Why is “innovation” crucial to education today? Or maybe it isn’t? #IMMOOC

Why is “innovation” so crucial in education? What impact do you see it having on our students and ourselves long term?

These are questions that plague my brain. At one end of the spectrum I see innovation being the epicenter of much of what I try to instill in my philosophy of education as a teacher, coach, mentor, father, and husband. Much of what I try to create in students is an innovative mindset for them to believe that they can indeed solve complex problems.


I struggle with the concept. I struggle because I want everyone who walks into my room to be innovative. As much as I know that we want EVERY child to be proficient, competent, innovative, growth mindset, have grit, etc. I realize that being innovative can be something that we try to accomplish. In the end not everyone will be innovative. It is not how the world works. I believe that everyone has POTENTIAL to be innovative, but for many it will never move beyond potential into TALENT.

Ponder this…..

Jonathan Huebner states in his paper titled, “A possible declining trend for worldwide innovation” that:

The rate of innovation peaked in the year 1873 and is now rapidly declining. He defines innovation as “The number of important technological developments per year divided by the world population.”


It is important to read the paper, but basically it boils down to the fact that innovation is declining. It peaked a hundred years ago and continues to decline because we are reaching our limits. Now because of this he asks some powerful questions that I believe could spark the next wave of innovation in face of saving innovation.

  • What are the implications for the economy, government and society of declining rates of innovation?
  • What standard of living corresponds to the economic limit of technology?
  • Will the level of technology reach a maximum and then decline as in the Dark Ages?
  • Did the failure of ancient people to invent the printing press cause the Dark Ages?
  • Are there any key inventions that could reverse the current decline in the rate of innovation?
  • Are improvements in the flow and processing of information the primary sources for increases in the rate of innovation?
  • Are there any other reasons for the decline in the rate of innovation during the 20th century besides the approach of an economic limit of technology or a limit of the human brain?
  • What is the relationship between innovation and democracy?
  • Does democracy depend upon innovation?

But I don’t think all is lost either. I am currently reading Kevin Kelly’s new book The Inevitable and he brings up a different mindset from the study above. In chapter one he discusses the internet and how 20 years ago today if you would have said there would be the Internet as we know people would have laughed at you. It simply was not imaginable that people would do all this work for free as we have down to crowdsource the Internet that contains 60 trillion web pages.

Think about this as he reminds us this has all been created in 8000 days. People would have lost their mind to have the power of the Internet back in the day. Because of this we are reminded that indeed, “the impossible is more plausible than it appears.”

The Internet is just getting started and how it operate, look, and function in another 30 years will be mind-blowing. We cannot fathom the concept yet because all we know is what we know. The day will come where we can search literally anything about anything whenever we want. The internet is in its infancy as we speak.

As he closes a chapter he states, “Right now, today, in 2016 si the best time to start up. There has never been a better day in the whole history of the world to invent something. There has never been a better time with more opportunities, more opening, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk rations. better returns, greater upside than now.”

With this thought we must ask ourselves what are we doing to tap into this moment ourselves and with our students? Are we truly doing all that we should to take advantage of the moment?


Innovation cannot be a goal because I feel it is a natural outcome of many circumstances. We must work to develop the mindset that allows for innovation to take place. We must provide the context for students to push to new limits. We must model and mentor how to think, how to learn, and how the world operates so they can begin to truly ask, “What if?”

Innovation is amazing when it happens which is why it is called innovation. Innovation itself is not crucial, but providing the environments, atmospheres, confidence, and skills to allow innovation to happen is crucial.

Students must be given the chance. Innovation cannot be a grade. It cannot be an expectation. It cannot be something that is written up into a recipe. It just is and happens when it happens.

However, teaching the same, teaching to the middle, teaching wth practices we know are not what is best while we know it is not what is best, will not lead to innovation.

I guess in the end does your learning conditions allow students to innovate or suffocate?

If only education were that simple that it could be boiled down to a yes or no option. You see, I believe that all ideas in education are good in the land of theory. I have read more than my share of books and research and each time I read one I can see how it would work……

Until you put it into practice in a real classroom of one adult, 30+ kids of which half have a need that really must be adhered to all times, and a mixed bag of other variables depending on the school, time of year, and time of day.

This is where it gets muddy. Technology is not an answer. A new system of “x” is not the answer. Competition is not the answer. Unions are not the answer. Standardized tests are not the answer. Nor are they they problem either.

What works best for me as a student cannot be applied to everyone. We are all different. We are all trying hard. We are all trying to make sense of the world as it changes, as people change, as our needs change, and doing so in a time where teachers have never been asked to carry so much upon their shoulders.

If innovation was easy and readily available these issues would be solved. And this is why we must nurture the minds of the youth so they believe they can innovative and help to one day be part of a solution…….. and perhaps that solution is the answer to one of your problems if you happen to be so lucky.

Regardless of your opinion if you think innovation is declining with little hope or you have the optimistic mindset that the moment is now you are pushing for innovation. Both mindsets require and are asking for innovation to either save us or to take advantage. We are all in this together striving for the same thing. The question now becomes HOW?





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