10 Ways to Teach Innovation

One overriding challenge is now coming to the fore in public consciousness: We need to reinvent just about everything. Whether scientific advances, technology breakthroughs, new political and economic structures, environmental solutions, or an updated code of ethics for 21st century life, everything is in flux—and everything demands innovative, out of the box thinking.

The burden of reinvention, of course, falls on today’s generation of students. So it follows that education should focus on fostering innovation by putting curiosity, critical thinking, deep understanding, the rules and tools of inquiry, and creative brainstorming at the center of the curriculum.

This is hardly the case, as we know. In fact, innovation and the current classroom model most often operate as antagonists. The system is evolving, but not quickly enough to get young people ready for the new world. But there are a number of ways that teachers can bypass the system and offer students the tools and experiences that spur an innovative mindset. Here are ten ideas:

Move from projects to Project Based Learning. Most teachers have done projects, but the majority do not use the defined set of methods associated with high-quality PBL.

Teach concepts, not facts. Concept-based instruction overcomes the fact-based, rote-oriented nature of standardized curriculum.

Distinguish concepts from critical information. Find the right blend between open-ended inquiry and direct instruction.

Make skills as important as knowledge. Choose several 21st century skills, such as collaboration or critical thinking, to focus on throughout the year.

Form teams, not groups. Innovation now emerges from teams and networks—and we can teach students to work collectively and become better collective thinkers. Group work is common, but team work is rare.

Use thinking tools. Hundreds of interesting, thought provoking tools exist for thinking through problems, sharing insights, finding solutions, and encouraging divergent solutions.

Use creativity tools. Industry uses a set of cutting edge tools to stimulate creativity and innovation.

Reward discovery. Innovation is mightily discouraged by our system of assessment, which rewards the mastery of known information.

Make reflection part of the lesson. Reflection is necessary to anchor learning and stimulate deeper thinking and understanding. There is no innovation without rumination.

Be innovative yourself. This is the kicker, because innovation requires the willingness to fail, a focus on fuzzy outcomes rather than standardized measures, and the bravery to resist the system’s emphasis on strict accountability.

Read the entire article by Thom Markham on MindShift at http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/04/10-ways-to-teach-innovation/

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