When I think of innovators I think of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. They come up with something new and people use it. I guess there are people who are innovators whose stuff we don’t use or whose stuff aren’t so famous but I am familiar with many Apple products and the lure of Facebook, which is why I used Jobs and Zuckerberg as examples of innovators. What got me thinking about all this is something my wife said. She remarked about how when Facebook makes a change we’re stuck with it. So I thought, why? Why is it that when Zuckerberg makes a change to Facebook we’re for the most part stuck with it. Why is it that when Jobs created the iPod or the iPhone or the iPad millions bought them? They created something new that people found a use for. That’s pretty awesome. Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning for Parkland School Division in Alberta, Canada, George Couros, wrote a great post just recently about innovation (Defining Innovation?) just as I was thinking about writing this blog post. (How cool is that?) In his post George determines that for innovation to happen we as educators and leaders need to create the climate for creativity to happen. We need to create the space for innovation to happen without dictating what the innovation is supposed to be or going to be because if we did that it wouldn’t really be innovation.
I thought about Zuckerberg and Jobs who come up with stuff no one has thought of and how I’d love to do that, but I am not an innovator. I can’t think of anything that I do or that I’ve done that is innovative. I can’t think of any of the things that I’ve done where I didn’t get the idea or part of it from someone else. I’m great at taking off with ideas from others. That why I love twitter and my PLN. I get ideas from my PLN. The ideas that I I’ve taken off with seem to be things that not all educators are doing. Things like having kids blog, having kids use social networking in class, having kids share their work with kids in other schools, and having kids comment on the work of others seem like things that not all teachers are doing. There seem to be many teachers who don’t do things like going gradeless or finding non-traditional, non-factory-models of teaching. So I see myself as a pioneer. One definition of pioneer is, “a person who is among the first to research and develop new areas of knowledge or acitivty.” I may not come up with any new things on my own but I will try all sorts of the new things if I think it will motivate my students to work and learn. Since I am the only teacher at my school doing the things I do, that makes me a pioneer at my school at least. And from what I hear on twitter, I’m not alone at being alone.
Don’t we need pioneers to use the innovations? To test them? To see if they work, how they work? Are you a pioneer?