This semester has probably been a paradigm of my life when it comes to innovation. When I was called on to innovate, I probably didn’t. When innovation wasn’t necessarily required, I probably did. Maybe this type of contrarian mindset is how I operate, maybe I’m just cynical about innovation, I’m not sure. Take my blog for example, this was an opportunity afforded to become innovative, and maybe I wasn’t. There are a lot of maybes and uncertainties in this intro, but maybe its because of one thing. I don’t think a person can label themselves as an innovator, other people will do that for you. If you stay disciplined and inspired in something you are interested in, that could be seen as innovative; but people other than yourself will apply that prestigious label. No one sets out to become an “innovator,” in my opinion, they just work really hard at something they love and then time and criticism will tell. I won’t be disappointed if I don’t lead a life of innovation, but I will be shrunk if I don’t pursue my passions with fervor.
Innovation in learning is a tough one. But I think an agreement can be had that innovation comes from an understanding that something needs to be changed. If something doesn’t work, scrap it, try again. Eventually that method will lead to what someone might call innovation, or better yet, it will lead to success. Whether that success be personal or professional, someone else can be the judge. If the wheel doesn’t have to be reinvented, then don’t. If it needs an overhaul pull your inspiration from the person or people that matters. Maybe you are the one that needs a change, maybe it is your students, but make the change that can lead to a better present and future. George Couros in “The Mindset of an Innovator” says, “I believe that my abilities, intelligence, and talents can be developed, leading to the creation of new and better ideas.” Here, the creation of “new and better ideas” is ancillary; just keep changing stuff that doesn’t work. “New ideas” don’t have to be in the front of your mind, but understanding and the acceptance of failure have to. And let me tell you, like I tell myself, it is harder to accept failure in something that you like and are passionate about. However, you have the “understanding” of a passion based interest, so sally forth to get better. All of this relies on you or your students pursuing something that feels personal. Personal can mean “fun” too, not just a frantic mess of catering.
With learning also comes the “unlearning” aspect. Teachers and students alike, have to lose personal habits and habits of the institution to gain success. I want to reiterate that success doesn’t mean dollars. So what have I unlearned this semester? I’ve unlearned rushed work, to an extent. Especially in my on-campus literature courses, I have taken the time to read, reflect, and write. Rather than skim, write, read. I’ve maintained a solid study schedule with regard to my literature courses, and some of my work has shown it. The type of work that I know isn’t awful and won’t require a pity grade. I’ve also unlearned social anxiety to an extent. Just a nasty habit/gift that I am slowly doing away with. The biggest thing that I have unlearned this semester is the walls of learning. More than ever I have sought outside sources and outside contexts to help me out. My independent learning project on fly fishing has helped me to unlearn the standard framework of education. I’ll say it again, I will retain more from my ILP this semester than any other class because it was extremely personal. I feel like I’ve become more independent, and even vulnerable to an extent because of this, calling to mind this quote from Will Richardson’s “The Unlearning Curve:” “We need to unlearn our fear of putting ourselves and our students out there for we’ve proven we can do it in safe, relevant and effective ways.”
I like to learn and I like to unlearn, and I like to do it in ways that help me. I still have to learn to do it in ways that help others. Hopefully this will come with some trial and error, and maybe somebody will label that innovation, but I’ll take success.