Hot-house of Innovation or Not?

You may have read about the University of Queensland’s new interactive lecture theatre in The Australian (Touchscreen lectures speed feedback, 5 May).

The theatre has a high-res touchscreen for instantaneous feedback; linking to students’ mobiles, laptops and iPods and is being used across disciplines. The university says the interactive facility encourages student collaboration, feedback and engages them using their own technology.

boyatchalkboardWhile this has been funded by Commonwealth money, I think the really important issue here is why aren’t our schools hot-houses of innovation – we aren’t we adopting some of this technology to improve student learning outcomes and engage students?

We are working so hard to give students a relevant schooling experience but the critical issue is how do we challenge teachers’ thinking/practice ? If we can’t answer that, we can’t expect our schools to be hot-houses of innovation.

In his latest book “Instructional Rounds in Education (2009)” Richard Elmore (et al) addresses the same issue from a different perspective:

The problem is not that schools are worse than they used to be….the problem is not that educators aren’t working hard… the challenge is that we are asking schools to do something that they have never done before – educate all students to high levels – and we don’t know how to do that in every classroom for every child. (p2)

Elmore says it is critical that educators develop a set of “explicit shared practices” which reflect new approaches to improving student outcomes. In other words, sound theory informing our practice = innovation.

We have the theory, so why is it difficult to change practice?

One thought on “Hot-house of Innovation or Not?

  1. Thoughtful stuff Greg. I wonder if people believe that children are ‘too precious’ to experiment on, that if we try something new we risk more with younger students. Perhaps too, there is a perceived safety with an older audience who are involved with the technology in a way that may seem more easily managed behaviorally.

    It’s a shame that funding isn’t set aside for schools who have proved themselves keen and capable of managing the negligible risks of applying new technology. Imagine if such schools were networked with the higher learning institutions already funded to network their different perspectives on applying great pedagogy and addressing teething issues as they arise. Teachers tend to understand the possible obstacles to good pedagogy that new technology can bring, and have such a knack for overcoming them in their stride if not in advance to really get things going. What a wonderful leveler it might be to encourage sharing and collaboration across codes.

    Pete Hall
    Summerland Primary

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