join the conversations.  Sometimes, solutions can be found in unexpected places.  Sometimes the box that we work within needs to be shaken and flipped upside down.  Teaching is a puzzle that can only be appreciated when we stand way back and see the contributions of everyone involved.
Working as a team, we can solve this puzzle!

Networking, asking questions, making observations, experimenting and connecting the dots of our learning are all skills that innovators need to have.  If you are an HDSB educator who is interested in exploring how to teach Innovation and Creativity, why not consider applying for an Innovation Grant! Consider learning more about the skills that innovative people possess and the conditions needed within a classroom or school for innovation to thrive as your starting point.  What is your WHY?  The application is really quite easy, and incredibly flexible in scope, so why NOT?

You can find the details on the grant proposal here on slides 23 to 29.
Summer Sign Off
Well Shifters, it has been a great semester!  Since starting this blog in February of this year, we have had so much fun learning about what teachers are doing in their classes and talking about what they hope to do next. We hope that we did a little to inspire you to think differently about what you teach and how you teach and that you got excited to take some risks.   

Working on this project forced us to learn a lot, and most of that learning was driven through trial and error.  Jamie used a Mac for the first time.  Matt built several rigs to help us with our sound recording.  We learned how to blog, edit video, talk on camera and listen to ideas.  We made lots of mistakes that hopefully nobody noticed.  Although, to quote Marisa Cavataio when we visited her Productions Class at Nelson High School, “The most important thing you will do in this class is make mistakes”.  

Our mistakes bore fruit!  We just recently passed 10,000 views on this blog, which blew away our expectations.  We’ve gained 110 followers too, so thank you for making that possible!  If you haven’t signed up for updates yet, consider adding yourself to the Shift List!

Our videos have been viewed more than 1000 times.  We made our Case For videos with no real idea if anyone would be interested in watching.  Hopefully if you’ve watched we’ve made you think about how you are Innovating.  We certainly learned a lot about how to create environments that demand students to be innovative.

We owe a lot of thanks to the team at School Programs.  Many of the IPL’s helped us get The Shift launched, or joined us to do some thinking and planning.  As well, we had some great mentors in Chris Duncan, Kevin Raposo and Sommer Sweetman who were super generous with their time and assistance.

We had so much fun connecting with Shifters in person at the Shift Conference at the Barn.  It set in our brains the improv ideas of “yes, and” and “feel more comfortable feeling uncomfortable” as a mindset to start innovating in our buildings.  

Looking back on the last 4 months, we decided to each pick our favourite post on the Shift Blog.  Matt really enjoyed speaking to Michael Primerano about going gradeless.  Every since that visit, there has been an ongoing conversation among shifters and in workrooms about how we can hack assessment to make class more about iterative learning and risk taking, and less about the mark.  

Jamie really enjoyed participating in the Innovator’s Mindset Massively Open Online Course (#IMMOOC).  The weekly video chats/conferences were great to listen to, but often it was the backchannel conversations that drove a lot of deeper thinking.  One conversation in particular gave rise to what we dubbed “The Three (Silent) P’s of Innovation”.  For anyone thinking about leading innovation in their buildings next year?  Make sure your teachers know that they have the permission to try something new, your protection when things start to go sideways, and your assistance to help navigate the policies that can slam the brakes on innovation.

If you are thinking about how to lead innovation in your buildings next year?  If so, have you signed up for the Shift Your Blank Summer Symposium yet?  It will be a good opportunity to connect with Shifters, set some goals and work on some ideas to improve practice.

Jamie and Matt, signing off for now. Have a great summer, Shifters!
The Case for Risk Taking

The end is in sight; can you feel it?  A few weeks of hard work, then that dock/porch/yoga mat is calling your name.  A well deserved rest after a year of teaching, engaging, ...and shifting.  June is also a great time to take stock of how the year went, think about our “good to greats” and start to imagine a little bit about next year.  

The year is still fresh in our heads and we have a good vantage point to think forward at this point of the year.  During this process, we invite you to think about how you can take a risk next year.  These could be risks that you take in how you lead a class, a course, or building culture in your school.  This could be how to set the framework for encouraging your students to take their own greater risks in their learning.  It is a fun time to start thinking BIG, because the BIG is buffered by some serious summer YOU time first.  Here is The Case for Risk Taking.

The Case for Innovation
Matt and I dove headfirst into this pilot project.  We had goals; highlight innovative practices in education; get more people sharing what they do; publish our observations.  We had a vision on how to share; blogging, videos, podcasts.  We knew these things would take time to establish.

What we didn’t have was a clear idea about what innovation is.  Thankfully, we had experts we could rely on.  Cindy Cosentino, IPL of Science for the Halton District School Board, provided us with a great foundation of what it means to be an innovative person.  Add to that our participation in the Innovator's Mindset online course and we were ready to roll!

So here is what we’ve come to understand about Innovation:

1) Innovation is a process that improves something
Innovation is a process

Let’s be clear on this, if something is labelled “Innovation” but it isn’t improving something, it isn’t innovative.  Innovation is needed to improve products by making them more efficient, or compact, or aesthetically pleasing.  Innovation drives improvements to processes that make them more inclusive, or less hazardous, or more sustainable in the long term.  Innovation increases understanding by making it more precise or deeper.  Trying something new and different that doesn’t result in an overall improvement is just extra noise.  If we want to be innovative educators who in turn raise innovative students, we need to make sure the ideas we try with our classes are targeted specifically to make improvements.  Teaching with an Interactive Whiteboard is not innovative, but having a Smart Board available for students to work on might be…

2) Innovation requires a specific set of skills
The skills of an innovative person

It takes a special person to look at a classroom or school and say “If I try this, I bet I can improve that”.  These leaders possess skills that not everyone has.  They question the common wisdom, asking questions like “What would happen if we tried this…?”.  They experiment and tinker; intellectually and physically.  They pay attention and are able to notice everything.  They network and look for knowledge everywhere.  Finally, and this is the biggest one, they are able to associate unrelated questions, ideas and problems in a way that drives their innovation.  

3) Teaching innovation needs to be done in a specific environment

What's good for the student is good for the teacher!

Teaching students to be successful in the 21st Century requires teaching them the skills identified above.  This won’t happen on its own, rather it will require learning in a classroom that has a specific environment.  The classroom must be one that is safe and inclusive. Students must be encouraged to try and fail and then learn from their mistakes.  Risk taking is the norm as it promotes self reflection.  Problems posed in this classroom are authentic and promote inquiry.  The learning uses technology as the tool to drive deeper experiences.  Finally, the classroom (and teacher) is grounded in the course content, but not driven by curriculum.  Oddly enough, these same conditions should be what educators experience in their workplace.  The learning conditions for good student development are the same as the conditions for good teacher development.

4) Innovation demands creativity

Creativity is always at the core

Finally, to allow innovation to thrive we must answer three questions; what, why and how?  What refers to the expertise we bring to the classroom.  Teachers need to know their stuff and to ensure that students know it too.  This can be driven through the why; what is the purpose of the learning, how does it engage the students?  How can we do this?  Be engaging with our students critical and creative thinking skills.  If educators can address the what, why and how of teaching, they we will create the creative students who will be successful in the 21st century.

Still unsure about what innovation is?  

Find a problem, adjust to try and solve that problem.  That’s innovation.  It isn’t a huge thing and it’s probably easier than you thought.

So without further ado, here is our Case For Innovation.