Innovation Education & Learning
Some Positive Aspects of Failure
As Covington (1998) stated, “Every time a crisis boils over, we hear renewed calls for higher standards. But the fundamental issue is not really a matter of increasing academic standards. Nor can we any longer afford the kind of cheap rhetoric that reinvents higher standards from time to time for political gain. Actually, standards of excellence have never really been forgotten. For years teachers have struggled to maintain high academic standards and also to lament, often alone and unheeded, the slow erosion of the quality of academic life in our schools. Clearly, maintaining high standards is vital; if we expect little of our children, little is what we will get. But more is needed. The pursuit of high standards must also be safe and free from the fear of failure (p. 73).
Because for the most part this abject failure of the U. S. K-12 education system to has failed to inspire, motivate and engage a large segment of today’s youth, alternate methodologies of teaching and learning have emerged and are continuing to gain traction. As Sakai-Miller (2016) stated, “We are evolving from Information-based learning to Innovation-based learning (p.1).
If we are to facilitate creative thinking, we must teach content in ways that support, rather than threaten, habits and mind-sets that allow creative ideas to blossom. Any subject can be the basis for creative thinking, if we provide students with opportunities to learn information, methods, and strategies and then teach how to use them in new ways. Traditional content teaching that emphasizes facts and single correct answers is not going to help students learn ﬂexibility or originality. However, it is not enough for children to just play with creative puzzles and games. They must know enough about something to question it, change it, elaborate on it, or do something new with it, and they must have been taught strategies to accomplish these tasks (Cornett, 1999, p. 27).
In public education today, there are many innovations in practice taking place in small pockets across the country but this ecosystem is currently disjointed and fragmented. To name two, Public charter schools such as High Tech High in San Diego and Denver School of Science and Technology, use military-inspired simulation tools such as “serious games” (see: System and Design Learning – Serious Games); and Quest to Learn, in New York which uses scientific methodologies and system designs in all curriculum development.
Innovation is defined simply as a “new idea, device, or method” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). However, innovation is often also viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs (Maryville, 1992). Goodrum, Dorsey, & Schwen, (1993) noted that innovations operate in a setting of complex, unpredictable, multiform relationships among various elements that make up the life and structure of a working organization (p. 13).
Adapted primarily from the business world the term innovation has a long history dating back to Gabriel Tarde’s (1903) S-shaped diffusion curve which defined the innovation-decision process as a series of steps that includes:
• First knowledge
• Forming an attitude
• A decision to adopt or reject
• Implementation and use
• Confirmation of the decision
In Silicon Valley, where the term innovation is widely used, Edison, et, al (2013) found the following definition to be the most complete:
“Innovation is: production or adoption, assimilation, and exploitation of a value-added novelty in economic and social spheres; renewal and enlargement of products, services, and markets; development of new methods of production; and establishment of new management systems. It is both a process and an outcome.”
According to Kentucky’s new Districts of Innovation statute defines education “innovation” as “a new or creative alternative to existing instructional and administrative practices intended to improve student learning and student performance of all students.” To be more specific, “learning innovation” is about moving from the teaching system of the 20th century to a new “learning system” of the digital age where learning and the “facilitation of learning” (teaching) are the central elements (Cook, 2015).
Many education innovation theorists have called for not augmenting the existing system but have called for an entirely new education platform which would “disrupt” the current over 100 year-old U. S. K-12 education system. The term “Disruptive Innovation Theory” was defined and the phenomenon first analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995 (Christensen, 2010). Education innovation could be considered disruptive as it is an education pedagogical methodology that disrupts an existing educational continuum to create a new way of looking at established values and alliances. Smith (2009) informs us that:
“In order for public education to better meet the needs of all students, it must better embrace not only the steady sustaining innovations that are needed, but also the truly disruptive innovations – many of which will come from people and organizations outside of the traditional system – that will lead to a fundamental change in the way the system looks and works, and ultimately to dramatic improvement in outcomes for the children who have so far not been served well.”
In his paper “What is Leaning Innovation” Davis Cook (2015) describes innovation learning tenants in Kentucky’s new Districts of Innovation statute, which also calls for not modifying the existing teaching system but rather creating a new system of innovation learning, that includes:
• Involving students and teachers in significantly different ways that lead to increased student learning and engagement
• Defining new outcomes for learning and designing new ways of measuring students’ progress and mastery
• Creating new ways of facilitating learning and designing different structures for deploying adults in schools
• Moving from “one-size-fits-all” instructional programs to personalized learning focusing on the 21st-century skills of collaboration, teamwork, problem-formulation, creativity and the ability to “learn how to learn”
• Creating systems where students are partners in designing and owning their learning
• Ensuring that a student can learn anywhere he/she can access the instructional material and at any time 24 hours a day/7 days a week and 365 days a year
• Creating a system of support for each student to be successful in this environment
Innovation education contains essential attributes that forms the foundation that prepares students for college and career success.
• World Class Knowledge and Skills: knowledge and skills that prepare students for global success and competency
• Personalized Learning: set goals, assess progress to ensure student academic and developmental support
• Authentic Learning: Anytime, anywhere flexible & real world learning environment that provide constructive learning experiences
• Student Agency: students owning and shaping their individual learning experience
• Iteration Learning: failure as a learning concept
• Performance-based Assessment: enabling students to demonstrate mastery based on high and shared expectations
• Comprehensive systems of support: providing a culture of support for all students (i.e., social, emotional, physical and cognitive)
Khan (2012) suggests that the digital revolution might finally enable a new model of education, more flexible, inspiring, and affordable than the current system. Rigid bureaucracies, parental anxieties, and political minefields that define much of the US education debate are breaking down as the use of digital technology to define personalized learning is showing real benefits. The challenge educators are left with is to create an in-classroom environment and experience that is equal to, or better than, what is realized by today’s youth at home and after-school online activities. Because of the social benefits and intrinsic values, the K-12 classroom collaborative learning experience is still essential to child development.
As Ómarsson (2014) stated, putting kids in the same class because they are born in the same year is obsolete. School systems were originally set up to meet the needs of industrialism. Back then we needed people to work in factories, conformity was good and nobody was meant to excel or be different in that environment. That doesn’t fit our needs today, let alone the future but many schools are still set up like the factories they were meant to serve 100 years ago. The innovative education model increases choice by giving children support to flourish in what interests them and extra attention in the things they’re so good at. In most schools, if you are good in art but bad in German you get German lessons to get to par with the other students instead of excelling at art… All even, all the same! Innovative education individualizes activities so students work in groups regardless of age and their education is built around their needs (p. 4).
As insightful schools transform to the digital age platforms of teaching and learning, the concept of Innovation Education and Learning is intended to offer an educational methodology that is flexible enough to accommodate progressive new programs and the inevitable installation trail-and-error periods that are a natural byproduct of any innovation. Once the programs are introduced the Innovationism Concept guides the pedagogical methodology with which these innovative programs are applied and presented in the classroom.
The theory of Innovative education and learning might be comparable to how Martin Covington (1998) feels about his concepts of student motivation:
But no promises were made about desired changes being new, only that they should be workable and relatively easy to implement so long as they also satisfy the requirements of a motivational perspective. Thus in an important sense the purpose of this book (The Will to Learn: A guide to motivating young people) is to elevate the commonplace to a new order of significance – in short, to help teachers recognize the profound in the ordinary. If this can be done, then familiarity becomes a hopeful sign, not grounds for contempt or dismissal, and for several reasons. First, a sense of the familiar tells us that what is needed is not only plausible but possible. Second, it suggests that many teachers are already on the right track; that they have been warm all along, but may not have always known it or always known why. This is why there is nothing as practical as a good theory! Good theories tell us how warm we are and how to get warmer still (p. 156).