Teach students to communicate effectively in the Innovation Age

Communication looks different in the Innovation Age compared to the Information Age of yesteryear. Here’s how to help students succeed

PLCs-communitiesEd. note: Innovation In Action is a monthly column from the International Society of Technology in Education focused on exemplary practices in education.

Ready or not, education has entered the “Innovation Age,” where it’s not about what students know but what they can do with what they know. Teachers can prepare students to thrive in the Innovation Age by teaching them to think at three levels: “what,” “so what,” and “now what.” Students might think of it in terms of three overarching questions: What is the basic concept? What is its relevance and what is it related to? And now, what can I do with what I have learned to find solutions to unmet needs?

In the Information Age, the era we are just now emerging from, knowledge was power so educators taught students to access, gather, analyze, and report information. In the Innovation Age there is a glut of information and data are readily generated or at fingertip accessibility. Successful educators in the Innovation Age must empower students by leading them discover their agency, define their purpose, and be open to fresh perspectives.


In the Innovation Age educators must wield technology and media to become change agents and innovators with scalable concepts because they have a voice and a broader platform. Trends change by the hour and the day instead of seasons and years.


Before innovators can successfully meet needs, they must understand their users and think empathetically. In the Innovation Age success is in the eye of the user. Students must ask themselves what success looks like from many perspectives. Instead of a singular focus on presenting a single solution, innovators have to be adept at two-way communication to sustain their relevance and connection with their audience or market.

Educators must now focus on the 4 Cs (collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking), all hallmarks of the ISTE Standards for Students, to prepare students for college and career readiness. Many teachers have put off incorporating these “soft skills” because they feel too nebulous or abstract to teach. In my district, San Lorenzo Unified School District in California, we addressed three critical teacher needs through our 12-hour technology academies: (1) exploring new laptops and peripherals, (2) instructional strategies for integrating technology and incorporating the 4 Cs, and (3) experiencing a one-to-one learning environment before teaching in one. While the results are preliminary, initial responses and evaluations from participants show the focus on communication is very immediate, applicable, and thought-provoking.

Next page: Strategies and tools for better communication

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