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Space to Innovate


The first lightbulb moment for me when I read The Innovator's Mindset last summer the first insight that really hit me was the idea of an innovation as new and better.  As an educator, I've had the opportunity to iterate with my instruction.  But, I really loved seeing my learners innovate with some of their work this year.

Six weeks ago, I began a new term with physics students.  Our first unit was on electricity.  Our learners we tasked to  build a series/parallel network circuit that performed a function. One group decided to build a boat. They eventually tested it out in a small pool we had in our classroom.

The boat worked quite well and they had completed the task.  But, the learners still had ideas of how they could take their idea further.  With their new knowledge of circuits, they saw how they could increase the power delivered to the motors and increase the speed of the boat.

Our next unit was linear motion.  Our unit design project for this unit was for learners to design a vehicle powered by a circuit.  This group of learners asked if they could make their design better and have that count as their unit project.  I was so happy to hear that they wanted to continue not as a shortcut but to make their design better.  To improve on what they had done before.

This was learning that went beyond the level of simple task completion.  I couldn't help but think about AJ Juliani and John Spencer's work with design thinking.  That it's ok to give learners the freedom to go back to work and make it better.  I can imagine a younger me thinking that all learners should have to start over because it wouldn't be fair that they had a head start on the process. But, the real learning happens when learners are forced to reevaluate their designs, accept feedback, and improve.

It was fantastic to see this pair of learners go through several iterations with their design and truly innovate. We took their new design to a slightly bigger pool because their ideas had outgrown our kiddie pool.

As educators, we need to allow ourselves the space to reflect and iterate in order to innovate. But, we also need to give our learners this same opportunity. Not just to build something, but to learn something new. To try new methods and see what works for the individual. Invention, innovation, and evolution don't happen overnight.  They are part of a bigger process of success and failure. Innovation is personal to each learner because they have different strengths and challenges.

How will you allow learners the opportunity to learn what is innovative for their lives and to innovate for themselves?

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