Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Empowering and Encouraging a Culture of Innovation in School

Innovation has become an omnipresent buzzword in educational technology circles. Although I feel it is a word that is a bit overused, the value of innovation, creation, and empowering others to innovate are vitally important and necessary in schools. To be a gifted innovator or creative thinker is equal parts innate talent and relentless work. True innovators have amazing ability to see the end goal or big picture as well as all the intricate steps and details it takes to get there. Innovators have minds that work tirelessly, dedicated to improving experiences, creating opportunities, and envisioning ways to make things better.

This year I’ve had the privilege to embark on an innovative risk for my school. Back in August, I opened the Collaboratory, a purposeful, fun, and safe learning space for all students in my building. The intention for creating this space was to help shift our learning culture so that teachers become facilitators and students are able to create, tinker, and authentically engage in learning. The Collaboratory is a place students will take risk, think critically, experience success, and have their creativity sparked. Not only has creating and facilitating this new learning space been empowering for me, it has also empowered many of our students and teachers. Students know when they come to the Collaboratory, they are able to exercise autonomy and agency which both are empowering and great keys to building self-advocacy in learners. Students are challenged in the Collaboratory, but leave feeling confident and happy knowing they have accomplished a lot in a safe and unique learning space.

As a result of their experiences in Collaboratory, many of my teachers have also been empowered. Teachers at my school now are willing to take risk with some of their lesson plans and are moving away from doing things as they’ve always done. For many of our teachers, status quo is now not good enough and the ability to facilitate and engage in learning alongside their students has reignited passion and increased their autonomy. Through my encouragement and the safe space the Collaboratory provides, a number of my teachers have pushed themselves out of their comfort zones, taken risk, and really done innovative things with their students. I am proud to see many of my teachers now understand content standards are a set of guidelines, but not rigid restrictions that limit imagination and innovation for lessons.

As a school technology coordinator, innovation is a skill I must have in order to continue to shift my school and our culture to purposeful technology usage to enhance student learning and engagement. The empowerment piece of innovation both our students and our teachers have fortunately been able to authentically experience this year. Authentic empowerment in my school has involved challenging my teachers to be uncomfortable, providing safety nets for their risk taking, developing trust with both students and teachers, and opening everyone’s eyes to big possibilities. When I empower others, my vision and innovative spirit transfers creating confidence and boldness to innovate in both teachers and students. The process creating a new innovative learning culture has not come without its share of speedbumps, but seeing the progress and growth during this journey at my school is beautiful. I truly believe innovators empowering others is how we can purposefully disrupt the status quo mentality that hinders most of our schools and stifles both students and teachers.

Shana White
MS Technology Coordinator

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