By Brian Irwin, Academic Innovation
Recently I came across this article about innovation on CNN – http://edition.cnn.com/2009/BUSINESS/11/26/innovation.tips/index.html
Though it focuses on business innovators and inventors, it made me think what can we take away from it and apply to our context in terms of innovation in teaching and learning practices.
Firstly it talks about innovators putting things together in new and different ways that other people have not thought about. However, it strikes me that innovation in teaching practice is a much more personal and practical thing in terms of context. For instance, if you do something that you have never done before but lots of other people have done, then that is still innovation for you. I don’t think it should be every teacher’s goal to do things that no one has ever tried before, but instead to try things that make sense for their situation.
Later it says that innovators think outside the box and try to challenge themselves by learning new things from outside their area. This seems counter to some beliefs that teaching ideas should be tailored to the specific needs of a subject group or course team. Ideas that are tailored might receive the warmest welcome from a group, but other ideas which are from completely different areas might help spark creativity more.
Next in the article it discusses the idea that creativity is learned – if you practice being creative, you will be more creative. How often do many of us do the sorts of activities they recommend, like writing lots of different questions about a particular problem over time to get the best questions about it? This is something I am going to try soon.
Finally the article talks about the need for talking to different people outside of your usual circle. They are the most likely people to help inspire new ideas as they may be doing different things or have another way of looking at problems. This should help remind us that during events and workshops we need to encourage cross-fertilisation between areas instead of just focusing on one department or faculty. Of course, there is a need for balance in the types of engagement that are held in order to help encourage relevance and participation. It also highlights the need for discussion as part of whatever we do – encouraging folks to talk together and share ideas rather than having a one-to-many type of dissemination model.
I’d welcome others’ thoughts on how we can encourage this type of creative and innovative approach to working.