Is it time we move away from “Innovation Leads”?
This is in response to one of George Curous’s recent posts where he argues that schools should reconsider the role of “Tech Lead”, or “Coordinator of Instructional Technology” in my own school. I understand his sentiment, especially when these roles have poorly articulated job descriptions and the educational technology experts and leaders are relegated to mundane tech help, fixing “…things in my classroom that use electricity”, as he states, which is supremely frustrating for those who are in the trenches of this type of role.
Yet, he acknowledges that, when executed properly – i.e. in conjunction with the curriculum leaders, the Tech Lead can have a valuable impact on teaching and learning in the classroom. This is, of course, the ideal scenario in a school – that teachers are supported not only in getting technology to work, but in building authentic and effective projects and assessments that accurately measure student performance, with technology inserted where it can enhance and transform what is possible in that classroom.
George goes on to offer up a different type of title; the “Innovative Teaching and Learning Lead”, as an alternative. I want to push back a little on this because, when implemented poorly, this job can also be detrimental to a school and the teaching and learning that occurs in it. As one of my more astute and gruff colleagues once stated, “If all we ever did was innovate, we’d never get any s!%# done.” If the goal is to constantly try to change what we’re doing, how can we effectively implement anything? When the school year ends, do we move on to the next innovative initiative proposed by the Innovation Lead when last year’s initiative is no longer deemed innovative? How do you measure whether last year’s initiative was even successful? Do we care about last year anymore?
In his article called “Why You Shouldn’t Call it Innovation”, Tim Woods makes an excellent point that “Innovation is only true after the fact”. No one knew they were in the Renaissance during the Renaissance. Likewise, it takes time to recognize whether an innovative idea in education is, indeed, innovative. It can take time for teachers and leaders at a school to discern whether something new they are doing in the classroom is actually better for student learning, but if the innovation lead is ready to move on to the next new thing, we’ve done both our students, and our faculty, a disservice.
If we apply the design process to the classroom, there may be many iterations of an idea that are thought to be “innovative” but flat out don’t work in practice. Plenty of designs fail before one is found to be an improvement. We should be careful in applying the word “innovative” to an educational practice or policy prior to seeing its tangible effect on student learning; and we should be careful in using the word “innovation” in the title of someone who can’t wait to pull their constituent faculty toward the next “innovative initiative”.
Please note that this is not meant to be a hostile post; just some thoughts expanding on what George shared.