Innovation is a shift, not a program

May 11, 2014 - 4 minutes read

This past week I participated in the Network of Inquiry and Innovation (NOII) Symposium: Stories of Change: Pictures of Possibility. The title of my presentation was called Innovation That Sticks – Real Examples from Real Schools. I chose to present on this topic because we often focus on theoretical ideas, and fail to recognize the shifts occurring right in front of us. In our district, teachers and administrators are finding new ways to connect with students, resulting in student experiences that are quite different from even five years ago.

One notion that seemed to particularly resonate with those in attendance was my latest thinking around scaling. I openly admitted, over the last seven years in West Vancouver, I have often considered the idea of “scaling” — how do we take an idea from one school, which is clearly making a difference for learners, and replicate it in our other schools?  The following two slides from the presentation reflect my most recent thinking on this:
innovation 1

innovation 2

I have moved away from the language of “scaling our work,” to “networking our work.”  We are not trying to create ‘sameness’ in our classes and schools; rather, we are trying to support the good work in one site by connecting it to the good work in another. I have written before about the power of networks in West Vancouver and British Columbia, and I believe this is one of the characteristics that differentiates B.C. education from so many other regions — it is the connection across schools, districts, levels and disciplines — all focused on improving student learning.

So, rather than seeking to scale work, our focus is on diffusion. At some point, there are so many connections with the ‘new’ they become the ‘normal’. We are seeing this with our inquiry work in West Vancouver on all levels — we have teachers embracing the PYP / MYP International Baccalaureate approach; others, use the Spirals of Inquiry as a basis of their work, while others use Understanding by Design to ground their approach. They are all taking similar approaches to learning and connecting to each other as inquiry-based learning has taken hold in all of our schools.

The learners are as diverse as the learning, and while I know some would appreciate the simplicity of “just doing it all one way”, we are finding huge power in the autonomy of teachers and schools as part of the new learning network.

The work of innovation in our schools is not a program, it is not something we can announce, proclaim or implement. It is an ongoing shift to adjust our system to meet the needs of students in a way that is reflective of the world they are living in. The power of networks — connecting people and ideas as part of a community — is key to our story of success in West Vancouver.

The full slide deck from my presentation is here.