Think Like an Innovator

Innovation. I remember the first time I heard that word, I was at Epcot at WDW back in middle school. They had this building and inside were “innovations” for the future. I remember nerding out at all the technology. (That’s the best part of vacation with your family, you can be your geeky self and not have to try to be cool.) I remember my mom explaining to me that innovation meant to take what someone has already invented and make it better. That stuck with me. Mostly because the stuff was so state of the art cool!

In education innovation is a word I have been hearing a lot when discussing STEM and makers. I love it. I love the idea of students looking at our world and want to improve what they see. That’s exactly what school should be, preparing kids for now, teaching them how world changing these critical thinking skills for a changing world are.

So where do we start? I was talking to a friend the other day. He’s not an educator but an amazing thinker. He works for one of the largest companies in my state and was telling me about a contest they had. The CEO asked people to submit ideas for innovative ideas that the company would be using by 2020. We laughed at how it became a suggestion box and crazy ideas people had. We then started talking about design thinking and where to start when thinking innovatively. I confessed to him my idea for a big project for my class, the one I mentioned last post (Nope still not ready to reveal yet.) and he took the ideas I had and push me to think deeper. Ideas already in my head got bigger and better. The project in my mind was completely transforming as we talked.

Our conversation kept coming back to “what is the problem?” I was reminded how when you are just trying to make things better, it’s not really innovative because you get stuck on what’s already there. But when you start asking the question “what’s the problem?” you start looking at and thinking about things differently. You start trying to solve the problem instead of adding to what we already have.

Now as I’m looking to this school year, which starts Wednesday, I’m reflecting on what I did last year. But instead of saying “that didn’t work, I’ll add this to it or I’ll just do this instead” I’m looking at “what was the problem students had ___?” and start thinking about how to solve the problem. I hope as I go through the school year and lessons aren’t working I’ll do the same. Those of you in admin roles, I hope when something isn’t living up to expectations in your school, go backwards, what’s the problem and what’s the best route to solve it.

Also, teachers in classrooms, take the time to have students think of ideas to solve problems. Teach them best practices for questioning to find the “problem.” Have these discussions with them, get the thinking process going. It’s not only important for us to think innovatively, but to teach students to be innovators.

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