Saturday, September 24, 2016

Innovator's Mindset #IMMOOC

"Change is an opportunity to do something amazing."  -George Couros
For the next six weeks, I've decided to join the community conversation around The Innovator's Mindset:  Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros.  This conversation is being led by George and Katie Martin.  You can join the conversation at the #immooc event hub, the Twitter #immooc hashtag, or the Facebook group.  

What happens when you are asked to revision school?  A few years ago our school community was asked to do just that.  At first, there's an excitement in the air.  What teacher hasn't dreamed of starting their own school with all the pieces of education they value?  Dreaming and reality can be two different things.  Trying to really think about changing school is harder than one might think.  When you've known school to be one thing, it's hard to really see it as another.  It's hard to look past what is known, to get to what is new.

Since that time, schools across our district have been asking that question.  What could school look like for our students?  Many have started down a path toward revisioning school.  We've begun to work toward environments that allow for more personalized learning, utilization of technology, and empowerment of students to truly own their own learning.  We're more intentional about creating communities that ask questions, seek new possibilities, collaborate and connect.

It's hard for us to make these changes, but students are living in a different world and our schools need to reflect that world.  There are challenges in innovating education.  As educators, we're uncomfortable with taking a risk to move toward change.  Rigid testing requirements push against authentic learning opportunities.  Schedules tie us into routines and make it difficult to flexibly provide innovative opportunities for students.

Perhaps some of the challenge is that we remain focused on content over ways of thinking and learning.  We place great value in tasks, over real-world literacy.  We focus on achievement over growth, and answers over questions.    Couros reminds us, "If schools are only about content and information, that reality poses a threat to educational facilities (loc 170)."  He goes on to say, "Although we say we want kids to think for themselves, what we teach them is compliance (loc 190)."  How could our schools look different?  How could they better prepare students for the world they live in today?  When I struggle to know what is right, I push myself to think beyond barriers, beyond schedules and routines, beyond the school I have always known, to my students.  What is truly best for the students that sit in front of me each day?

We have the opportunity to begin to change the system for our students.  We just have to be brave enough to step forward.

I'm looking forward to this opportunity to revision my thinking with the #immooc community as we discuss innovation in our schools.  To begin to innovate, I know I will need to:

 Innovate from Cathy on Vimeo. (made with Haiku Deck)

Here a few favorite quotes from the introduction:
  • "Change is the opportunity to do something amazing." (loc 149)
  • "We forget that if students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them." (loc 190)
  • "If we want to 'innovate students,' we will need to 'innovate educators (loc 213).'''
  • "The focus on compliance and implementation of programs in much of today's professional development does not inspire teachers to be creative, nor does it foster a culture of innovation (loc 213)."
  • "We must make time for our teachers to grow (loc 213)."
  • "We need to develop shared vision, align expectations, and provide pathways to ensure that all teachers have the resources to learn, create, and innovate to meet the needs of today's learners (loc 213)."
  • "The goal isn't to change for the sake of change but to make changes that allow us to empower our teachers and students to thrive (loc 234)."
  • "What you can do is create the conditions where change is more likely to happen.  As a leader, you can create those conditions by taking a strengths-based approach for learning and leadership and unleashing the talent in your organization (loc 256)." 
  • "Create school cultures in which values such as originality, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge are the norm of our students, our teachers, and ourselves (loc 297)."
(Yep, that's just the introduction....can't wait to read on...)


  1. "Perhaps some of the challenge is that we remain focused on content over ways of thinking and learning. We place great value in tasks, over real-world literacy. We focus on achievement over growth, and answers over questions." This is certainly something to think about, Cathy. Looking forward to future posts.

  2. I read this book about a month ago. I'm still chewing on it, and the ideas keep coming back to me even from unexpected places. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about it.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your blog as it rings true. As a principal trying to build a true responsive teaching culture, I find myself continuosly reflecting on what the hurdles are: How do we build REAL trust in staff that we really mean "do something different"? What are the factors that cause people fall back to the default safety of teaching content and curriculum instead of students?