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Sep 20

Chris Smeaton

Innovation: Let’s make it simple!

I just read the report on Innovation from the Conference Board of Canada which ranks Alberta as 15th overall. Given that Alberta is one of the top educational jurisdictions in the world, the stat is a little disconcerting. Innovation is defined by The Conference Board, “As a process through which economic or social value is extracted from knowledge—by creating, diffusing, and transforming ideas—to produce new or improved products, services, and processes.” Interestingly, nowhere in the definition is technology mentioned.

This is important and deserves attention since many equate innovation to technology. The fact is that innovation may be technology driven but in education, it is more about transforming ideas and improving practices. It is not that technology should not be in our classrooms; in fact it should be as common as pens and paper. But our way to innovation must begin with simple shifts in our ideas, our structures and our pedagogy.  So much fear of and from technology can be alleviated when we first begin to innovate with thoughtful purpose and through simple adjustments.

Simon Breakspear talks about the importance of pivoting in our practice. To me, this is exactly the beginning of innovation. It does not require a gigantic leap but rather a simple pivot that improves instruction, making it more meaningful, more effective and more efficient. We often become lost in the innovation network of the biggest and best, the newest and the most modern. That is not innovation for the average teacher nor the average person.

Committing to evolving our practice is the inertia required for the simplest form of innovation. We seek to do something better, then we do something different and innovation begins. It is that simple! System improvement is always preceded by school improvement which is always preceded by individual teacher improvement. There is no magic bullet and there is no other way for innovation to begin and eventually scale up and scale out. It begins in the classroom with a pivot in thinking and in doing! Innovation can become the normal routine when educators believe it is about transforming ideas, shifting processes and reflecting on one’s practice!

Remember…innovation is that simple! 

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