Innovation Week

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Geoffery Kehrig

Innovation Week

I love this picture. Maybe it is because I have a 5 month old daughter who seems to be discovering something new every day. What ever the reason, as we prepare for our “Innovation Week” event at our school, we are bouncing around words like innovation, creativity, and discovery a lot, and it is images like this one that remind me what is at the heart of our event. Like this girl with the flower, we want our students to discover something: a passion for learning.

We are well underway with our planning for our Innovation Week, a 5 day period in our last week before the winter break where students are going to have the opportunity to create their own learning experience. During this week, students will be given the time, space, support and necessary materials to work on a project of their choice. Our hope is to provide students with a meaningful experience that will help develop a passion for learning by giving them the chance to pursue their own learning interests. Similar projects have been run in the United States and England and have been met with great success when it comes to student engagement and impactful learning experiences. The students will not attend their classes during this week, instead they will work in the Innovation Week area for the entirety of their school day. Staff members from our school will be supervising and assisting in the Innovation Week area all week. We are hoping every staff member will get the chance to be in the Innovation Week area for at least one school day. On the morning of final day, we will have each individual/group present their project and give a summary of their learning that occurred during the week.

We were given a great deal of support from Matt Bebbington, whose Innovation Day project and subsequent blog posts were the inspiration behind our school’s Innovation Week project. Matt shared with me his student proposal forms, his presentation to his students, his posters and more, and offered to assist us along the way whenever we needed him. I am needing some more support, but not from Matt. I am looking to my PLN to help us make the most out of this event. We are hoping for some feedback from you when it comes to three specific areas:

Student Motivation

We are hoping our students will look to take their projects way beyond the walls of Greystone Centennial Middle School. We want them to look at this as an opportunity to not only do a project on something they are interested in, but to make it have reach and impact. We want students to aspire to create something of importance. A comic book that would connect with an audience, a video that will go viral, an invention that will make someone’s life easier. We want them to reach for the stars, but we also want them to be as self directed as possible. So… how do we do both? We have some ideas, but I am guessing those of you reading this will come up with far better ones.

Project Start-Up

We all know our students can get excited about something, a project, an activity etc. but often they have trouble with where to start. We all know that our inspiration, our creativity doesn’t just come to us in a dream, there has to be some background, some foundational knowledge or experience that guides us towards work in that area. We are interested in a certain topic because we have had some experience with that topic, or we have developed some initial understanding about the topic. We know our students are going to need to start the week by developing a direction to their work, with some vision for where it could go.

To do this, our students are going to need to do some initial research and planning. We want them to start this way, but again we want this to be as self directed as possible. So… how do we get kids to temper their excitement and lay the ground work for what could be a powerful project? We don’t want to mandate a “Research and Planning Day”, so do we coach them with some advice for start-up? Do we provide them examples of where great ideas developed from? Do we let them go completely and let their struggles be a major component of the learning experience?

My Project

Selfishly, this is the big one for me. To model the experience for my students, I too am going to create a project. I decided on producing a piece on innovation. I am hoping to Skype/Facetime and interview people about their thoughts on creativity and innovation in schools. I plan on basing my interviews around these three questions:

1) Do you feel that innovation and creativity are important skills to tackle in education?

2) What activities do you believe best challenge and develop these skills?

3) How would you suggest schools do more to develop these skills in their students?

Whether this ends up being a written piece or a multimedia presentation, I am not quite sure, but I am going to need some assistance. I am going to need people to interview, and advice on who to interview and how to best make that happen. I started by developing my wish list on who I would like to comment on this topic. Sir Ken Robinson, Daniel Pink, Diane Ravitch, people from innovative places like Google, Apple, Ivy League institutions, education people from my PLN all were on it, but who else do you think would be a valuable person to interview? Do you have connections to any people that would help make my project even better?

We are discussing starting each day of Innovation Week with a guest speaker over Skype, so it would be great to get some VIP’s for that role as well.

Really, we believe that this event will be great, but it will be better if we get input from all of you bright minds out there. If you have some input on our Innovation week project, please leave a comment or contact me directly @jmclean77 or We look forward to hearing from you, and we look forward to sharing how our event goes with you!