Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Embracing an Innovation Ecosystem

"Educators in diverse contexts choose to find ways to change how they lead, teach, and learn. And you can too."

This quote in chapter 2 of Katie Martin's Learner Centered Innovation hits home for me. I am fortunate to teach at a school where teachers have the freedom to teach in whatever fashion most helps their students learn. I'm constantly working to find new ways to help my students become innovators, and the ultimate goal is to have a fully functioning innovation ecosystem.

Before attempting to use any tech, and even before creating lessons and projects, the best use of our classroom space, I feel, is to build a culture of respect. Getting to know my learners personally gives me a better chance of finding what works for them in the classroom. Once I learn their names, their likes and dislikes, and their dreams (and sometimes even their fears), I can facilitate my classroom so that it becomes an innovation incubator.

I am fortunate to be attending grad school at a university that preaches cura personalis, or care for the whole person. That has been my guiding virtue in teaching lately. What matters more than tests, projects, and grades is how my learners are growing as people and how I might better guide them along their journeys. The content will be delivered; the novels read and analyzed. But I first and foremost want my students to know how much I care for them.

On page 86 of her book, Martin writes, "If you know that there is a better way to meet the needs of learners, you owe it to them and yourself to try it." I've found that the best way to understand their needs, and to be the best teacher I can be, is to know my students as much as possible. Once we all know, understand, and respect each other, it is easier to creative that innovation ecosystem where we will all thrive together. We will work better collaboratively, and we will be more likely to take risks because we won't be afraid of failing around people we trust.

I've begun trying a #FailureFriday, where I try something new, scary, or crazy every Friday to push myself and my students to new and sometimes uncomfortable places. It's my way of letting my students know I trust them and am open to them critiquing me. If something doesn't work, it's my way of modeling that it's ok if things go awry. I hope it inspires them to try new things and use failure as a launching pad for future greatness.

So how about you? How do you create your innovation ecosystem? I'd love to hear your ideas!

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