Often when working with educators, I try to give relevant examples of ideas that can be implemented into learning but get very specific to either a class or grade level. My focus is not adding something to the plate of an educator but replacing something they currently do with something new and better than what they may have been doing before. For example, instead of a teacher spending hours searching a video to explain a concept in math, or even creating it themselves, why not have the students find the concept and say why it is powerful, or having the students create some form of multimedia to explain the concept themselves? The flip is putting the learning into the student’s hands, which can lessen the work for the educator.
Deeper learning for the student, less work for the teacher. Sounds good to me!
But then someone will say, “Well what about science?!?!” And if you think that yourself, you might be part of the problem.
You see, the issue here is that we are asking our students to find problems and provide their solutions, while many want ideas dumped on their doorstep. We advocate for deep learning in the classrooms of our students, but then cheer at a conference when we get a ready-made plan for our next day with students. It is not bad to get these things, but it is crucial that as educators we are observant and make connections to the work that we do.
As someone who focuses on innovation and leadership in education, everything I see, hear or read, I try to connect back to my own work somehow, and say, “How would this work in my context?” As one of the characteristics of “The Innovator’s Mindset“, being observant in a world that has no information shortage, is crucial. In my book, I shared the following on the notion of being “observant”:
Great ideas often spark other great ideas. The notion of “Genius Hour,” which is an idea that has spread throughout schools all over the world, came about because educators noticed what was going on outside of schools and modified those ideas to meet their students’ needs. The power of the Internet is that we have access to so much information from schools and other organizations. Although an idea observed in the business world might not necessarily work “as is” for a school, if we learn to connect ideas and reshape them, it could become something pretty amazing.
The best educators are looking for inspiration in all areas, but know that carbon copying ideas for students rarely works. Making your own connection is crucial.
I tweeted this recently:
The best research any educator can do or tap into, is knowing and understanding the learners they serve. Everything else is secondary.
— George Couros (@gcouros) September 26, 2017
Notice I didn’t say “students,” but “learners they serve,” to ensure that no matter your position, you should know the people in front of you. Relationships are crucial to the work we do. But we also have to be open to ideas, no matter where they come from, to find ways to serve our students.
Being open and observant of all the ideas shared around you might not give you the exact strategy that you are looking for, but might help create a connection that makes all the difference in the work that you do.