What Does Innovation Actually Mean?

Innovation is certainly one of those buzz words we hear a lot in education at the moment.  We talk about 21 century learning and innovation along with entrepreneurial and creative but what do we actually mean by these words?

For me it used to mean something new.  But like creativity being more than art, innovation is so much more.  But how important is it for us to all have the same understanding of the language we use?  Is it more about the doing or the words we use to explain it.  Does it matter if innovation has a different meaning for me than for you?

Recently on a study tour to Copenhagen I was talking to a vocational teacher about the students introduction to the vocational college through an innovation camp.  The students explained it as a camp to learn to “nut crack,” or to problem solve collaboratively.  Benny sees innovation as improving the workplace rather than inventions.  The new in innovation is building on something else, rather than something new altogether.

I have recently read “And what do YOU mean by learning?” by Seymour Sarason.  He talks about how many have difficulty defining what learning actually means and I am sure if I was to ask everyone reading this blog it would have a different meaning to each of us.  But he also talks of difficulty of making educational reform when there is no clear definition to learning.

I am interested to know what innovation means to you.  Do you think innovation is understood by everyone, and does it matter if we have different understandings of innovation?



2 thoughts on “What Does Innovation Actually Mean?

  1. I always thought of innovation as something new or a different way to approach something. However something that is innovative to me could be very old hat to someone else. It depends totally on your persepective and prior knowledge and experience.
    I think that what we are trying to do with our project is to use technology to improve our teaching and also the learning outcomes for our students. This could be using programs, social media etc that are new to us, or changing the way we use them. In this way it can be building on what we are already doing and using the technology to enhance it.
    I have started using Skype in my classroom. We have all used experts to come into our classroom to talk to our students. Using Skype to bring the expert to the classroom allows me to access to people that I couldn’t possibly get to actually come to my classroom. The children get to ask them questions and the learning is amazing! We have also Skyped with a class in Kansas. We were studying natural disasters and so were they. The children learnt so much more by listening to other children’s stories and also what they actually did to prepare for a tornado. And they can ask their own questions. So, while Skype is not ‘innovative’ technology as many people use it, the use of this technology has really enhanced the student’s learning and was ‘innovative’ for me!

  2. That’s a great point Linda. Whenever we try something new, we’re innovating for ourselves even if others have done it before. As you point out Mel, innovations build on what has come before. I think of DEECD’s E5 Instructional Model which was inspired by the BSCS 5E Instructional Model from the 1980s. It continues to grow in popularity with science teachers and each time it arrives in a new school system it’s an innovation for that system.

    I’ve seen remarkable and powerful technological innovations arrive during my teaching career – personal computing, the Web, mobile devices and, more recently, cloud computing. When we bring these things into our classrooms for the first time we’re innovating. The earlier we do it, the more innovative we are in the eyes of others, but even if we do it late, as Linda points out, we’re still innovating for ourselves and for our students’ learning.

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