By J. Waldron - PLAYtek founder, S.T.E.A.M. educational enthusiast and elementary school computer teacher @SteamSC
There’s a lot of talk about teachers needing to cultivate innovation and creativity in the classroom. Most would agree that the focus is about preparing students for the future, thereby, better enabling them carve out their place in a highly competitive, complex and increasingly automated workforce. When students are encouraged to create and innovate they are tapping into reservoirs of innate and latent talent that traditional education fails to tap into.
There are many reasons to embrace innovation and creativity in the classroom that go well beyond preparing students for the future and they all have to do with the present moment. When both students and teachers are captivated with ideas and are exploring, time ceases to exist. There is an unmistakable element of synchronicity where creativity flows freely and deep thinking follows. This is how authentic learning unfolds. It is as if students are discovering something for the very first time (which in their world they are!) The feeling of, ‘this has never been done before’ punctuates these moments of relevant and active learning.
Recently, at a the Palmetto State Arts Education annual conference here in Charleston, SC, the innovation theme prevailed. Keynote speakers and break out sessions embraced and reinforced the need for cognitive diversity, one that naturally embraces different perspectives and approaches to solving complex problems, the likes of which this younger generation will, no doubt, inherit. Naturally embedded in such thinking is the reinforcement and practice of both cognitive and cultural competency, the ability to understand and appreciate different perspectives.
Innovation in the classroom also naturally encourages a focus upon the following; process over product, space to fail safely in order to test out ideas, and divergent and convergent thinking. The results? Ripening an environment for solution finding, born of diversity of thought, to solve problems (both hypothetical and real world) that give credence to ‘it takes a village’ in order to truly get things done. This is the educational equalizer that validates multiple perspectives and approaches to learning and produces generative thought and action.
The conference reminded us teachers that innovation is about collaboration and that innovation is all around us. Every item that we interact with is the result of many iterations, the process of improving something in order to make it better. For example, the chairs that we sit upon are designed to be stable and comfortable, perhaps even adjustable (the lever inevitably to the right given most people’s dominant right handed inclinations). Once this awareness is awakened our immediate world takes on a vital and refreshing significance. There is purpose to our individual and collective endeavors for they are the basis of what it means to improve upon what once was. Not only is this good teaching but our future depends upon it.