Are schools teaching innovation?


Innovation is an essential focal point in business, technology, and as a characteristic that is to be embraced. So we wondered how innovation is being taught in schools. Here is how our Zintro experts responded.

Kristian Still, an assistant principle, says that innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurial and leadership skills are all highly valued capabilities but by their very nature are difficult to define as they are to hone and foster. “I recognize that the lack of a definition for innovation in education is a challenge and an inhibitor to education adopting and teaching innovation,” says Stills. “It is this lack of definition that discourages teaching it. However, are not cooperation, honesty, and respect values that are championed by education yet not assessed?”

Still thinks that what we are after is creating an innovative culture. “You can not directly teach innovation, just like you can not directly teach creativity (and to lesser extent entrepreneurial and leadership skills),” he says. “One facilitates innovation by providing a learning atmosphere that promotes exploration and inquiry. By promoting and modeling the free flow of thoughts, ideas, dialog, and discussion, students will walk their own paths towards innovation.”

Stephen F. Heffner, a software inventor and architect, outlines seven factors he thinks need to be addressed in order to promote in students the ability to innovate:

1. The ability to think rationally and logically. “This is woefully lacking in most public education institutions at all levels,” he says. “It should start in pre-school and be nurtured and promoted all the way up.”

2. A willingness to explore boundaries of thought and to think outside the box.

3. A willingness to make mistakes and learn from failure. “Most innovation is not the result of a blinding revelation, but of repeated attempts to achieve a goal by varying the approach,” Heffner points out. “This requires being willing to fail. So honest failure should not be punished, whereas failure due to lack of effort or mental laziness should have negative consequences.”

4. A passion for the subject on which you want to innovate. Heffner says that discovering and nurturing passions should start at an early age, but, at the same time, not done in a way that locks students into narrow tracks or makes it too hard to shift tracks.

5. A willingness to be different, not for its own sake, but because of inherent qualities. “Too often peer pressure is centered on conforming to peer norms, which stifles not only innovation but individuality. Ironically, this is often done in the guise of expressing oneself,” says Heffner.

6. Recognition of talent and abilities. Too often, a standout student is beaten down; both by the teacher and other student to avoid making others look bad or hurting others’ self-esteem, says Heffner.

7. A healthy ego and feeling of self-worth, which will give the student fortitude. “This comes not from being told how wonderful one is, but through accomplishment of goals either internally or externally set,” says Heffner. “What to avoid is the engenderment of a feeling of entitlement without building a foundation of character, and this can leave the student woefully unprepared for the real world.”

By Maureen Aylward

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