Together We Are Brilliant

“Alone we are smart, together we are brilliant.” Steven Anderson

I have been so inspired in the last week to actively reach out to other educators – to learn from them, but also to share innovation that I have been a part of. I also want to encourage sharing within my school so that we create an environment where risk-taking is encouraged.

In my experience, it is true that when you are trying to do something new (and hopefully better!), it is very easy for others to criticize. ‘Pushback’ from parents and colleagues can be discouraging, but not if you know to expect it as part of the process. It is important to have a good support network to help you continue forward until people start to see the benefits of what you are doing. It is also important to focus only on what you can control, and to try not to let negative talk or criticism get you down. It will pass. And, it helps to remind yourself and others that “our thinking must focus on what learning truly can be, not what it has been.” George Couros #IMMOOC

I’ve decided that I need to really commit to using Twitter more regularly. First, I want to start by sharing amazing things that are happening in our school. We have an incredible open learning environment for our science department and our Innovation Institute program, so it should be easy for me to take pictures and post them to my twitter account so that we can appreciate and recognize each other’s efforts. Second, I want to share out important parts of our the final project for the year in the Innovation Institute. I want to share what we are doing in the Institute beyond the walls of Shanghai American School.

Here is my first item to share (already posted on twitter @foley_amy) about the Innovation Institute:

This week, 9 student “project managers” determined the groups for their final project. All 37 students shared their top strengths, preferred role (art or tech in this project), as well as students they would prefer not to work with (often that they have worked together several times on projects) and students who they would really like to work with. The main rule during this process was that project managers could only discuss students’ strengths – no negative talk. We gave the project managers a few tips, and they ended up determining groups in a very similar manner to what the teachers have done to make project groups this year. I was so proud watching these students through the process. They have grown so much throughout their two years in the Innovation Institute. It makes all of the hard work worth it, and I am so excited to see where this final project takes us. What a wonderful journey this year has been…

 

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Innovation Institute

Earlier this school year, I read Innovator’s Mindset but I did not have time to keep up with #IMMOOC. Why? Because I’m in my second year as a teacher in the Innovation Institute at Shanghai American School, China. In other words, I’ve been busy innovating! It is amazing and challenging and inspiring and messy and wonderful. We are so fortunate to have the use of a recently renovated space and wonderful resources. However, multi-disciplinary learning based on design and incorporating the 4C’s can still be done – we did not have this phenomenal space last year and the program was a bit more challenging but still successful. Check out a video of our program in the newly renovated space that is our new home this year:

Innovation Institute at Shanghai American School

I previously wrote a post on Chapter 1 and 2 (What is Innovation?) so I will keep this post short. However, I really want to finish blogging about Innovator’s Mindset, which I find so inspiring. I will try my best to stay involved in the conversation this time!

Ultimately, I think education needs to produce students who can change the world for the better. From politics to the environment and everything in between, our students need to be able to solve problems and empathize. They truly do need to have not only a growth mindset, but an innovator’s mindset. If I were starting my own school, I would make sure that students truly have an opportunity to explore their passions and that they would spend a LOT of time outdoors.

 

 

What IS Innovation?

This is the second year that I have been teaching students in a new program called Innovation Institute at Shanghai American School. I couldn’t help but reflect on this program as I read Part 1 of The Innovator’s Mindset. In fact, I actually read this book previously, but I am reading the book through a different lens now that I am teaching in the Innovation Institute. I am so grateful that my colleagues and I seem to be on the right track with this program…. our Institute is something “new and better” for students who want to learn in a collaborative, integrated, project-based learning environment.

I completely agree that we need to prepare students for jobs that do not currently exist, and it is our job as educators to help learners become confident creators, effective leaders and CRITICAL THINKERS. I love this short film (11min) The Adaptable Mind that says the skills people need to flourish in today’s world are creativity, curiosity, initiative, multi-disciplinary thinking, and empathy. Students have access to so much knowledge that what they really need to know is what to DO with this knowledge. ‘Soft skills’ such as those mentioned in The Adaptable Mind or the 4C’s (collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking) are becoming more and more valued. These ‘soft skills’ are often what set students or prospective employees apart from everyone else.

The following quote in Chapter 2: The Innovators Mindset really resonated with me:

We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves. – Stephen Downes (2010)

Today, I shared the above quote with my Innovation Institute students before they spent time finalizing their ideology, mechanics and dynamics for a game that they are creating relating to stimulus material about competition. They will create their first prototype this week. I reminded them that they will get out of this project what they put into it; the depth of thought and how much they challenge each other will determine how much they learn and grow.

Another aspect of this week’s reading that resonated with me is the idea of the innovator’s mindset. I have long been a fan of Carol Dweck and have encouraged a growth mindset in my math classes in particular. In fact, I have shown this amazing video A Math Major Talks About Fear to my high school math students for the last three years and I have had my grade 9 students complete the free online course from Stanford called How to Learn Math: For Students. I have also spoken to my students about the importance of resiliency and grit in the context of having a growth mindset. However, I love that I can now take this a step further with the innovator’s mindset – students need to CREATE something with the knowledge they have acquired. I often intentionally plan units and lessons around students creating in order to demonstrate their understanding, but I have could do a better job of making sure that students are aware of WHY creating something is so important. If students create something ‘new and better’ – which they certainly have the opportunity to do frequently in the Innovation Institute – they are certainly pushing themselves to deeply understand concepts and think critically about what they have learned and how to demonstrate their understanding.

So why do I feel more confident that the Innovation Institute at Shanghai American School is on the right track after #IMMOOC Week 2? Students in the Innovation Institute are focusing on the 4C’s, visible thinking strategies and design thinking. Students are learning about empathy as they collaborate and work through conflict with their peers. Students have many opportunities to learn to be comfortable with uncertainty or ambiguity, sharing ideas, accepting criticism, and taking risks. The students who have opted to participate in the Innovation Institute are taking a risk simply by choosing to be educated in a way that is new and different from their previous experience.

I have been inspired by my students and colleagues in so many ways this year. I have never before described myself as ‘innovative’, but now I hope to challenge myself to find NEW and BETTER ways to demonstrate an innovator’s mindset.

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