Introducing and implementing innovation successfully
A time of crisis and a time of opportunities...
Flying to Barcelona, on my way to the Microsoft Global Forum and can't help noticing my fellow passengers reading about the economic and social crisis that's spread globally like the Plague. I bet most of them would raise their eyebrows in disbelief if they heard that a school from Greece - a country devastated by the austerity measures imposed in the past four years- is a World Tour, Mentor school, one of the 35 schools from all over the globe, chosen to share their best practices and pioneering spirit. 1:1, Project Based Learning, Personalized Learning, Open Learning Spaces are at the forefront of educational practices adopted by schools with a vision for enhancing learning and facilitating students to develop skills/competences to build a better world. For Doukas school, this is not the first distinction in its 97 year old journey in education.
But how can a school achieve such a spectacular progress under such adverse conditions? Against popular belief, it does not require a magic wand. It takes consistent work, concerted effort and collaboration at many levels. I guess books can be written about how to incorporate change into your daily teaching life but if I were to condense it into a few bullet points, I would single out the following:
- Vision and Strategic Planning
Your dream for a better learning process can become true through careful planning and preparation months before implementing or piloting the changes you want to introduce.
No matter how inspired a leader maybe, it is not a one man show. Sharing ideas, negotiating and concluding on “tangible” course of action rather than vague theories plays a key role in the success of a project. It is also team work that will lighten the workload and motivate everybody to do their best
- Peer support
Sailing in uncharted waters in education often means tremendous pressure from parents, teachers and ourselves in order to meet the new standards. Peer support can give valuable feedback in a non-threatening way, absorb tension and instill a feeling of security to educators who often feel their job and reputation are at stake.
- Involve all stakeholders
“It takes a village to raise a child” according to a saying. I would paraphrase it to“ it takes a community to educate a child”. Parenst can be very supportive once they are aware of the innovations introduced in the syllabus and what these aim at. Educators play a key role in this process and learners who voice their opinion and concerns can contribute effectively with their feedback to the design or review of the syllabus.
- Incorporate technology into the syllabus and exploit existing resources to the maximum.
Technology can boost learning and give access to learning material (authentic, simulated authentic or authored)to students at a time when books are not always readily available. Most schools have equipment that usually gathers. Making use of the school’s and learner’s equipment (Bring Your Own Device) engages teachers and learners who join forces to achieve the ultimate goal : learning
- Invest in innovation in terms of time, money, effort, training
No educational success story was ever achieved overnight. Innovation takes time (planning, piloting, assessment, reviewing, implementation). It requires effort to design and apply something new in the most efficient way in classes and to fight insecurities or prejudice.
Probably the most ignored part of this process is training. Teachers need to be trained – be it technology or methodology- and given ample time to assimilate fresh ideas and practices so that they can use them creatively and exploit them thoroughly in class instead of a superficial approach with dubious results.
All the above, most of the times, require a budget. Yet, teachers usually find ingenious ways to make the most of the tightest budget once they feel that the effort is worth it. If you are keen on changing, you should be prepared to invest in it prudently but gallantly. The return of your investment will be visible after a few months or an academic year but can have a positive impact in the long run.
A time of opportunity
The severe crisis has led many people to reconsider certain attitudes and express themselves openly in favour of a drastic overhaul that will render education the powerhouse of a new, better world. Despite the meager resources, the poor finances, this change of mind can support efforts made both in public and private schools to see education in a new perspective and introduce new practices that will allow students to be active citizens using their critical thinking to build a better world.
All the above may need your time, effort, persistence and take you out of your comfort zone but in return you may find that you have discovered new potentials and opened new horizons for yourself and your students.