Permission to Innovate?

I have been eagerly awaiting this weekend for the past year. Last January, I had the opportunity to attend my first Educon. A grad student at the time, I was in awe of the genius I had surrounded myself with.  Experienced educators from near and far, coming together to engage in passionate conversations about their students, pedagogy and use of technology. Not having ever had a classroom of my own, I wasn’t quite sure where my voice fit into the conversation.

Fast forward 1 year.

I returned to the conversation today with the voice of a first-year teacher/librarian at a fabulous elementary school, excited about the possibilities of blending policy with innovation. The overarching theme of this year’s conversations is ‘Openness: Should We Create a More Transparent World?’ In attempting to synthesize my learning from the opening keynotes and sessions I’ve attended thus far, common threads seem to revolve around the ideas of sharing, trust, and vulnerability; all of which seem to be pre-conditions for innovation.

SHARING. I’ve been thinking and talking a lot lately about the idea of sharing. My students have been sharing their learning (both process and product)  across a variety of platforms. Whether we’re using Google Drive, KidBlog, Skype/GoogleHangouts, or posting pictures on the library website, my students are eager and excited to share. I can’t help but notice that that mindset is not necessarily shared among teachers. So often it seems as though fabulous learning is happening…behind a closed door. George Couros made the point at #Edscape that great teaching/learning should be like a viral video on youtube. Friday night’s  panel emphasized the open movement. Whether its through badges, MOOCs, or OERs, there is power in publicly sharing information and learning. But the ability to share openly depends on a foundation of trust.

TRUST.  The first session I attended this morning was a conversation about change within the well-functioning school. For schools to iterate and innovate, teachers need to feel that they are trusted as professionals. That their supervisors trust and support them in taking risks. That their voices matter. Teachers should not be having to ask for permission to innovate.

VULNERABILITY. Publicly sharing your learning. Declaring your trust in various stakeholders (including students). These actions open up educators to a vulnerable space. I have made the choice to create and maintain a public digital presence. I see a value in openness. I would like to think that a digital footprint is perhaps more meaningful than paper credentials. Digital citizenship then becomes the minimum requirement, and digital leadership the goal. I am intentionally transparent. Does it make me vulnerable? Yes. But more importantly, it makes me a better educator and connects me to others who push my thinking. To me that far outweighs the risk of  criticism or disapproval.

Brick walls come in many formats, but they won’t stop the open movement. If the question is ‘How do we stimulate innovation and creativity?’ We have to stop asking permission.

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