6. Does the assignment demo “best in the world” examples of content and skill?
Before the Internet it would have been impossible to show students examples across the curriculum of “best in the world” applications of knowledge and skills across the curriculum. Now we can.

One example comes from a science teacher who shared with me that one of his students was under motivated to work on the “egg drop” assignment. You may remember this is where you have to design a contraption surrounding a real egg and then drop the whole thing from a height to protect the raw egg from breaking. I suggested that he show the student a search of “award winning egg drop” site:sg to find videos from Singapore middle and high school students to motivate the young man to get to work. While this strategy does not work in every single instance, watch what happens when you show students “the best in the world examples” of what other students can accomplish. Students are often more motivated, inspired, and willing to work harder when they know what other students have accomplished. Sports coaches rely on this very same strategy to motive and inspire their athletes. Of course this kind of research can also help the teacher realize that they may want to recalibrate their expectations of acceptable student work to a higher level as well.

Conclusion

Attempting to frame a definition of innovation should lead to healthy debate.  If the litmus test revolves around the straight forward question about whether or not the technology functions, then yes, many schools can claim to be innovative.  However, if our aspirations extend to a new level of student achievement then too many of our schools are “technology rich and innovative poor.”

Clearly, we must move our focus beyond the device and toward the design of learning. Otherwise, we may find ourselves, as Neil Postman so eloquently described in 1985 when he titled his book about the impact of the media, Amusing Ourselves to Death. If he were alive today, he might say that we are amusing ourselves to death with a 1,000 apps.

Alan November is Senior Partner and Founder of November Learning. Visit his website at http://novemberlearning.com or follow him on Twitter @Globalearner.