What Propels Innovation in the Classroom: Transparency & Reflection
The word “innovation” gets thrown around a lot. People tend to label a “product” innovative- or even the work/classroom environment. When people visit “innovative” work environments they marvel over the snack stands, beanbag chairs, and moveable desks. But what most of us don’t focus on is the process of innovation- and in my opinion, transparency and reflection are two key ingredients.
Transparency is vital because when more eyes are on a project, the pressure (usually positive) to perform is turned up to 11. Or when the journey to launch is being made public, EVERYONE is super-charged. This transforms a “class project” to a real world entrepreneurial adventure.
I cringe when I hear someone begin to talk about a new project they’re working on… then stop and say, “I want to tell you more, but I can’t because it is so amazing… please sign this NDA.” The irony is that by having more eyes/opinions on a project, one has a greater sense of understanding. Keeping things under wraps is usually a one way ticket to not understanding the very people that could potentially want your project/product to come to market. Better yet, transparency is the key to collaborating with other influencers- if they know what you’re working on!
Being transparent is a bold way to showcase your journey. In an podcast I did with Stanford’s Tina Seelig (author of some amazing books) she remarked, “If what you are working on is easily stolen, then it probably isn’t that innovative.” Conversely, if someone is working on a difficult task (thinking REALLY big moonshot here), by being transparent they’ve become a torchbearer, a leader in the movement. They’ve set a tone that people can be a part of your journey, and that you cannot get there themselves. This will attract more to the journey.
So, if one has been transparent in the journey, the reflection process now becomes a high priority. If we’ve done a good job about being transparent, it is important to synthesize the information and make smart pivots along the way. ANYONE in an innovative field will tell you that all big ideas make several twists and turns along the way. But it’s hard to see those pivots if one doesn’t take a step back to reflect.
In my “Innovation and Open Source Learning” class, I have my students reflect every other week. This is enough time for the students to wrestle with their project, yet not too much time to get lost in the process. While I like a good written reflection, I also cherish the verbal reflection. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard “now that I hear myself talking, I think I just realized something.” This looking back on what they’ve done helps them pick up the patterns on where they are going.
This is why I recommend to anyone from high school to retirement- to journal, or even better, blog and publish your intentions and results to the world. When they boldly document where they’re going and what they’ll accomplish, people like taking the journey with them. Each blog post can be about the progress, changes they’ve made, and suggestions they’ve heeded. Heck, just picking up your phone and recording a video would be a great start. Anchor.fm is also a useful for making a podcast on the go. You can literally make a podcast while walking to your car.
If you feel like you don’t have enough time simply record your thoughts/ journey via cell phone video and post it to YouTube. Or, simply do daily stories on Instagram, Snap, or Facebook live videos. It is a simple, effective way to share the journey.
I’ve decided to take my own advice this fall and launch a video series with fellow StartEdUp teachers. In fact, Jamal Crook and I will be hosting a weekly tutorials and helpful tools for teachers to foster innovation in the classroom. You can follow along on our Facebook page for free resources and updates. Most important to us (our team at StartEdUp), we will document our journey this year. Our team, comprised of two teachers and four former students, will be partnering with several organizations and schools to push innovation and entrepreneurship to the forefront.
*If you would like to know more about how we are trying to make a dent in this educational universe, please email me at: email@example.com. If you really want to help, please sign up for weekly updates by subscribing to our newsletter- or jump in on the conversation on our Facebook page!