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Start your “innovation engine”

3 min read


August signals the end of summer vacation and the approach of a new school year for most educators. And while that fact alone is noteworthy, August also is Connected Educator Month — a time for educators to come together online and “network to learn” and “collaborate to innovate.”

This summer, SmartBrief launched SmartBlog on Education to give educators a stage on which to achieve similar goals — a platform for sharing knowledge and resources and discussing local and national education issues.

If you already know us here at SmartBrief, you know we’re dedicated to saving you time and keeping you smart by sharing each day’s most important news. Those goals haven’t changed, but here in the education space, we’re adding a third goal: Connect educators and give them a voice.

This is an exciting time in education. As I interact with educators on social media channels, I get the sense that like a teenager with a new car, educators are no longer satisfied with idling along at status quo. You’re driving — fast — toward innovation, organizing EdCamps, embracing flipped classrooms and BYOT, and building unique online learning communities.

I recently read “inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity” by Stanford University professor Tina Seelig who teaches courses on creativity and innovation. What began as reading for pleasure, soon took on new meaning as I thought about how Seelig’s creativity model — the “innovation engine” — can support the momentum we’re presently experiencing in education.

The “innovation engine” is fueled by six factors — knowledge, attitude, imagination, resources, habitat, and culture. It’s the interaction between these components that can help initiate our drive “to tackle challenges and seize opportunities,” Seelig says. Here’s a quick look at how each component of the “engine” helps to spark innovation.

  • Attitude: Believe that you can create breakthrough ideas.
  • Knowledge: Learn about what’s happening in your field at the local and national levels.
  • Imagination: Connect and combine ideas, re-frame problems, and challenge assumptions, opening the door to fresh, new ideas.
  • Resources: Develop a network of individuals with knowledge and expertise who can serve as guides, role models, and mentors.
  • Habitat: Create physical and online spaces that foster imagination — spaces that allow you to network and collaborate.
  • Culture: Take the first step toward change. Cultural changes occur when even a small number of people change their attitude.

As a former educator, I know that the beginning of the school year is an exciting and sometimes overwhelming event. During the next few months, you’ll likely be pulled in many directions and inundated with requests from parents, students, and administrators, not to mention your family who will want you to stop grading papers and obsessing about every detail in your lesson plan.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day, but keep in mind that you will not arrive anywhere new if you simply idle along during the school year. As Seelig says: “Your ideas … are the critical starting point for innovations that propel us forward. Without creativity, you are trapped in a world that is not just stagnant, but one that slips backward.”

Melissa Greenwood is SmartBrief’s senior education editor, with responsibility for managing content in a variety of education news briefs. She also oversees SmartBlog on Education and stays connected with you on social media channels like Twitter.