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FORUM: What does innovation look like in your school? | An Enabling e-Learning event

Started by Nathaniel Louwrens 16 Mar 2016 9:24am () Replies (81)

Innovation in schools of any type needs to start with the idea that the goal is not to force kids to abandon their passions and interests for our curriculum.

- Will Richardson, Stop innovating in schools. Please.

blue orange Dictionary.com defines innovation as:

  1. Something new or different introduced

  2. The act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods.

There is so much innovation going on in our schools. Leaders and teachers are coming up with new ideas, and new ways of doing things all the time. But what innovation looks like to one school could be completely different for another as each school has different goals and philosophies.

George Couros states in Innovation and best practice, that his “belief is that innovation in teaching and learning starts with empathy; truly trying to understand those that you serve.” He expands on this to say that it’s “not only a starting point, but a continuous part of the process”.

As with all things in schools, we need to ensure that student learning is foremost on our mind. This includes in how we innovate. Will Richardson made this very clear when he says,

To put it simply, innovation in schools today is far too focused on improving teaching, not amplifying learning.


Join the discussion

  • What does innovation look like to you?

  • What does innovation in your school look like?

  • Are the innovations in your school amplifying learning? If so - how?

  • How is digital technology supporting innovation in your school?

  • Where do the tensions/challenges lie if any?


Image source: Thom Lunasea - Flickr CC BY-2.0



  • Byron Sanders (View all users posts) 27 Jun 2016 9:46pm ()

    What is innovation?

    To me innovation is about being willing to try something new - take a risk and see if it pays off. Often we stick to what we know because it is safe and there is minimal risk of failure. However, it we are willing to change and be innovative we are opening ourselves up to risk that it could go wrong because there are a number of unknowns. 

    Innovation in the classroom or school wide can take shape in a multitude of ways. It could be in the way we address and talk with or about students. It could be in the pedagogical methods we use or the curriculum content we share. 

    An important reflective question about being innovative is continually asking ourselves why we do something, the way we do? Why do we start school at 9am? More often than not, in the school setting, the answer will be because we have always done it. However, is that based on evidence - is it the school putting its best foot forward and provide for students in the best way we now know? Being willing to take risk could end in failure. But it could also end with significant progress and benefits for students. Something to think about… 


  • Kathryn Gray (View all users posts) 01 Jul 2016 10:34am ()

    I have loved reading everyone's viewpoints. I love the way innovation and modern pedagogies have allowed us to encourage curiosity. There are many inspiring videos we can use with our students to spark their interest. Flipping the classroom, collaboration and the potential for students to learn, challenge themselves and make a difference makes things o exciting. The key skills mentioned Curiosity, collaboration, initiative, multidisciplinary thinking and empathy - as mentioned in the video are the things that technologies can never replace. the human qualities. Such qualities though are what technology has allowed us to capitalize on. What an exciting time to be in education!!!!

    The Adaptable Mind from The Moxie Institute on Vimeo.

  • Natasha Furness (View all users posts) 04 Jul 2016 6:18pm ()

    Hi everyone, I have really enjoyed reading all the interesting thoughts and ideas. Kathryn thank you for sharing the above clip. I have used this many times this year with staff, board of trustees and families; such a great clip!

    What does innovation in my school look like? 

    This year we have invested time and resources into thinking about the skills our students need to thrive in their future. This really started last year. I was very lucky to be part of an initiative within our cluster of schools called Akoranga o Naenae (http://aonteachers.blogspot.co.nz/. As part of this, I worked alongside 2 other teachers, with students from across our cluster, not in a school but a setting within the community. The focus was on developing learning dispositions that allowed students to drive their own learning. The context through which these dispositions were developed was chosen by the students. There were many positive things that came out of this project and I can honestly say it was the best professional learning experience I have ever had. There were two things which stood out clearly from our evaluations, which I had not anticipated would come out so strongly. One of the things was the fact that it was based within the community and not in a school; parents came along and spent time learning alongside their children who hadn't done so within the school setting. The other thing was the degree to which the students valued the connections they had formed with students from other schools. An interesting insight into what we as educators show we value through what we say and do; and what is important to those who the education system is supposed to benefit. 

    Within my own school this year we have started to look more carefully at these dispositions; what they are, what they look like in action, what they mean to our students and our families. We are thinking if this is what we truly value and believe will give our students the skills they need to thrive and to make a positive impact on their world, how is that reflected in our assessment? By assessment I'm meaning any information we as teachers gather about our students and that students gather about themselves. Most likely anecdotal, observational, narrative, rather than checklist/tick boxes which surely minimise these dispositions in a way that discounts their complexity and interconnectedness. We have taken an approach whereby we are trying to involve all partners in learning every step of the way, giving lots of different avenues for involvement. We are consciously seeking to value the process, rather than rush to a finish line. This has meant lots of going backwards and forwards, making changes, being adaptive and rethinking what we originally thought. At times it feels that this approach is time consuming and that change is slow but at the same time the depth of thinking from families and students, seen in their discussions around learning, is hopefully indicative of their engagement. It feels like the views of families and students have been central to shaping this vision, rather than a situation where we have made the decisions and we are now checking them out because that's what we should do. It has been really exciting to be part of this process and to see the different perspectives that have been provided by involving students and families in this way. 

    Where do the challenges lie? 

    I have been dipping in and out of the text #EdJourney by Grant Lichtman, which I really recommend. In talking about innovation Grant talks about our most precious resource 'time'. He says that 'two areas which teachers constantly told me they wish they had more time, or more flexibility in time, were the organisation of class time and time for adults to meet, collaborate, and learn.' This part of Grant's book really got me thinking. How do we go about organising time in a way that allows for collaborative reflection to occur in a meaningful way? Grant asks 'how can a school team turn time from a limitation into a powerful tool?' I'm really interested to hear your thoughts on this?

    Thank you, 


  • Geoff Childs (View all users posts) 05 Jul 2016 9:56am ()

    Exciting to enable students to mix and learn with those from other schools. We still seem to see schools as discrete entities and any networking needs to be done using technology. 

    Anyway, thinking about time, interesting, never enough of course. Do you think the way the school year runs is part of the problem. What might it look like if teachers were given 5 weeks annual leave with some degree of flexibility as to when they took this, and the school organised how to best use human capital? What could the benefits be and what about possible drawbacks?


  • Sarah Kendal (View all users posts) 18 Jul 2016 9:21pm ()

    Thanks Kathryn for sharing the video "The Adaptable Mind", it was truly inspiring and at the same time reminded me that what we/I already do on a daily basis is innovative. Our school is a very traditional boys' secondary school who have only in the last year or so introduced BYOD for senior students and purchased sets of Chromebooks (very popular). Technology is not my forte and I often feel inadequate with the current trends. However, we are encouraged to use this technology and slowly but surely I have set up Google Classroom and have begun to use this with some success. 

    Technology is a definite work-on for me, but I know that I can always get assistance from my students. However, teaching them 'Human Skills' is something I see as vital to their learning journey.

    Curiosity, Creativity, Initiative, Multi-Disciplinary Thinking and Empathy.

    Empathy is not a word that is synonymous with teenage males. It is something which requires practice, and classics such as 'To Kill a Mockingbird' are still valuable today in teaching our young people these vital characteristics. Texts like these allow them to consider what life is like from someone else's perspective - “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Harper Lee.

    Our Principal recently initiated a connection with the local business community to see what they are looking for in future employees. The good old values of manners, punctuality and communicating effectively with others were top on their list - basically "being a good buggar".

    Perhaps we are not at the forefront of the technology, but we are definitely innovative in a world where young people are often seen as self-absorbed and driven by their devices.

    Traditional values are timeless.


  • Amy Perkins (View all users posts) 20 Jul 2016 1:09pm ()

    What does innovation look like at my school?

    • Being flexible with time - teaching and learning 'units' or 'topics' do not always fit into a school term.
    • Being responsive to assessment demands - not all students can cope having 3 internal assessments due in the same week and we do not have to assess Yr 9 and 10s at the end of a term/unit if they are not ready to be assessed.
    • Being savvy with our environments - Salvation Army chairs and beenbags, swapping desks and chairs for variation in height and shape, making resource centres from recycled bookshelves and tables etc so that students become greater self-managers.
    • Being collaborative - making links with other learning areas, combining assessments - 1 context and 2 ASs etc

    Thoughts from others?

  • Amy Perkins (View all users posts) 20 Jul 2016 1:12pm ()

    Is anyone using the e-Learning planning framework? would love to hear how and why.

  • Kathe Tawhiwhirangi (View all users posts) 21 Jul 2016 5:34pm ()

    Kia ora Amy

    MANY schools are using both the e-Learning Planning Framework (eLPF) and Te Rangitukutuku (Māori medium eLPF)  They are such useful tools! (Can you tell I'm a tad biased here?? :-)

    Why: these tools invite schools/kura to self review alongside each of the 5 dimensions within the framework, to gauge their current e-learning positioning across their school

    How: there is a hard copy manner in which this can be addressed. Visually display these around your staffroom and have all staff walk around and chat and ask questions about each of the aspects that sit within the eLPF and then, position where they see the school positioned. There is also the online tool that takes about 20 mins to address. The difference here is, there is little interaction with anyone else during his time. This however, can be done in an asynchronous manner and anywhere at anytime. There are pros and cons whichever way you decide to address this :-)

    Note: there are 4 'voices' in this review - teachers, leaders, students, whānau :-)

    So what, now what? The cumulative data allows you to decide as a staff, which aspect or aspects, you want to progress. If you take into consideration your charter, the schools vision, student data and the data from this self review, you will have a big picture as to which area is the most useful one for you to progress at this time. With all voices involved in the co-construction of your collaborative inquiry, it won't take you too long at all to gain some huge momentum and shift :-)

    What also tends to happen, is that individual teacher inquiries start forming too!

    This translates into some change in teacher practice, flow on into classroom programmes, and a strong 21C culture operating - if you're not already learning and teaching in this way

    My personal preference? 1st time through the self review process, a visual and interactive positioning. session

    After that? an online version.

    Returning to this review (how ever many times you do this) allows for a compare and contrast picture to form for you all. It is very exciting when schools can view these graphs and see the shift they have made :-)

    Go well on your journey here!!

    Any queries, feel free to get back to me :-)


  • Junior Togia (View all users posts) 20 Jul 2016 3:19pm ()

    Innovation is relative.  In our school at this particular time of our journey and evolution in IT use and ILEs, innovation looks like taking risks to discuss new initiatives that may enhance learning and outcomes. Hypothesising, exploring and building an understanding of this research and reflections about these initiatives.  At this early stage I see my role as ‘telling' and 'selling’ the rationale behind the initiative so that my early adopters can convince the early and late majority to build a shared responsibility of the change.

  • Allanah King (View all users posts) 21 Jul 2016 4:42pm ()

    This discussion thread 


    And this webinar with Barb Keane from Tua Marina school maybe of use as to how people have found the use of the eLPF.


    I hope the links work!!

  • Rick (View all users posts) 21 Jul 2016 4:56pm ()

    HI Amy

    This link will (may) answer your questions. 


    Stolen from the above link :)

    The e-Learning Planning Framework (eLPF) and Māori-medium eLPF are tools to help schools and teachers reflect on, and evaluate, their e-learning capability. The eLPF is intended to support regular self-review and subsequent improvement of e-learning skills and knowledge, in ways that reflect our bicultural heritage within a multicultural context.

    If you would like to discuss it further you can email me and we can get together online for a chat.

  • Rick Whalley (View all users posts) 21 Jul 2016 5:39pm ()

    Hi Amy

    Here is a link the will (may) answer all of your questions


    Stolen from the link :)

    The e-Learning Planning Framework (eLPF) and Māori-medium eLPF are tools to help schools and teachers reflect on, and evaluate, their e-learning capability. The eLPF is intended to support regular self-review and subsequent improvement of e-learning skills and knowledge, in ways that reflect our bicultural heritage within a multicultural context

    If you would like to discuss it further then you can email me and we can get together online for a chat. 


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e-Learning: Leadership

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