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Allow Me to Push this One More Time

The past two entries have concerned pre-service technology training — a request from a friend by e-mail, who is preparing for an upcoming “technology in education” course. In the answers, the words innovation and inventiveness have appeared in a number of comments. I’d like to ask two more questions, and welcome comments:

  1. During the past several years, we have been directed to utilize scientifically proven, research-based instructional practices in our classrooms. How does asking teachers to innovate and to become inventive in their teaching reconcile with research-based teaching?
  2. If we are becoming more innovative and inventive in our teaching, who gave us permission to do that?


  • http://www.brettmoller.com/schoolblog bmoller

    I think the innovation comes when we are told by school adminsitration that we “must” integrate and be seen using technology. It is hard to not be innovative and inventive when integrating new technology into our curriculum. I would say the administration in our schools gave us the permission, even if they didn’t explicitly say so!! Here in Australia our curriculum documents are becoming so vauge and “wishy washy” that there is no other option for teachers other than being innovative and inventive. Just my idea…. I am enjoying this discussion though!!!

  • http://schoolof.info/infomancy infomancy

    Innovative teaching does not reconcile with NCLB’s definition of scientifically research based instruction. They are, in fact, almost complete opposites. NCLB, while purporting to be innovative, is in fact very conservative. Instead, I would focus on the role of action research in developing and supporting the power of innovative teaching. We should be looking to model classrooms and model schools for our new innovations. Model, not in the sense of more money than they know what to do with, but rather in the idea of creativity and risk taking. The beauty of innovative teaching with technology is that in our flattened world innovation doesn’t have to have a monetary price tag. Then we can use action research methods to compare student engagement, achievement, output, etc.

    Who is giving us permission? We are! While I wish more administrations were more supportive (and we need to keep pushing the message), there are a lot of things going on without “permission.” Sometimes these innovations need a bit of time to get off the ground before they can be appreciated by everyone.

  • http://www.pakledinaz.com jpakcmu

    Most administrators I have run into care about one primary thing, are they doing enough to justify their jobs. If staff are doing research basaed instruction, whether it works or not, makes it look like they are doing their jobs. While research based instruction is not necessarily a bad thing, its not the cure-all. Students still must come to the table with the right mindset.

    As far as permission, they gave us permission when they put us in the classroom.

  • http://schoolof.info/infomancy infomancy

    I am sitting in my educational admin class today. We were just talking about vocabulary development and the professor was saying “if only there were a way to have students speak and write and read a lot of different things.” I, of course, brought up blogging and podcasting as a way to promote reading, writing, and speaking withing a variey of areas. After the snickering stopped, I continued to point out the authentic audience and feedback available through these tools. But alas, it was shot down. The test rules all…if it isn’t about the test (oh, and they all agree this is bad) it can’t happen.
    As jpackcmu points out as well, it isn’t always about who is giving permission, but rather who is taking it away. I hate to promote going around, behind, or under rules, but again, sometimes you have to start there.

  • http://www.visitmyclass.com/blogs/wenzloff jimw

    There is research that supports the concepts that providing an authentic audience and real world task for students does increase achievement. I know I looked up so research on that topic earlier this year. I’m sorry I don’t have it at home, but there research that supports the methods that many technology using teachers use. That’s the research we need to use. Blogs, Podcasting, and other technologies are to new to have supporting research.

    My humble opinion.


  • http://www.brettmoller.com/schoolblog bmoller

    Interesting discussion here, that I am really enjoying…. I must say, if the administration don’t give us permission to use applicable technologies then we must just do it anyway!! My moto when it comes to my teaching life has always been “it is always easier to ask for forgivness than permission” :)

  • http://jeff.scofer.com/thinkingstick/ Jeff Utecht

    1.During the past several years, we have been directed to utilize scientifically proven, research-based instructional practices in our classrooms. How does asking teachers to innovate and to become inventive in their teaching reconcile with research-based teaching?
    Authentic real world audiences and Problem-Based Learning (PBL) are two scientifically proven practices that allow teacher to innovate and invent on the spot. Again and again research shows that real-world audiences inspire students to be more invested in their learning, and through a PBL approach you allow students to be creative and innovative at the same time. If you want to see this approach in action take a look at “The Big Picture” schools http://www.bigpicture.org/ . There is also a new video out at Edutopia with an interview and video with Dennis Littky the director of The Big Picture school project. http://www.edutopia.org/php/article.php?id=Art_1375

    2.If we are becoming more innovative and inventive in our teaching, who gave us permission to do that?
    I love all the answers that have been giving to this question. My favorite is bmoller: “it is always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission”. I believe as soon as a school hands you the keys they give you permission to be innovative and inventive.

  • http://pedersondesigns.com pedersoj

    5 years ago I was introduced to Grant Wiggens and Jay McTighe…the two names behind the “Understanding By Design” framwork of curriculum design. It’s a simple “backwards design” model. Begin with the end in mind, etc.

    1. What do you want students to know/be able to do? (Enduring Understanding)
    2. How will you know when they are there? (Assessment)
    3. What learning experiences are necessary to move forward? (Lessons/Activities)

    What should pre-service teachers know? I agree with David. Contemporary literacy. What does it mean to be ‘literate’ in this new environment? I’d assess it by having them setup blogger accounts and actively reflect upon their learning throughout the semester. Learning experiences? Wikipedia. Blogger. Bloglines. Comb through the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards portfolio requirements and look for the “Describe/Analyze/Reflect” writing prompts as a consistent excercise.

    Research? Who knows. I’d say the combination of having the leading experts in curriculum design behind the format and the NBPTS folks behind your writing prompts would leave you on pretty firm pedagogical ground. Of course, it’s not good enough to just “do” it. A good constructivist classroom would have the students learning these techniques (UBD, Describe/Analyze/Reflect) along the way.

    Which leads me to the real reason I’m here. If we are to get beyond the “parallel play” of the blogosphere, we could be co-creating these types of learning experiences online. Contemporary literacy classes for educators. Online. Wikipedia style. Collaborative.

  • http://www.psesd.org ConnMc

    A big part of the problem is the term “scientifically proven, research-based instructional practices.” For much of the first year after this phrase appeared in NCLB, nobody (including the folks at the Department of Ed) new what it really meant. It has been unfortunately defined as meaning tested using a medical science model, using control groups and random assignments of students. This is a very narrow definition, and also very expensive to implement. Many valuable, promising practices have not been evaluated in this manner, and probably never will be given the difficulty of this kind of assessment. Those that are evaluated under this model are very specific, packaged curricula, not the big-picture practices such as problem-based learning, Understanding by Design, and other important instructional approaches.

    And this leads to the next problem with only using “proven” techniques. Before a practice can be validated, somebody needs to create it and apply it in order to test it for effectiveness. An innovation needs to go through the unproven stage before it can be proven. If teachers can’t use an unproven practice, however, you cut off the development of new ideas in schools. Instead, it has to come from outside sources, such as businesses and universities, one or two steps removed from the real work of educating kids.

    A matching set of issues has to do with the technology itself. As technology has become more important, the control of techology has been tightened in many of the districts I work with. You can’t implement ideas like podcasting if all the computers, including the teacher’s station, are locked down and can’t have unapproved software installed. I teacher I have known for many years who had one of the most innovative and successful tech-integrated classrooms I have ever seen just retired, due largely to the fact that the district began to so severely restrict the types of technology he could use (including taking away existing devices because they weren’t in the districts new standards) and how he could use them, that he just simply gave up.

    I dont’ mean to sound so bleak. There are many teachers out there innovating, and they are doing it in buildings where the principal and the district leadership support it, and where they use a broader interpretation of “research-based.” I’ve just seen too many schools where it isn’t the case.

    And whether or not we have permission to innovate, we have to. The world is changing around us at an amazing pace, and if we can’t adapt to the changes, our students will suffer. Our students need to learn to be innovative, and they can’t learn that from people who aren’t themselves innovating. If you haven’t read his book, watch Thomas Friedman’s lecture at MIT on “The World is Flat” at http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/266/. It puts a very interesting perspective on this topic.

  • http://www.sad61.k12.me.us/~marsenault marsenault

    About the only positive spin I can put on NCLB is the push for teaching to standards. I think when we start with standards, create how we will assess our students on these standards (formative and summative), and then create the learning experiences for our students we have plenty of room to be innovative. The goal is to instill lasting knowledge for our students. There are many paths we can take to create this. Technology has the power to create rich learning environments where students connect with the essential learnings for any course.

    If you haven’t had the chance to check out the work Bob Sprankle (http://www.bobsprankle.com/) has done with his 3rd and 4th grade students in Maine, do so. I had the luxury of going to visit his classroom last May and watched he and his students create the Room 208 Podcast. Dave has since interviewed Bob and his students on Connect Learning. Here is an example of a teacher who creates a tremendously rich and tremendously innovative learning environment for his students. The students create compelling content for the world to see. I hope to create more educators like Bob who are confident in their ability to use technology to improve the lasting learnings they desire.

    The one thing I have found to be true in education(even in the days of NCLB) is that no one complains when you are sucessful.

Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
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