8 Ways to Enable Innovation and Creativity in Schools

I am at a meeting to look at budgeting for the 2014-15 school year. As usual, we “need to do more with less.” This is part of our life in the public sector, so instead of complaining, why don’t we take a bit of a different direction…

If we need to do more with less, how do we do this? A big part of this is enabling ourselves to be open to innovative thinking and practice. Innovation is one of those terms that gets thrown about, but how do we actually get there and actively create creative and innovative thinking?

As a school-based leader, I believe that there are number of strategies that I need to make sure I utilize so that both our staff and myself actually have the opportunity to be innovative and do innovative work. There are a number of factors I believe I need to build to make that happen:

8. Framing our Work by examining “What is truly important?” – I need to make sure that I am modeling as best I can a focus on the main part of our work, which is that “students come first” and that “learning is the reason why we are here.” As a principal, I need to try to help our staff be able to maintain focus on our big work, not always the minor little details that can often distract us.

7. Get the constraints out of the way – In order to get to the deep work, as leaders of learning we need to try to get the constraints out of the way. If we want to get educational technology access, assistive technologies, resources, etc., we need to find creative ways to make it happen. We need to write grants, support infrastructure development, help teachers to work more effectively with the digital tools available for learning. This is not easy work…

6. Build and develop an experimental and risk taking culture – Teachers need to feel that you will support them in trying new things and practices. Our teachers need to know that trying a new practice is not a bad thing, and that this is how we improve and become better teachers. Which leads us to…

5. Support people when they fail – I saw a pic on Twitter that said that FAIL stood for “First Attempt In Learning.” I have failed many times, and as a school leader I believe it is my duty to share those times when I fail transparently with my team. I want them to know we all make mistakes (Even me! Especially me!) and that it is what we do with the mistake, the reflection, the change, the growth, that makes it worthwhile.

4. Help people to understand what innovative learning opportunities look like – I think a clear, student-centered vision of what learning looks like is the huge to enabling teachers to be able to see the place where we are moving toward. Without that vision, how will we ever start the journey?

3. Just get started on the “right thing” to do for student learning – When I began my journey as a teacher, I did not understand the purpose of assessment and how it could improve learning. Now, my tune has completely changed, but this took a lot of small steps to get me where I am at now. The right thing for me has changed over time and we have worked together to change our vision around assessment for learning. I would never have told you this was the right thing 20 years ago. The analogy a close friend always uses is to go for the “low hanging fruit,” rather than wait until everything is perfect…

2. Help each other out with creating and implementing best practice and how to become better in facilitating learning – We need to build up each other in our schools, our admin teams, our systems or districts, and our own professional learning networks. Whether you use Twitter, email, the phone, or face to face, we need to work together and share and build our capacity as educators…

1. TIME! TIME! TIME! – If we want to be innovative, this is the biggest need we have to make it happen! We need time for professional discussion, thought, reflection, sharing, questioning, experimenting, planning outside of the next day or week, or trying new things. My team has tried to limit staff meeting time, and utilize the staff meeting time for more than information dissemination. We are using a Google Doc for meetings, where all staff can now access and add as needed. We are sharing discussion using Google Docs. I am using the blog to share my thinking and reflections. I use speech-to-text to save my time, as I am not fast at typing. Our staff has time for creating innovative learning opportunities. They have time to go see other programs or schools. They have time to meet and talk. They have prep time for their team where the 2 classes in the grade community are learning in Music and with the Learning Commons Lead Teacher.

Work hard, learn tons, and be creative and innovative!



10 Responses to 8 Ways to Enable Innovation and Creativity in Schools

  1. Arruda, Oyelusi and Thibeau says:

    The Grade One and Room 18 Team planned out the next two activities for the “Incredible You” theme that we have been working on to build confidence, life skills and coping strategies in our students. We will be creating smile booklets and plaques with pictures of what makes them smile at Keeler School, as well as a project that will work with “things that bug us” and how we react to these.
    The team also looked at the final activity for the Senses science unit and the breakdown of the social project that students will engage in to learn about Communities (past and present).

  2. Sushko came up with the idea to have students dramatically share Circle of Courage stories, and she’s brought them down to the Learning Commons a few times so that we could teach together and learn together. Today we discussed how it was going and the logistics around filming and using the green screen for their final showcases.

    I also joined Steve over at Chris Akkerman to help craft a list of iPad apps that could and should be used for schools (over Google Apps).

    Then I wound down the afternoon debriefing about edTech and helping craft a story unit with the 6s.

  3. Grade 4 Educators says:

    Another afternoon of jam packed work… Trying to connect with all the educators that have a hand in the learning and growth of each of our grade 4 students.

    First, Tammy and Richard meet with Bartel. They used specific IPP’s to discuss the learning of the students in the Learning and Literacy program. YES.. The IPP’s are a document that gets revised and used and reused. Discussion was based on how we use technology and educators at Keeler for the students, to support their achievement in all academic areas.

    During the IPP conversation, Kathy meet with Mike to plan the filming part of The Circle of Courage Animal Stories. This is not only a learning curve for Kathy, but the young and talented actors in grade 4. It’s important for educators to build capacity in each other. Thanks Mike!

    Then… Tammy, Richard and Kathy came together as the grade 4 team to discuss and “finalize” the process of Student Led Conferences. We decided that we are focusing on the process of learning, as many projects are many different stages. Rather than rushing the project, we want to show the development of the skills and knowledge.

    Finally, high fives were given and we shouted with glee…

  4. Ndegwa, Bradley, Bryden, MacKenzie says:

    The Grade 6 Team, including Bryden and MacKenzie, continued to move forward with the planning of the story-writing unit. We discussed the needed skills we would have to scaffold and teach prior to embarking on story-writing. We divided up the necessary prewriting mini-lessons on a three-way rotation to be able to spend more time with each student and have smaller groups so students can share their writing. MacKenzie is going to support with Learning Commons time and open work times to ensure students of all ability levels can progress through the steps together.

  5. harjyote and brianna says:

    The grade 3 team has been working on journaling, and quality of life for various countries around the world. Students have been given pictures that depict housing, healthcare, food, clothing, and transpiration, of a country of their choosing. They are then asked to write a journal entry, pretending to be a child from that country and describe what they see, hear, smell, feel, and taste, while adding all the information that they have learned thus far.

    In doing so many journal entries, students have been encouraged to build upon their writing skills and make each journal better than the last.
    In building these skills, when students strive and fail, they are guided on how to make each sentence better. When they succeed their work is often read as an example to the class. Each student is responsible to bring their best work forward. When they submit a new entry it is only compared to their previous writing and not to another students in the class. This is so that they understand that they need to push themselves and take ownership of their own success.

  6. Heather says:

    The Kindergarten team spent some time supporting our student teacher, which was a good refresher for all of us about the importance of designing open-ended activities with multiple entry points (don’t you just love how having a student teacher around, it really makes you look at your own practice!!). We also spent time planning for student led conferences, as Kindergarten has not held student leds in a couple of years. We talked about how to best relay to parents exactly what student led conferences are about and what the expectations are for teachers, students, and parents during this time. We compiled a document to send home that lays out the role of each person (student, teacher, parent) during the student led process, and developed a list of prompting questions for parents to ask their student during the conference time (so that parents are getting some ideas about how to ask questions that prompt thinking and grow ideas).

  7. Polok & Lunnin says:

    The Grade 5 team met with Diana. We discussed student learning needs and upcoming projects to help make a smoother transition due to a change in teacher staffing. We also generated some ideas for future units (Chemistry, Poetry and Poetry Café, etc.)

    After, we brainstormed ideas for student-led conferences, and how to best showcase student learning with a focus on process vs. product. We plan to involve students in that brainstorming to really have them “own” these conferences.

  8. Grade Two Team says:

    March 12, 2014

    The grade two team came together to investigate student work to assist us in planning and modifying our social studies unit plan. We are currently working on building key vocabulary terms for students. We also want students to be able to explain what they have learned during student led conferences. The arctic unit will be a focus during student led and we want students to have a multitude of activities, projects and assignments to show to their parents and guardians. As a team we examined main questions we would like students to focus on, and we also examined templates and graphic organizers that would support our students in collecting research and becoming for independent in their project work. Literacy is also a key focus area for us and as a team we are working through the reading power fiction and non-fiction teacher guides. We have been working on brainstorming connection between subject matter and will be connecting, pirate art to pirate writing to allow students to connect literacy and art.

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