Innovation in EdTech

Hitting “Enter” on Integrating Educational Technology

Taking the Leap & hit “Enter”on EdTech The Right Driver When looking to find ways to bring educational technology into the classroom often we start with the device. The question…

Taking the Leap & hit “Enter”on EdTech

The Right Driver

When looking to find ways to bring educational technology into the classroom often we start with the device. The question is why? Well, it is easy to point to; if you are sharing with your staff and/or students to let them know that technology integration is important and you can point directly to a device, that signifies a change. When we place the device in the room, we have the appearance of a 21st Century classroom and visually it “feels” modern.

However, there is mounds of research that says starting with device acquisition is the wrong driver. The technology, be it a laptop or tablet, that we put in the hands of our students is only a tool and only as valuable as the pedagogy behind unleashing its capabilities. Too often we see stories of districts purchasing devices only to have them go unused, become a tool on the shelf that never gets used or have their usage capped at digitizing the same worksheets. In his book Disruptive Classroom Technologies Sonny Magana points to three nuanced changes we can look to when seeking innovation with educational technology:

  1. Helping students experience new learning content
  2. Helping students build and strengthen connections between background knowledge and new learning content
  3. Helping students apply their content knowledge to create models that represent new understanding and meaning.

I would add a fourth change

4. Helping students acquire transferable skills in the use of technology to create and communicate

Hitting “Enter” Starts with Pedagogy

A room can be filled with new technology and the best infrastructure you can find, but if we fail to change our practice, the learning will not change and technology will have made no difference. “Educational technology is not a silver bullet” (Eric Sheninger & Thomas Murray) It cannot be the tool that is the driver.

Still we see that a great deal of EdTech professional training starts with a focus technology, devices or apps. Now these types of showcases do show us what is possible, but rarely serve to shift practice. The idea of shifting practice in educational technology also has problem of being treated as an singular event; you have been trained, so go forth. The end result being perhaps some gained perspective on what is possible, but without ongoing support and training, there is often difficultly maintaining any sustained changed in pedagogy.

“To redesign the learning experience and sustain those practices (shifts in pedagogy) in the long term, we must invest in the capacity of those who have the greatest effect (classroom teachers)-Eric Sheninger & Thomas Murray . Our teachers are our front line, where our vision meets the students; we need to empower them and build the capacity of our teacher leaders. People will follow a colleague, someone they trust and the more we provide opportunities to have our teachers share and interact, the better chance we have of making great practices go viral.

We know that “bringing technology into a classroom can awaken student to the world outside of it.” (Eric Sheninger & Thomas Murray) Moreover our schools have the opportunity to utilize EdTech to build the content knowledge and transferable skills to serve our student beyond our walls. Integrating EdTech into the classroom is a endeavor worth investing in. We must start with building the why with our teachers so that once the devices arrive, we are ready to have these devices be the accelerator to great teaching.

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Never Underestimate the Power of Being You

Be You. Always be You. Over the past two weeks I have the opportunity to spend hours in classrooms observing teachers.  What I came away with is, you have to…

Be You. Always be You.

Over the past two weeks I have the opportunity to spend hours in classrooms observing teachers.  What I came away with is, you have to be you. The most powerful lessons I see come from when teachers are in “their zone.” The energy is different, the students tuned in, and the learning in palpable.

Speaking from experience, I was always borrowing, begging and searching for another great lesson when I taught. I would find the teachers I know were just killing it in the classroom and ask for the lesson and wanted to replicate that in my classroom. Often what I found was that the lesson would be good, but not as great, something was missing. I was missing. I wasn’t that other teacher and the lesson just wasn’t going to be the same.

Now I am not suggesting that we should not be collaborating because I firmly believe in it and know we are all better when we work together. I am saying, take the best parts of that collaboration and work those into your style of teaching. Going back to my observations this week, it was fascinating to see the same content delivered in different styles. You really see that content is content, but where the learning really takes off is when you have teacher that is giving their all to the lesson and the students are all in.

Ultimately I am encouraging you to be you and embrace it. Students respond to authenticity; they like knowing their teachers are fun, quirky, gaming nerds, surfers, cat lovers, enjoy bad jokes or are just simply someone who has boundless energy. Whoever you are and whatever your style embrace it, there is so much to be gained with your students.

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Are You Modeling Your Innovation? You Should Be

“It’s my job to learn first if I want to lead well” -@gcouros Creating change and building a culture of innovation often takes someone being willing to take the lead…

“It’s my job to learn first if I want to lead well” -@gcouros

Creating change and building a culture of innovation often takes someone being willing to take the lead on modeling the process. As leaders we have the responsibility to be that lead learner; to not only model the importance of personal growth, but also to forge a culture that supports innovation. Those around you need to feel safe to take risks and open with their learning. As a leader being open with your staff about taking a risks to innovate, knowing there is a chance this en devour will not work out can be worrisome, but also authentic.  It models the behaviors that are vital to innovation presenting your learning to the world, being willing to have your ideas be evaluated and being open to people question what your are doing.  At the same time you are leading, you are showing the real life benefits, providing an avenue to gain feedback and you are placing yourself in place where you can lead from experience.

In my roles as an assistant principal I see it as an important part of what I do, to model those values and processes that I know to be important. In reading Innovators Mindset I found myself reflecting, am I modeling innovation? As we know part of being innovative means taking risks. Whether you are a teacher or an administrator we have a tendency in our jobs as wanting to present ourselves as experts having all the answers. We don’t want to present ourselves to our students or staff as someone who doesn’t know. However, there is power is modeling a growth mindset by saying “I don’t know, but let me find out.” or even better, “let’s learn together!”

Ways I Found to Model Successfully


This has been an avenue I have found the most success. It has been through Twitter that I lurked and learned. I began to find my voice and groups that share my passion. I openly share that this is a place learn and engage. Participating and sharing during Twitter chats such as #leadupchat #cpchat #IMMOOC #SociaLeadia and #LeadLAP have all been a fantastic place to see others modeling their own learning. I encourage staff, colleagues, family and friends to utilize Twitter because people on Twitter are there to find people just like you, looking to learn. I’ve worked with my staff to run Twitter challenges, had a screen installed in the hallway to show our learning and engagement.


This year I presented on my passion for learning with my staff during a professional development day. It was a risk and a chance to model sharing. In the Innovators Mindset, it points out that as leaders, “our job, sometimes, is simply to be the spark, help build confidence, and then get out of the way.” That was my goal from sharing my learning, to hopefully be that spark to promote new thinking, a new connection or new approach to engaging with fellow educators. Presenting I think is something I will continue to do and refine after each one.

Being Present & a Lead Learner

“We rarely create something different till we experience something different.” @gcouros I strongly belief that in world we live in today that learning has to be ongoing and you have to practice what you preach. We cannot ask staff to continue to grow and learn if you do not take on that task yourself. Pick up a book with your staff, join a twitter chat, ask to join them in their collaboration. We know that Innovators Mindset show us that being in spaces where people actively share ideas make us smarter and being in the room with your staff will not only show support, but benefit you by learning alongside them. Out side of the learning it also provides you a chance to see the barriers they may face first hand or witness their breakthroughs; there is power in learning together.

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5 Reasons Why Your Comfort Zone may be Stopping Your to Innovation

 “If you don’t believe in your idea, why would anyone else?”  -@gcouros                                     …

 “If you don’t believe in your idea, why would anyone else?” 


1. Being Questioned:

There is comfort in knowing that if you are not stepping outside of your comfort zone, that you are less likely to have people question what you are doing.  Do something new, it will draw attention, guaranteed. Our brain is wired to look for patterns and if we see someone stepping out of the “pattern” or traditional practice it stands out. Thus, if you want to be innovative you will need to be ready to answer the big question: why?

Preparing yourself mentally to having your work questioned isn’t always easy and if we are honest, if you are really innovating, you have no idea if your idea will work. So we ask ourselves, ‘is it worth it?’ Sometimes the answer is no, so we stay in our comfort zone and average becomes ok. The kicker is that if people are questioning your work, there is a good chance you are the right path to something innovative. Keep going!

2. Risk of the Unknown

Lets look at why you love your “comfort zone.” It is a known to you, it is familiar arena, there is little chance of a surprise, and more often than not it is predictable. Who wouldn’t want this? It makes for a good work environment and something we strive for, however, there is little chance that innovation will be sparked out of this environment. Truly innovative ideas come from breaking into the unknown and taking a risk. It is a fact that producing something new means you can fail, it means you can be rejected and that you may have put a great deal of effort into something that did not work.  Yet, working in that space where there may not be guarantees, where there is risk,  spawns opportunities for you to learn and to stretch yourself.

3. New=Threatening

New equals change, period. Change is a loss for someone. Even the most innovate ideas will disrupt the way someone is doing their work. Your new idea or way of doing something may put you in a place to be the new expert and someone else a beginner and that can be threatening. Then you add the risk, the unknown and other aspects previously mentioned and it can be a really menacing proposition. Stay on target. As @gcouros points out in his book #InnovatorsMindset “when thinking about moving forward, focusing on the question, ‘What is best for learners?’ helps ensure your’re making the right decision.” While we know that promoting something new may ruffle some feathers and meet resistance, we keep going because we stay on target with our organizational goals and not continually working towards improvement is not an option.

4. Safe to Fail

Failing Safely. This is where the magic happens, but it is also where you need to have the put most work put in. Creating an environment where your coworkers feel safe to fail takes faith, trust, and have the expectation that they will not be punished for trying and these are things not easily gained. Furthermore, there needs to be an understanding that exploration is encouraged and failure is a very real outcome. However, it is also expected that you reflect, you review and try again. Nearly all great pieces of innovate work came from a number of failures and allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

The key to all of this is one of the key characteristics of the #InnovatorsMindset: Resiliency.

5. Fail forward

I’ve always held the position, that if we try and fail, worst case we are right back where we started. Now while this may not always be the case, however it is what I believe and will support those willing to be brave and step out and innovate. I found this quote resonating with me, “As you push the edges of the norm with your innovative ideas, hold onto your conviction and passion” -@gcouros He also notes the resilience is learned behavior; this is true. We can very much try, fail and give up and that is the end. You may not have any beacon to point the way or research to guide you. It comes down to your personal belief and having the wherewithal to keep going, to reflect and find some knowledge from your failure, you fail forward. You take the small wins (even if that is just learning what not to do) and move on.


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Why we need Innovation

The Necessity and Need for Innovation Prelude: Today launches my first ever blog post and it could not be more of a fitting topic, why is innovation so crucial or…

The Necessity and Need for Innovation


Today launches my first ever blog post and it could not be more of a fitting topic, why is innovation so crucial or is it? I have been putting off starting this blog and two things combined to finally allow me to take the plunge. First, I am participating in the #IMMOOC Season 3 (a massive online group to discuss the topics of the book Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros) which kicked off this week and asks the group to share their learning through blogging. Second, I had the opportunity to present today during a multi school professional development day which centered around innovation. It all felt serendipitous, so here I am “putting pen to paper” as it were and starting what I hope will be a successful endeavor in reflecting, learning and sharing all about innovation along with my experiences with educational technology.

The real meat and potatoes of this post:

Innovation IS CRUCIAL. There are a number of ways one could look to justify this answer; my thoughts go to how in roughly a decade we have seen massive changes in our social connections and access to information. We saw the birth of social media and have watched it skyrocket in popularity and purpose. Cell phones have become computers in your pocket. Access to information is essentially real time 24/7. Our high school students have only ever known a world that is connected and being able to have access to knowledge at their finger tips.  Second only to Google, YouTube has become a powerhouse; moving from a place to share videos, but for people go learn and shift the paradigm in learning institutions.  We all live in a world that is constantly changing. We cannot hope to thrive and find success in standing still. We are living in a world of acceleration and as educators we need collaborate to build opportunities for growth and new learning so that we can best serve our students.

Today, as I mentioned above, we held a professional development day focusing around innovation. What made the event a powerful experience was tapping into our own staffs’ knowledge and abilities. It was impressive to watch educators be vulnerable in front of their peers, take a risk and share their own methodologies that have been allowing them to be successful with their students. Additionally, we put trust in our staff to choose their own learning, to provide them the ability seek out the topics and presentations that suited their needs best. Being open to taking risks and having trust in your staff builds an atmosphere ripe for innovation. Being able to be a part of the planning of this event, having the chance to present to staff, and feeling the positive vibes from staff as the worked together was amazing. As @gcouros states in his book The Innovator’s Mindset “Innovation is nor reserved for the few; it is something we all need to embrace if we are to move forward.”

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