As I continue to be entrenched in my current Masters of Education course (Innovation in Teaching and Learning), the dialogue about how creativity, innovation, teaching and learning can be defined has been on-going. From developing or rather revisiting my own leaning philosophy to understanding the relationship between creativity and innovation, the course learning has been relevant to my own practice as I’ve been in constant reflection.
- How do I perceive creativity, innovation, teaching and learning?
- What is my role as a teacher?
In speaking to innovation in education today, the promise of technology has been leveraged by many districts, schools and individual teachers as a mode to project innovation. For example, just explore teaching professional learning networks on Twitter and profile descriptions such as “21st Century Teacher,” “Technology Innovator” and “Creative Thinker” can readily be found. This is not to take away from anyone and their descriptive voice. Rather, its an attempt to explore and make reference to a culture of innovation and it’s connection to technology. The promise or idea of innovation has become strictly connected to technology itself.
As a technology specialists in the classroom, I can appreciate the power that technology based applications and tools have in transforming teaching and learning. From using a VLE such as Google Classroom to the use of tablets and apps to support student learning, the focus on technological enriched teaching and learning has been exponential . I suppose, my concern is not just on how to innovate but the reason for it. The WHY matters.
Spark and the Tech-Divide:
It’s with a recent editorial piece highlighted during an edition of Spark on CBC Radio 1 and featuring Dr. Amy Gonzales that we as teachers and school leaders are reminded to revisit how we innovate. This is urgent because as Dr. Gonzales asserts, the research shows that the tech divide in education is real and that tech maintenance is impacting student success. Therefore, as educators turn to technology with the goal to “engage” students and foster innovation, its important to celebrate not only the successes but also limitations or next steps.
In a previous role as a district 21C and technology resource teacher and in my broader tech-ed experience, I’ve often addressed the importance of tech equity and the realization that “innovative practice” can live beyond the use of technology itself. Although I believe in the great potential that technology provides, I also recognize limitations and realities. Ultimately, technology is an enabler of purpose and intention.
Speaking to the edition of Spark and the conversation about the cost of maintaining antiquate technology for educational needs, the notion of innovation was worth examining.
Can innovation exist in education without a direct dependency on technology?Simply: Yes.
Take for example the learning tool Raz-Kids. This is not to dismiss its value but rather explore the idea that the potential of a tech-divide can hinder learning.
Raz-Kids is an app that provides learners and parents with access to level guided readers. In regards to early reading, guided readers are a great tool to gauge where a student is in their learning and encourage young readers to engage with books at their level. This is important as effective early reading occurs when students are reading at their level.
At my children’s’ own school, the purchase of a Raz-Kids licence was support unanimously by Parent Council. I was in favor of purchasing a collection of books rather than an application that would be used on devices that parents leverage for distraction rather education. As such, my concern was about the culture surrounding the use of the technology and “sell” that innovation was to be founded in the tech. Important to note, the teacher representatives on the council shared that their preface was “traditional” books and that the licence would be an adequate supplement.
In speaking to the tech divide, immediate concerns came to mind. I addressed the following concerns:
- What if access to suitable technology at home is not available or is limited?
- What if a household has limited access to internet data?
- Also, as there is an increasing concern about young children and screen-time, wouldn’t the continued use of a tangible book be viable?
Perhaps, in regards to the licensing of Raz-Kids at my kids’ school, innovation would have been showing a commitment to purchasing new guided readers for the Primary Division as the money was available and then working to develop programming that aimed to cultivate a culture of literacy; a reading club, a parent’s night and/or day workshop that provided stakeholders with the supports needed to use the guide reader etc.
In the end, as shared in the edition of Spark, the dependency on technology can be great and limiting at the same time. As we explore innovation as a way to improve the experience of students, it must be remembered that technology is a great enabler but also a potential fallacy.
In the era of Office 365, Google Apps for Education, Mine Craft for Education and so many other tech-centered tools, the idea of innovation must live beyond technology itself. This will ensure that all students can be successful and that innovation rises from a Why and not just a How.