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Innovative educators know how to take teaching and learning to the next level

innovative-schoolsToday’s schools, educators, and district leaders strive to give students the best education possible. Doing that means being innovative.

But in today’s world of ever-changing technology tools, assessments, new instructional approaches, and calls for reform, what does it mean to be innovative?

This broad question, which is open to interpretation, leads many schools to revamp practices and policies to reflect a more modern approach to education.

(Next page: 9 tips for innovative education)

1. Reward–don’t punish–failure.
Students shouldn’t be so afraid of arriving at the wrong answer that they stop trying. And administrators should empower teachers to try new things, even if they ultimately don’t work. After all, failure holds valuable lessons.

2. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
This might mean ceding a bit of control to students, or trying something so off-the-wall that you’re almost certain it will fail. You’ll never know until you try.

3. Help students see the bigger picture, past learning facts in school.
Sure, facts and dates are great. But everyone remembers when their favorite teacher said, at the beginning of the year: “I won’t make you memorize dates. You can always look up the date of an event. I want you to understand the ‘why’ in everything we study.”

4. Consider project-based learning.
Teach students about a concept, but then give them real-world challenges to solve. This way, they’re applying that knowledge in real and practical ways. This approach has two benefits: it lets students take ownership of their learning, and it also shows them how their knowledge can be used in the real world–a powerful engagement tool and motivator for post-secondary education.

5. Explore how a flexible physical environment might lead students to new ways of learning.
Ditching desks and chairs, and letting students work in groups on the floor, outside, or in unconventional areas may help them break out of the mental confines of a traditional classroom.

6. Give students room to explore.
It helps them develop and strengthen skills that today’s assessments don’t measure, but that are critical to post-school success. These skills include critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity.

7. Don’t overlook any subject area’s potential for innovation.
Think STEM subjects and instruction are pretty cut and dry? That might not be the case. Remain open-minded, and realize that innovative moments can appear anywhere.

8. Accept that sometimes devices don’t hold the answer…
The most impactful learning experience might come from putting devices down and using another instructional tool. But that’s the whole point of technology: use it when appropriate, and avoid using tech for tech’s sake.

9. …but sometimes, they do, and they can be used in extraordinary ways
While No. 8 above is true, sometimes, technology tools and devices can connect students with amazing and powerful learning resources and experiences. And when that happens, engagement soars.

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Laura Ascione

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