Innovation: Key to Reaching Today’s Students

Connexeo - 06/12/2018

Innovation drives our society.

The surge in technological advancement in the past 20 years would not have happened were it not for the innovation that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and hundreds of others developed. Animated film might still be a Mickey Mouse concept had there been no Pixar Studios.

Innovation has come a little slower to K-12 education, but it is getting there. Hundreds of innovative classes and programs at schools nationwide have piqued students’ interests and even helped them decide college and career paths.

But educational innovation isn’t limited to courses and special programs. An increasing number of teachers are using teaching methods to better engage their students so they can absorb more of the lessons.

The traditional education paradigm of knowledge transfer from teacher at the head of the classroom to students in neat rows of desks is outdated and ineffective, as 21st century learning now demands more creative, hands-on, and flexible forms of teaching,” an article on the Education Dive website states.  

The trend, wrote Mandi Figlioli, assistant to the superintendent at the Burgettstown (Pa.) Area School District in eSchool News, is toward participatory learning, instead of passive. Figlioli said that the benefits of these types of teaching methods are that students:

  • Own the process.
  • Acquire employable skills.
  • Are exposed to fresh ideas.
  • Develop self-awareness and confidence.
  • See things from another perspective.

As is so with a lot of innovative techniques, technology is at the forefront in classroom innovation. Though it deals with higher education, one study found that a medical school class using iPads scored 23% higher on exams than classes that didn’t use tablets. For younger students raised on computers and smartphones, using technological innovations in the classrooms makes learning interesting and engaging, according to a post on radio host Phil McKinney’s blog.

Some of the technology used in classes worldwide includes robots, 3D labs, mobile technology for presentations and digital polls, and assistive technology for students with learning disabilities.

Other than technology, educators are using various outside-the-box tools that eschew the old-school lecture-to-the-rows-of-students format:

  • Visualization: Teachers have always used chalkboards or whiteboards to visualize some of what they were saying, but this goes farther. An example provided by the Room 241 blog by Concordia University of Portland, suggests a teacher read a passage from a book while the students close their eyes to visualize the scene. After the reading, the teacher draws a sketch of the scene, and asks the students to interpret it. Next, the teacher reads another passage, but this time, the students draw the sketch and their classmates interpret them.
  • Active, peer-based learning: Also from Room 241 and best for high school. The instructor provides a rundown of the day’s topic and gives the students a challenge – a question to answer or problem to solve by the end of class. Challenge accepted. Students divide into groups to do online research, map ideas, discuss options. Each group shares its results. Engagement is high, and students are on task.
  • Embodied Learning: Link lessons to the real world, demonstrating how the material relates to real-life situations will catch students’ interest and get children excited and involved, according to an EdSys blog.  
  • Role-playing: Not just for acting class, this is a great way to bring home a literature, history or current-events lesson. This approach can help students understand how the material relates to everyday tasks.
  • Gamification: If teachers happen to sneak in lessons through a puzzle or a game – think Scrabble – the students might not think they’re learning. Surprise, surprise, surprise! They are.
  • Finally, be a storyteller. What’s the time-honored ritual for kids at bedtime? A story, either read or told. If educators introduce lessons by telling a story, they can capture the students’ interest and increase the chances they will absorb the information.

Change is a normal part of the profession and not an “extra” that only super motivated and skilled teachers endeavor.  Given this, we can use the above samples in innovative approaches to help transform teachers as true designers of the learning environment.

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