Innovation…Buzzword or mindset?

Innovative learning environment, innovative teaching practice, INNOVATION! Variations of the word seem to pop up in most educational circles these days but what does it actually mean?

It depends where you look as to what definition you get but the basic idea is: Innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new and better than what came before. It is not a tool, task or even a piece of technology. The key here: it is a way of thinking.

Different is no longer enough. If something doesn’t meet the criteria of ‘new’ and ‘better’, it cannot be considered innovative. This doesn’t necessarily mean learning activities/assessments/experiences/environments must be wholly new, small changes or iterations can have a big impact. What has to be remembered is that what is considered innovative today, could be the norm tomorrow- innovation is a process with no end point. It is constant evolution.

Technology is often aligned with the word innovation but they are not the same thing. Innovation is able to take place without the use of technology. Technology is however, opening up far more opportunities to be innovative in the classroom. It is about how we use new technology, not the technology itself.

George Couros takes the growth mindset a step further and presents what he calls the innovator’s mindset. This is the belief that abilities, intelligence and talents are developed so that they lead to the creation of new and better ideas. Innovation sits alongside skills such as collaboration, communication, adaptability and initiative- skills seen as highly important by todays employers. Key to developing an innovator’s mindset in a school setting, people must feel empowered in their own learning. This is important to develop not only in teachers but in our students and must be lead from the top. Innovation should be inspired, not demanded.

Is innovation an educational buzzword? Absolutely! And it’s one that we need to run with. The digital age means the way we interact, work and live is constantly and rapidly changing and we must do our best to keep up.

Along with reading The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros, The Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice is an excellent opportunity to get you thinking about innovation. With the right (innovator’s) mindset, the content and self directed learning is invaluable and it’s considered one of the top professional learning opportunities for NZ teachers.

Couros, G. (2015). The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. San Diego, United States of America: Dave Burgess Consulting. Inc.



About Jo Smith

Health & PE teacher and TIC Outdoor Education at Aotea College.
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2 Responses to Innovation…Buzzword or mindset?

  1. Great post, Jo. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    I wonder if we sometimes look at the concept of innovation as something totally new/different that hasn’t been tried somewhere else. But I would challenge that. What’s innovative to one person could be quite normal to someone else.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen it but there is discussion on innovation in schools on the VLN: What does innovation look like in your school?

    Feel free to add your thoughts to it.


    • Jo Smith says:

      Thanks Nathanial.
      I agree, it doesn’t have to be completely new to be innovative. I hadn’t seen the VLN link (to be honest, not something I’ve looked into before) but it looks interesting, thanks.


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