We are regularly told that innovation is the key to productivity, leadership and best practice in education. However, one would think that innovation is simply a code word for technology. That is, to become successful in the ‘new economy’ or in facilitating ‘excellent contemporary pedagogy’, we firstly need to be highly proficient in the use of technology. While I don’t disagree that technology has an important role in innovation, I don’t believe that the story ends here.
A paper published by the AISNSW Institute in 2016, titled Innovating for Global Excellence, paints a much richer picture of the place of innovation in Australian education. The paper highlights four main themes on which Australian education systems must focus: an agile and responsive education system; systematic and sector wide innovation; a license to innovate and collaborate at scale; and learning to innovate intelligently.
We are told that education systems are slowly coming to grips with the demands of the new world of work. However, to effectively respond, education systems require a capacity for creativity and innovation. Our problem is that too often traditional schooling models remain unchanged and increasingly out-dated.Innovative education should provide students with opportunities to work in environments that encourage rigorous project based learning, work on real world problems and opportunities to continuously explore, test and scale new ideas, practices and ways of working.
This requires education systems to change what they do and how they do it. We need to create new kinds of tasks, new ways of working and new space for students to excel.A system designed to be agile and responsive recognises the wide set of interconnections in play within education. For example, discrete innovations in practice and pedagogy can only meet their potential if they are supported by corresponding changes in assessment models, and there is a reframing of how the public conceptualises success and achievement.
For the most creative teachers and school leaders to achieve their potential impact, they need a license to innovate. This ideally requires design processes that engage communities of schools in collaboration not competition, peer learning and the establishment of effective professional networks. By introducing processes that support innovation, schools can break out of old dichotomies between knowledge and skills, traditional rigour and entrepreneurial creativity. Design and entrepreneurship need to become part of the life of schools.
Schools must come to grips with the reality that their task has changed. While on the one hand education systems still face the challenges of equity - of reducing achievement gaps caused by socioeconomic factors - they also have to grapple with the fact that getting students’ entry into a job or higher education is no longer a guarantee of success. We need to focus explicitly on developing critical, social and collaboration skills to produce the next generation of leaders. If Australia’s young people are to have a chance of leading the industries, governments and institutions of the future, our schools need to be among the most innovative and challenging in the world. People interested in reading the full paper can find it by following the attached link.
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