Two co-workers each drove a beat up, 1996 blue Dodge Neon. Day after day, they would stand together looking out the window at their cars and complain. "Ugh, the paint is chipped." "It just does not accelerate like is should." "I've been missing the left front hubcap for years."
Finally, one turned to the other and said, "We need to stop complaining, and make a change. It is time for something different!" They agreed that tomorrow, they would be driving something different.
As the two pulled up the next day, one was driving a brand new Corvette. The other was driving a green 1996 Dodge Neon. The coworker in the Neon said, "When you said different, you really meant it!"
The Corvette driver looked over the green Neon and said, "Why just go for different, when you can go for better?"
While reading Chapter 1 of Innovators Mindset, I was struck by the idea George Couros shares near the close:
I must say, while I love the concept of growth mindset and continual improvement, I feel we must take caution to not just engage in change for change's sake. Why replace an old car with the same model but a different color when you can upgrade? In education, why make a change if the change is only superficial. Below are some things I think we need to keep in mind when seeking "different" so that we do more than change, we innovate and improve.
When I set out to redesign my classroom this year, at first, I simply focused on the aesthetic. Flexible seating, new lighting, coffee smells. But I soon realized that I was trading a blue neon for a green Neon unless I changed the fundamental culture of my class. So I kept the aesthetic change, and also re-evaluated and redesigned my instruction. The flexible seating is just a color shift if it is not accompanied by flexible and student led instruction. I am reading lots of articles about classroom redesign, specifically the coffee house style. But often, it is just about the seats, not about the instruction. My classroom looks like a coffeehouse, and my instruction- and the student facilitated instruction, looks like a book study group that meets at our local coffee house. The two are connected.
Innovative thinking ties the atmosphere of the room to learning that occurs there.
We all want our students to speak up in class. A difference would be taking a plan to call on each student once a week. An innovation would be to give the students the floor everyday. Student facilitated discussion has proven to be POWERFUL in my classes. Students get the first 10-15 (or 20) minutes of class to cover current events related to the content, or to review the content, with one student facilitating. Students are more readily engaged because they are talking to a peer. I simply monitor and record student contributions.
Innovative thinking lets students develop their voice by giving them a chance to use it freely.
Group assignments. Love them or hate them, they can be great tools for student assessment. Difference thinking either lets students pick their group, or assigns it. Either change may be great for your class, but true collaboration comes when students are not just working together on group projects, they are working together to learn the material in instruction. When students are challenging each other's contributions, giving reflections and critiques on comments and work, then collaboration moves beyond "group work" into "group learning." I have long used peer feedback as a way to increase collaboration in my debate classes, but now I am moving it into my Sociology and Psychology classes. When groups present, questions and suggestions are EXPECTED from the rest of the class. And that is just the beginning. That student facilitated discussion- that doubles as collaboration. Students working together to understand and push each other forward.
Innovative thinking works to create a collaborative environment in instruction, not just work products.
So, the question is- do you want different, or do you want innovation?
I teach Psychology, Sociology, Communication Applications and Debate at College Station High School, as well as coach the debate team and co-sponsor Student Council. I am an aspiring administrator.