Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Common (Mis)Understandings About Innovation

In the article Becoming a Learning Organization, Chris Bigenho describes one team's journey to talk about innovation across schools and organizations. The difficulty they encountered, one which is likely familiar to many, was the lack of a common definition of "innovation."

After some learning, Bigenho's group landed on a definition from John Kao: "a set of capabilities that are possessed by individuals, teams, countries, or geographies that allow the continuous realization of a desired future."  Using that as a lens, the team continued its learning journey, and found many common attributes of meaningful school innovation:

  • deliberateness in approach, with the innovation visible as systemic change
  • knowing thyself first (embodying the mission and vision, and knowing the school's place and role in the market and society)
  • accepting and participating in the tension that innovation creates, through active communication and building of social capital
  • utilizing diverse, functional teams with a prescribed purpose
  • active and supportive school leadership
  • hiring for innovation to support growth toward the desired future
If you choose to read the article, three different schools are highlighted for their efforts toward systemic change. In case you don't have the time right now to read the full piece, I will highlight two quotes from Bigenho that I am still contemplating:

"If a school has the funding, it's fine to construct new STEM/STEAM buildings or find new ways to use technology in the classroom. But I want to make it clear that a tight focus on adding more technology into a school program isn't, in and of itself, innovation. It may represent a movement toward innovation within the organization but is not innovation as an organization. The latter should be the goal."
"I often ask schools: Is your school an institution of learning or a learning institution? Schools with a strong sense of identity and with systemic programs that move the school toward some desired state are schools that are getting smarter as organizations. These schools are learning organizations. And in the era of such quick and constant change, they are the schools most likely to thrive over time."

Join the conversation...
What do you think about using the Kao definition for school innovation? Should innovation be thought of as systemic change? Anything in the last two quotes resonate with you?
 

Monday, June 5, 2017

This Book Will Change Your Life

Aspire High

My friend (and student voice research colleague) lent this book to me. I've been meaning to read it, but it has sat on my desk for a few weeks. This morning, I started thumbing through it and read so many nuggets of truth. Here are just five:

  • "Students are neither your customers nor your clients; they are your partners...their points of view on your classrooms, school, and district provide vital information if you are to improve their education."
  • "[T]here is no 'color-blindness'...race is a factor in students' experiences of the world, as are other physical attributes such as gender or being differently abled. As a result, students can teach their teachers a great deal about how their backgrounds, thoughts, feelings, and worldviews are shaped by race, particularly if student and teacher come from different racial backgrounds."
  • "In nearly every learning situation, point of view matters. One student may count the paragraphs in eager anticipation of his turn to read aloud, whereas another may dread the very thought of speaking in front of others."
  • "[A]dults are the school's 'leading learners." They are learning role models, continually curious, constantly questioning, wondering, probing, failing, and pushing themselves and the young people in their classes to go further, deeper, and broader."
  • "[T]he focus is not on evaluation in this sense, but rather on teacher growth and formation based on what the teacher is consistently , constantly learning and applying. Teacher learning, in turn, is directed by the teacher and is informed by the school's goals. Teachers are not just learning for learning's sake, but for their students' sakes -- more to the point, for their students' aspirations' sakes. Obviously, students are integral to this growth process. Teachers are held accountable for their learning as it applies to student learning and outcomes."
This book has and continues to change my thinking (if not my life). Any of you out there want to join in a book study this summer? We could engage in a chapter-by-chapter discussion through technology. 

Join the conversation...
Have you read the book? What are your thoughts on the bulleted items? Interested in the book study?