Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Time for Innovation is Now

Innovation is one of those topics that can be so exciting to some and so completely scary to others. Innovation excites because of its immense possibilities and scares because it clashes with current, comfortable practice. Some industries thrive on innovation, while others are not so enthusiastic. So where does education fall in the innovation spectrum? This week two items have me pondering this question.

At a staff meeting this week, we were charged to watch and discuss the following webinar: Digital Learning: A Disruptive Innovation. Michael Horn, Executive Director of Education at the Innosight Institute, presented a variety of blended learning models that are being utilized in a variety of different school settings across the country. Each of these models used a combination of standard face to face instruction and computer assisted digital learning. All of these models challenge what is currently happening in most classrooms right now and that is what scares people. In education, one of our weaknesses is the inability to look beyond tweaking our current practice. There is real fear in thinking that blended instruction could be better for all our students. After watching this webinar, I think elements of blended learning could better address the needs of struggling and excelling students. But with any innovation, there are unknown elements that require some pause. For me, this is the online instruction that was talked about during portions of the webinar. Is this computerized instruction engaging, on level, auto-adjusting to target student weaknesses and strengths, and instructionally sound? Watch the webinar and decide for yourself whether blended learning is the innovative future for our schools.

The other item that has me thinking appeared in my Zite app. The End of Tech Integrationists=The Beginning of Innovation Specialists discusses how Tech Integrationists (which is the position I currently hold) will soon be replaced by an Innovation Specialist. Currently, I help teachers discover uses for available classroom technology. As a former teacher, I bring in my classroom pedagogy experience and pair it with my technology experience to become an asset to my teachers. I wish I could say technology is fully integrated into all my classrooms but that would be a lie. I still have work to do in this area. There is also work to do in the area of quality technology usage. You can put "Plain Jane" in a ball gown but underneath the pretty facade, she is still "Plain Jane". Our classroom technology use is the same. If we are doing the same activities  but with technology to make it look pretty, there is nothing innovative happening. Sadly, I think this happens more than I would like to admit so there is plenty of work for me to do as a Tech Integrationist. So as much as I don't think we are ready to replace Tech Integrationists, I do think there are some of the qualifications from Innovation Specialists that can be applied to our work. Check out the article and decide for yourself.

When working in a technology field, innovation should be a core value that drives our work. I hope in the educational technology field, this is true. The time to be innovative and continually look for better ways to educate students is now.

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