Thursday, 22 February 2018

Why we need to be teaching innovation in schools

The World Economic Forum recently reported that the “digital revolution is not only here, it is accelerating every day”. Not rocket science I know but their main point is that the scope, scale and ubiquity of these advances, for example in automation and digitalisation of information, is truly unprecedented.       


This unprecedented digital transformation will drive major economic growth and societal change in the next several years. The potential economic impact will be between $14 trillion and $33 trillion a year in 2025! For this reason, many universities around the world are now embracing an ever-expanding role and are driving innovation leading to greater economic development. (

 Carnegie Mellon University reports that universities are driving innovation by:

·      Fostering entrepreneurship (200+ colleges & universities in the US have launched centres dedicated for innovation or entrepreneurship)
·      Encouraging collaboration with the private sector which helps to prepare students to be citizens of a rapidly changing world
·      Promoting diversity and inclusion by ensuring that diverse perspectives (racial, socio-economic, geographical, gender …) are incorporated in their programmes
·      Exploring the nexus of technology and society, that is, provide the ethicists, artists, philosophers, policy experts, economists, cognitive scientists and sociologists who will help ensure the digital future is designed for people as well as machines


So, how are schools attempting to teach innovation?

A favourite blog is Mind/Shift:

They offer articles and podcasts on “Big Ideas” and the future of learning. Back in 2013 they posted a forward-thinking article titled:
10 Ways to Teach Innovation
1.     Move from projects to problem Project Based Learning (inquiry learning)
2.     Teach concepts not facts
3.     Distinguish concepts from critical information (find the right blend between open-ended inquiry and direct instruction)
4.     Make skills as important as knowledge
5.     Form teams not groups (groups co-operate, teams are better collective thinkers

6.     Use thinking tools
7.     Use creativity tools
8.     Reward discovery (not just rewarding for known information)
9.     Make reflection part of the lesson
10.  Be innovative yourself, as a teacher

All of the above is already happening in many schools but whether all elements are consistently applied is debateable. The main point is:

Teaching innovation in primary schools will be enhanced by including the above elements

As well as those key elements, we can follow the wisdom offered by universities and include:

·      A makerspace, tinkering space, hack space, creator space for all students so that innovative thinking can flourish naturally

·      Harness, nurture and encourage the excitement of kids developing something new, innovating, that could potentially help others, the planet etc.
·      Develop partnerships with community experts (business, universities, medicine …) so that students have REAL opportunities to not only learn from experts but partner with them to work on a real problem
·      Incorporate activities/opportunities for students, no matter how young, to understand different perspectives, to hear diverse opinions and to gain a picture of inequalities and minorities throughout the world

·      Teach philosophy (P4C), Socratic Method, De Bono Thinking and ethics especially in relation to the emergence of robots and artificial intelligence

·      Explore possible jobs of the future so that students understand that the workforce is changing rapidly (e.g. growth in automation) and they can help shape what those jobs may look like through being future ready, informed and innovative.


Final points from the experts:

Students of today already seek to make a difference in society through startups, social entrepreneurship, and other ventures of their own creation

Everything is in a state of flux but the ability to be innovative and think outside of the box should be at the centre of the curriculum!

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