Monday, October 13, 2014

Supporting Student Innovation

Ever since the big push towards STEM a few years ago, I started thinking about innovation and how I can best support my students. As I guided them through various STEM projects and programs, I began to see how innovation should look in the classroom. Research, conversations with other teachers, and taking part in a few Twitter chats also influenced my view of classroom innovation.

First and foremost, teachers must support their students. Children are naturally curious and have a ton of ideas to share. Teachers can help by supporting this curiosity through STEM and project based learning which both foster innovation. We can also support our students by connecting them with learners across the globe. With tools such as blogging and social media available, students have the opportunity to take their learning outside of the school building. They can share, and reflect on their experiences.

Innovation cannot take place without allowing time for making and tinkering. Students should have opportunities for building, inquiry, and collaboration. All of these components foster critical thinking, which I have found to be a key ingredient in classroom innovation. Failure must also be allowed. It's not about the final result, it's all about the process. I think about innovators like Albert Einstein and Walt Disney. They failed numerous times and many didn't believe in them. We must make time for students to explore, and encourage them through their failures. We might just be teaching the next Steve Jobs.

In order to make room for innovation, classroom instruction needs to maximized. One way to do this is to enforce reading and writing skills in other subject areas. Reading and writing can and should be taught across the curriculum. In addition, we can think of creative ways to incorporate project based learning in each subject area. 

When we allow time for innovation and support our students through the process, true growth occurs and a student's perseverance and resiliency can be measured. It's important to measure student growth so we can continue to support them as they engage in innovation.