Undercover Innovation

As we approach our first online book club meeting this Tuesday night for The Innovator’s Mindset, it was fun to hear some of the chatter on Voxer (although I have to admit I am failing at it at this point-sorry folks). After listening to the conversation yesterday evening I had a variety of questions and thoughts swirling in my head. George posed a question to the group towards the end of the night about examples of innovation and it got me thinking.

I think often when we hear of innovation we think of the BIG stuff: the iPad, 3D Printers, robots, no desk classrooms of the world. I wonder though if more often than not what we experience is undercover innovation.

I received an email last night with some of the great work from our SWST team in Peel (check out an example here: Mindfulness @Forest Glen P.S.). As I was scanning through the Smores I had a bit of a flashback. It was probably 3 years ago that Shannon, Janet and myself were squished in a small room along with a few others around a table trying to explore how the tool could work for their practice. They were willing to take a risk and try something different, unconventional even. It was a new way to look at sharing a story. A way to bring images, sound, video and most importantly more student voice to a traditional university style paper report. Many are probably unaware of the story of how things got started for the SWST team or even the exploring, play and risk taking they had to engage in to get to the report to work in a new format. It was that willingness from the team to take a risk that resulted in other departments trying the tool and subsequently our board updates being shared in a Smore format last year. If you mentioned Smores today it may seem common place. I doubt it would be considered innovative. It feels a little like undercover innovation that many have missed. To others they may see the final product but not the work that went in earlier.

I wonder how many times we miss those undercover innovations in our system. Do we focus so much on the BIG fancy innovations that we miss the not as fancy changes in practice? How can we showcase the journey and not just the end product? How can we help these undercover stories of innovation spread? Is it as simple as sharing our stories? Is one kind of innovation better than another?

Do you see undercover innovations around you?

When we think differently about the things that we are used to seeing daily, we can create innovative learning opportunities-for our teachers and students.

Chapter 1 of The Innovator’s Mindset – George Couros

I can’t wait to explore the topic further this Tuesday night. I hope you join in on the Twitter back channel chat. 

What does innovation mean to me?

As we start our book talk about the Innovator’s Mindset next week, we thought we would warm up by blogging about our personal definitions of innovation. Here is my attempt but make sure to jump on over and check out the other posts as well.

FC394091-982F-4BF8-906F-D27E97A855AF.fullIt seemed like an easy prompt at the time: define innovation. I know we see the word used so often both in education and the world all around that it’s hard not to stumble upon an example whether it be a story about the iPhone to how to use alligator clips for anything but a clip.

Does innovation always mean a new idea? Can it be built upon our learning in the past? I went back to a post I had written a few years back after visiting one of the most innovative places I know: the very brief DigiPlaySpace at Bell Lightbox every March/April. I think many times innovation in my practice does look like bending the rules, taking an idea or a concept and adapting it, changing it, tweaking it, remixing it. I’m challenged more and more that maybe innovation does look like something completely different but at it’s core are human truths: the need to feel like you belong, to communicate, to play and experiment.

Maybe it doesn’t matter as much what I see innovation as, whether it is a completely new idea or something remixed from the past but rather that we are finding new ideas to engage in the learning process for kids.

“Innovation can come from either ‘invention’ (something totally new) or ‘iteration’ (a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of ‘new and better’, it is not innovative.”

Chapter 1 – The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros

Make sure to make your way over to the other blogs

Stacey Wallwin

Jennifer Casa-Todd

Donna Fry 

Paul McGuire

Patrick Miller

Mark Carbone

as well as to  ossemooc to read more ideas and reflections. I’m sure my definition will change over the week. 

10 Days 10 Posts

10 Days 10 Posts seemed like such a long time and now that it is day 11 it is hard to believe it’s over for me (You can start any time, it’s not too late!).  I stumbled upon the challenge really, I might have laughed when I first considered it, but was convinced that if I was challenging others to share a post, any post, each day for 10 days, I needed to challenge myself.

There were moments when I second guessed my posts. They could have been more composed, thought out, well written. I compared my process to that shared by others who had better structures and editing strategies and second guessed myself immediately. I realized though as the 10 days progressed that really it is about my process, taking the time to share thoughts that aren’t always filtered or complete.

I am still flabbergasted others came along for the journey. It is amazing the power community can have to inspire, to support you in your crazy endeavors,to keep you accountable. There were many times I didn’t feel like writing but seeing a tweet on the #peel21st feed got me at my computer.

So thank you to everyone that joined along or just started. Thank you to everyone that read the posts.

Check out some of the blog and Twitter posts below. Hopefully they inspire you to take on a 10 day challenge. If I missed you, please let me know.


Success 10/10

We were sitting in a meeting last Tuesday night chatting about a vision for the future and it dawned on me how much of our hopes, dreams, and visions are dependent on our definition of what success for students means. For me I think I would define success as learners being happy, healthy active members of the community. And then comes the question of how do you measure happy, healthy, active community members while being equitable and as unbias as possible.

Sometimes I worry that my definition of success is too lofty and then I think of some of the moments where I have felt success in my current role. From the learner that remembers you from one class the year before, the chuckles when a grade 3 learner goes in to manipulate their first game, a teacher mentioning you have impacted their practice.

Maybe more than anything success in school relies on learners catching the learning bug, of sparking a never ending passion for learning. How would you define success for kids?



Knowing When… 9/10

I love Seth Godin’s blog. On top of the sage advice, his brief, to the point posts always have made me slightly envious so here is my poor attempt.

Knowing when…

  • Knowing when to push and when to step back
  • Knowing the line between just enough and too much
  • Knowing what cause to champion and what battle to let go
  • Knowing what is in our control and what we can not
  • Knowing when to lead and when to pass on the baton
  • Knowing when fear or ego are becoming roadblocks
  • Knowing when it is time to stay and when it is time to move on

Some of the hardest lessons that I continue to learn as a teacher leader are the above. Not just knowing when but being at peace with the decision as well.

Knowing when… 


35 Years Later 8/10

I remember chatting with my professor one day as I was sharing with future educators and she caught me off guard when she mentioned how little has changed since technology was introduced in the 80s. As I was reviewing chapter 3 of Will Richardson’s book From Master Teacher to Master Learner and stumbled upon the below from Gary Stager, I was brought back to our conversation.

Thirty-five years after schools began purchasing microcomputers, they must still bribe, trick, coerce, cajole, or threaten teachers to use them. Nearly two generations of students have missed powerful learning opportunities due to the inaction of adults.  Will Richardson, The Master Teacher to Master Learner.

My role as a technology coach definitely take on many roles: cheerleader, confident, provocateur, curator and more often then not it also feels like a sales job. I have to convince folks it’s worthwhile (I don’t mind).

So I got to thinking:

Do I really agree? Are we still having to bribe, trick, coerce, cajole or threaten educators? Has it gotten better?

Do we too often tell educators technology will make life easier that when things go array they aren’t willing to persevere?

How do we help see technology as a right and not just an option? 

So many questions to continue to ponder. What do you wonder? Would love to hear your thoughts!


Confessions of an Introvert 7/10

I remember bringing the results from a Myers Briggs survey home (INFP) and chatting with my mom.  I fell close to the line of Introvert and Extrovert. My mother was not buying it. She was sure I skewed the survey somehow. No line to be had I was an introvert in her mind through and through. Most that know me socially or seen me at a party would probably agree.

IMG_8287I didn’t really expect my AHA moment to come from In Style magazine, especially an old issue about to make it to the trash. They have a great series I Am That Girl tucked into the back that talks to celebrities about issues affecting girls’ self-esteem. A ‘we all go through it’ kind of feel good read. Not knowing much about Shonda Rhimes I was skimming and scanning as I stumbled upon a line “I had become even more introverted, and I was working more than ever.” Oh my goodness that was me! It seemed to sum up the last few months perfectly. Sometimes I can just get lost in the planning, brainstorming, and creating. I don’t want to give it up because I know it helps me recharge and fill a sense of calm but something didn’t feel write. As I read on to see her solution: “So I challenged myself to say yes to every single thing that frightened me, every offer that came my way, for a year.” Yikes!

I may be writing this completely content to be alone and reflective after a busy week of learning with amazing people but I do realize it may be time to shake it up a little. I definitely say YES to work things all the time, but life things not as much. Things that frightened me probably not. CONFESSION: This introvert maybe let the introvert take over just a bit too much.

So here’s to saying YES to the things that may be scary and really hoping it’s not salsa dancing!