Innovation in Education is *not* ICT
I am asked about Innovation in Education quite a lot – partly because I have been involved in a lot of it!
I have just been interviewed by Lisa Phillips, who is conducting a Master’s Dissertation at the University of Oxford Learning and Technology programme. Lisa is looking at how innovation has become tied up with the use of technology in education and has already made some exciting findings from responses. I know she is looking for more input, which you can add to here.
The main theme that emerged in my view on this, as the conversation developed, was that ‘Innovation’ seems poorly defined and that this lack of clarity put the benefits of innovation at risk. As I expressed in my post From the Geeks to the Meeks, the relationship between innovation and technology has shifted the balance to a new group of people. This means that there is a huge variation in the perspective of what Innovation in Education is – and is not!
Innovation is, for me, Substantial Positive Change. It is not about gradual improvement. It is not about iteration alone – the iPhone 4 is not a substantial change from the iPhone 3. New ideas for schemes of work are (mostly) based on a familiar model of curriculum implementation.
Of course, schools are often tied by national policy, afraid of Ofsted and under pressure by national tests. These factors all mitigate against Innovation. It is understandable that most change is gradual and in small steps, carefully mapped to evidence from others that any development is ‘worth doing’.
Good teaching should be reflective, adaptive and built around the needs of the changing children. If digital technology is part of this picture, then great! This good practice might look similar to innovation, in that it might follow and be influenced by trends in technology and wider society.
I believe the following questions need to be asked of any project/practice claiming to be innovative: “Is this change substantial? Is it substantially better than what was being done before? Is it even really much of a change?”
The most common mistake, is to conflate Innovation in Education with using ICT in school. A crossover is inevitable. Given that ICT is the transformational driver in our society, change is often mediated by digital technology. In fact, if your work is not using digital media, then it is possible you are missing a trick! ICT moves fast and ICT teachers/co-ordinators are often forced to respond regularly to these developments.
ICT is, at best, a set of ‘approved practices’ to combine technical and pedagogic opportunities for learning. This is not innovation. ICT cannot be innovative.
Innovation in Education is about Behaviour Change. This can come from a variety of sources, but is always felt at a systemic level. In schools it must be for the benefit of the learners, and should have a clear pedagogical outcome that is substantially better than what went before.
This is not to say that Innovation cannot come from ICT work, and I hope that digital technology can still be saved from being ‘normalised’ and made too safe.
Politicians have grabbed hold of the term ‘Innovation’ and are using it to support policy. In this context it is more important for those of us who believe that digital media and technology can be a transformative force in education.
We must offer a clear picture of what innovation is, and point to examples that encourage policy makers (whether Heads of Department, SLT, or Secretary of State) to invest and support change that is substantially better.
I believe we have an education system that is not fit for purpose. We need Innovation in Education, and soon! We must work harder, together, to push for this transformation.
What do you think Innovation in Education is? What is the relationship to technology? Either share your comments here 0r get in touch with Lisa.