Innovation in the classroom

November 9, 2016

One need only read the articles in this publication, scan or tune in to any variety of media to see the countless ways that educators are innovators in their classrooms and schools. Their purpose is to improve learning for the students they teach by finding ways to engage them, build their critical and creative thinking abilities and foster innovative mindsets.

A recent inspirational example is that of Aaron Warner, a teacher at Douglas Park School in Regina, who has his grades 7 and 8 students learning the Cree language based on Neal McLeod’s book 100 Days of Cree. Not only are his students learning the language and sharing in its preservation, but they are also learning how to apply their knowledge as a step towards reconciliation.

While educational technologies undoubtedly play important roles as tools for solving learning challenges and for enabling innovation, Simon Breakspear, in an article entitled Bottoms Up: How Innovative Change Starts With Frontline Educators, published in the December 2015 issue of Education Canada, states that it is important to also focus on what he calls “learning innovation,” which he describes as a problem-solving process that is based on the creativity and insights of educators who experience first-hand the changing needs of their students and design new practices to support them.

Several new books are available in the Stewart Resources Centre that provide educators with suggestions as to how to go about designing innovations and harnessing creativity.

Innovation Age Learning: Empowering Students by Empowering Teachers, by Sharon Sakai-Miller, offers practical ideas for teachers to intentionally design learning environments that focus on the skills of collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. She states that these skills will engage students and empower them to make a difference with their learning.

Gretchen Morgan, in her book Innovative Educators: An Action Plan for Teachers, gives suggestions for when teachers should convert existing practices or invent new ones entirely. Her process of responsible innovation includes identifying the problem and problem-solving strategy, planning, and implementing, monitoring and sharing the innovation.

In Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner focuses on the principles of play, passion and purpose to create the next generation of innovators. Numerous case studies of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and social innovators are included.

Jennie Magiera in Courageous Edventures: Navigating Obstacles to Discover Classroom Innovation, argues that true innovation requires disrupting the status quo and taking risks and that therefore courage and boldness are required. She employs a sailing metaphor to organize the book into sections around charting the course, navigating problems, empowering students to set their own course and reflecting on the journey.

Other books emphasize how technology can be used to encourage innovation. STEAM Makers: Fostering Creativity and Innovation in the Elementary Classroom, by Jacie Maslyk, outlines processes for integrating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Design and Math) and MakerSpaces into daily practice and for promoting a growth and design culture. An additional title at the elementary level is Innovate With iPad: Lessons to Transform Learning in the Classroom, by Karen Lirenman and Kristen Wideen.

Coding Projects in Scratch, by Jon Woodcock, illustrates how code can be used for creative purposes and includes instructions for programming games, animations and simulations. It is suitable for middle years and up.

A volume full of innovative ideas for high school students is James Alan Sturtevant’s Hacking Engagement: 50 Tips and Tools to Engage Teachers and Learners Daily. Ideas for using QR Codes, SurveyMonkey, podcasts, blogs, avatars and virtual bulletin boards are included.

To borrow these and other resources, please email