In today’s world, employers look for those who can use their knowledge to do something that hasn’t been done before that allows the business to move forward, in other words, they want their employees to be innovative. In a similar fashion, it is essential that educators use what they know about teaching and learning and provide new and improved opportunities for their students. Unfortunately, schools have budget constraints that businesses may not have. As George Couros states in his book, The Innovator’s Mindset, “Innovating in our schools requires a different type of thinking, one that doesn’t focus on ideas that are “outside of the box” but those that allow us to be innovative despite budgetary constraints. In other words, we need to learn to innovate inside the box.” [p.36]. So what does that look like?
An example of “inside the box” innovation would be our Freshman English reading requirement change. Students still need to read and analyze text, build vocabulary and other skills previously expected but rather than all freshman reading the same book, they are now allowed to choose a book they are interested in. The teachers built up a library of books that students can choose from using funds already budgeted for, books they donated from their own shelves and garage sale finds. After the student’s initial shock that they were given a choice, they are reading more, writing book recommendations, creating video book talks, and sharing their excitement about their books. Students who come into the program as struggling readers are completing books and many students are reading far more than the requirement. It’s exciting to witness. Teachers took a problem, student disinterest in the assigned book, and designed an improved program within the constraints they were given which improved student outcomes.
So what is your “inside the box” thinking?