Thursday, March 10, 2016

Does Innovation ACTUALLY Work?

First, let me start this post with this.... "Hi, Mom!"  Yes, I have a proud mother who reads each of these posts. So, let's hope she enjoys this one.

I recently finished reading this article by Will Richardson, and I happily agreed with (just about) every word of it.  In the article, Mr. Richardson argues that innovation in school can't stop at the shiny tech tools and toys we tote around our schools.  No matter how we dress up our curriculum and make it look innovative, it's not really.

We all know that when an authority dictates what we learn and when we learn it, school gets really boring really quickly.  We know it because we lived it.  Real learning -- deep learning -- comes from exploring a topic that we have a true passion about.  As educators, our job is to foster that passion, to fan its flames, and teach our students how to learn rather than what to learn. And that is when we become innovative teachers in innovative schools.

Yet, as I nodded my head up and down, a gnawing thought continued to work on me.

How do we know this innovative thing is actually working? 

Let's say you've been reading about maker space or Genius Hour or some new-fangled 21st century way of teaching and you really want to bring it to your school.  You put together a great presentation about what this will look like and how it will be a great asset to your school and sit your principal down to talk pitch your idea.  What if... your principal says, "That sounds great, but how do we know it will increase student learning?"

What do you say?  How do we prove it's a good thing?

Gut feelings, bright and cheery faces, and snazzy TED-like talks aside, how do we know this thing we're doing is making a difference in our students' lives -- today and in the future?

And, yes, there are a lot of question marks toward the end of this post because I'm really asking these questions. I'd love to hear what sort of data you are putting together to show that your innovative philosophy of teaching is truly making a difference in the lives of your students.  Please share.