Sunday, 15 September 2013
Can We Encourage Innovation or Does Innovation Happen In Spite of Us? #SAVMP
How do I promote innovation in my work space? As I am new to this space, I would like to give this some big thought! I work with a team of dedicated individuals who want to do the best for all children, who want to make the barriers fall so each student can be successful. Given such a situation, I would expect innovation to be popping up here and there. To an extent, our department promotes opportunities to be innovative. In terms of inclusion, innovation may be more difficult to promote as we work in schools across the district.
In one school we visited, the history shared was one of a space where students with needs where counselled out or not really even known about. In the past two years our staff have shared ideas for strategies for the inclusion of students who had identified needs. Apparently, the school has come miles in the past two years to meet the needs of the very diverse population in their school. However, there is one area of hold-out. There remain a couple of students who have very complex needs who still do nearly all, if not all, of their schooling in a separate space with an educational assistant. NOT inclusion. So our next steps will be to come up with innovative ways to include this student. How to promote this innovation?
For the class I am currently taking at the U of A with Kathy Howery (who has a great deal of expertise in Assistive Technology and UDL), I am reading a paper by Dave Edyburn. He describes innovation as advances made "because of create insight or the ability to solve a technological challenge" (p. 10). For one particular student at this school, I feel our team must be diligent to solve partly a technological challenge as this student has no speech and there doesn't appear to be any past discussion to give this student a method of communication. In this instance, how will we promote innovation? Certainly by presenting the problem and then giving optimal space and time to discuss the possibilities. It is my hope that this discussion and collaboration will produce what Edyburn describes as disruptive change or innovation that produces a "deep and profound change" (p. 10) for this student. The seeds have been planted with the consultant team and we will go out again in the next week to plant the seeds with the school team with hopes that the collaboration will produce some innovative ways to include this student. I am confident that our time and space provided for collaboration will lead to the innovation needed to benefit this student.
Innovation definitely depends on the provision of collaborative space and time for staff. In the past, in my time in school, our staff room discussions definitely lead to innovative practices as well as staff weekly designated collaborative time. Staff were encouraged to explore possible practices and sometimes innovation was born out of necessity in situations where teachers were not sure what their next step should be with a student or a classroom. For example, the grade 5/6 math teacher had so many levels of student ability that she needed to address that she came up with a very innovative way to meet these diverse needs. She created a website of videos to explain concepts (either made by her or by her students to demonstrate their learning). This became a tool for students who did not understand a concept if she was busy working with a different group of students. The students found these videos very helpful as they could start and stop or repeat the video as needed. They experienced success due to her innovative practice of "flipping" her classroom.
Of course, as leaders, we have to ensure there is a culture of risk in our schools if we are to promote innovation. Staff (and students) need to feel safe and secure in trying something and possibly failing in their quest to an innovative practice. Innovation can only be born of the ability to take risks and to not fear punishment for inevitable failures.
Will innovation happen in spite of us if we do not promote this culture in our school? Absolutley. I think innovation will happen within classrooms in response to needs of the students, particularly if the teacher in very much in tune with her students. Hopefully, we will get away from the traditional silo of innovation and work in schools as schools promote collaboration between teachers. This collaboration can only benefit all of our students, particularly if we truly believe in inclusive classrooms