Why Imagine and Seek to Innovate?

Innovation is essential to creating and sustaining a culture of learning where learners of all ages are prepared to meet the opportunities and challenges of our rapidly changing world. Innovation is central to a culture of learning with equity at the center—so that every learner gains access to opportunities and is supported to achieve success in them.

Consider the COVID19 pandemic

Most schools had to rapidly transform teaching and learning to ensure students were able to continue learning despite the numerous and unpredictable disruptions caused by the pandemic. Traditional methods and structures did not adequately support engagement and learning for all learners, particularly those learning remotely.

Prior to the pandemic—a rapidly changing, disruptive world seemed unreal. Today we know it is not. Therefore, not only do we need to prepare learners for a future that we cannot imagine, we need to prepare them to be ready to meet a rapidly changing today! And, to do so empowered to be active agents in how they continue their learning and achieve success, in any circumstance.

Compelling Findings: More Reasons to Innovate

There are compelling reasons why many communities seek transformation in their schools.

  • We found that schools-and their students-who were already engaged in innovation were more prepared for the ‘pandemic pivot’ than schools continuing learning in more traditional ways.
    • They were familiar with blended learning and worked through the technical issues before the forced closure due to COVID19.
    • They developed learner habits in their students which increased student ownership and confidence for learning remotely.
    • Curriculum was transparent and available for students and their parents to monitor and adjust their learning along a learning progression.

      Teachers “understand the situations that kids come from, and they understand the backgrounds, and they really try to fit the classroom to every individual need.” -Student in School of Innovation

  • Schools involved in innovation prior to the pandemic had a sense of ‘family’ that helped them band together to identify barriers to remote learning more quickly and act to meet the needs of their newly remote learners more effectively.

    Teachers “care about us and what is going in our life. Everyone at this school cares about us. They all encourage us.” -Student in School of Innovation

Schools…may seek innovation, rather than reform or incremental improvement…. The process of going from a culture of improvement focused on addressing current problems, to a culture of innovation that devises and tests new solutions, is extremely challenging and requires different ways of thinking.” -Duty and Kern, 2014

Where do I start?

Public schools in Arkansas have a number of options for innovation: conversion charter application, Schools of Innovation, Act 1240 district waivers, and Credit by Demonstrated Mastery.

Early innovators have shared some of their lessons-learned with us. The four most important lessons they have learned may help you avoid discomfort down the road, and even prevent you from experiencing a derailed innovation!

  • Figure out your why. Why is it imperative that you go down this road of transformation? Why is this important to your community? What, or whose, needs are you trying to meet through innovation?
  • Explore innovations and transformation efforts of other schools engaged in this work. Why did they do it? Where did they start? What did they learn? What would they do differently?
    • Consider student fit, teacher fit and leader fit—one size does not fit all!
    • Build ownership—not buy-in. Ownership starts with building a culture for innovation among educators, students, parents and community and co-designing what innovation and transformation looks like in your school and its community.
    • Develop the competencies needed to implement your innovation. Sometimes the culture and competencies develop in an iterative cycle and not in a linear manner.
  • Resist the urge to select or purchase a technology tool or solution until you’ve generated and designed your schools’ innovation. Then select the technology and resources to support successful implementation.
  • Monitor and measure your efforts and results.

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