Posts Tagged ‘innovation’
It is Friday and it is time to chill after another busy week.
I found this video from Gizmodo of a developer who has released a proof-of-concept application that uses your computer’s webcam to recognize simple gestures just like the Kinect does.
Ah, innovation. It starts with small steps!
I have lunch with my team leaders every other Monday. Sometimes we talk shop, sometimes we talk about shopping. But whatever we talk about, I learn something new. Last Monday, I learnt that my tech-admin assistant took her own mobile and open initiative.
She had opted to tag our departmental assets with QR codes. [Here's how I've used QR codes in a class.] Scanning these codes with a mobile phone equipped with free software (e.g., i-nigma) would lead you to a password-protected wiki page. Collectively, the wiki pages would be our database of assets.
The system would allow us to track the location an item or its history (when it was purchased, which financial vote it had come from, etc.). Any one of my staff could create the codes, access and update the database, or otherwise use the system.
The system is a simple and effective solution to a common problem in stocktaking. Got the QR code but not the item? Use the code to find it. Got the item and need to get more information about it? Scan the code on the item.
It is, in the words of my tech-admin, created so that you did not need to rely on just one person. It is also a good example of using open and mobile tools.
If you conduct a survey and ask people around you what it would take to innovate, you’d get an assortment of answers. I’ve discovered that there are two key and intertwined ingredients: Innovative people and innovation-open environments.
If you have creative staff but a restrictive workplace, you are unlikely to get innovation. If you create a risk-friendly place but no one wants to take risks, you will get frustrated. But if you simply provide a mission and empower your people to elicit change, you might just get a self-sustaining, self-evaluating system.
Yes, not “ready, aim, fire”. Often, you’ve got to “ready, fire, aim” to innovate.
I got that quote from Kapp’s rant about questions that irritate him on the effectiveness of virtual worlds.
As an academic, Kapp was trying to make a point that waiting for research was at times too slow and inconclusive when you want to innovate or stay ahead of the curve.
I can relate. And I am firmly on his side on the debate.
My critique of educational research is that it does not live up to its ideals or promises. Lots of money gets locked up in niche areas that benefit but a few. It is used ultimately to generate one or more papers that key stakeholders (teachers and students) don’t get to read or even understand. The products of educational research are often not scaled up for various reasons: Inertia, indifference, irresponsibility, too many different contexts, ad nauseum.
I am all for research informing practice. But practice can also inform practice, and if that practice is critically and creatively reflective, it can inform more immediately.
Will there be some misses as a result? Surely. But you can get better with practice.
It’s creativity and hard work in action!
This tongue-in-cheek video is a look at technology use in the higher ed classroom and done in the style of the US version of The Office. Ah, the disconnect between technology and pedagogy!
I’d classify this as Comedy and “Horror”; it’s funny and “scary” at the same time! But it also offers lots of good takeaways, particularly when the students suggest to the instructor what they might do (from the 4min 39sec mark).
I think that they all had good suggestions, except for one: Making use of BlackBoard. If they want to get more involved by getting into the modes of creating and critiquing, they could use Web 2.0 tools like wikis, VoiceThread, MixedInk, MindMeister, Google Apps, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
When I read the BBC news article Great writers ‘fail’ online test, I was not surprised. Why? Two reasons.
First, one of the writing samples was actually a speech. Writing for a speech is not the same as writing for print. Yes, you are writing a speech, but not for someone to read like a book. The words don’t leap out of the medium the same way when they are delivered by the speaker.
Second, technology cannot (yet) replace complex human judgment, emotion and subjective interpretation. While this might have been a case of pushing the limits of technology, I also thought that this was using technology when it did not fit the situation.
Do educators make the same mistake when pushing the envelope with technology? Sure we do. But the harm is not in trying. The harm is in providing fuel for the naysayers to say “I told you so!”
But to the naysayers I reply:
Or as James Arthur Baldwin originally put it: Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.
Drawing from statistics from sources such as PriceWaterhouse Coopers, Gartner, and UNESCO, Bryan Polivka wonders out loud: Innovation in educational technology. Why not?
Why ask this question? According to Polivka:
The size of the global education industry, defined as all the money spent by governments, individuals, and corporations on education and training, is almost three times the size of the global entertainment industry, and double the size of the global telecommunications industry. Education is bigger, in fact, than entertainment and telecom combined.
So why do education’s technical innovations feel like hand-me-downs? If a college professor uses some video clips and regularly podcasts, he’s way up near the top of the technical scale. A new technology on the order of the iPod or Twitter? We don’t expect that from education. What is it about education, or educators, that makes this industry so relatively sparse of innovation?
The statistics, if true, are shocking if you are not an educator. If you are, you already know this to be true in your local context.
Polivka offers some answers to his question. But I think the best one is that teachers often see themselves as content experts instead of learning experts.
Education as an industry is full of people who are content experts, and severely lacking people who are learning experts. Or more specifically, learner experts. I don’t mean people who know and adhere to theories about learning. I mean people who really get the whole process, and are passionate about it, from the learner’s perspective. People who love the thrill of learning, the way kids in kindergarten love it, and want everyone to have that sort of joy again. People who want to learn, and want others to learn, and want everyone to apply that learning, with the same exuberance that hobbyists do. What makes learning work and why? What makes learning exciting, interesting, rewarding? We need more people who are experts in those things, because whatever products they create will reflect it.
It’s time to relearn teaching.
Someone once said something to the effect of creativity being a state of mind while innovation was something that needed to be practiced.
That saying came to my mind when an RSS feed alerted me of a journal article titled Butterfly under a pin: Exploring the voices and stories told of faculty who adopt ICTs for teaching and learning practices. The abstract:
The purpose of this preliminary study was to qualitatively explore the lived experiences of faculty who adopt ICT in a higher education setting for teaching and learning purposes. Respondents represented a wide range of academic positions. The analysis of data identified organizational support, adequate and quality resources, faculty development, and administration, leadership, and change as emerging themes affecting the faculty ability to adopt information and communication technology (ICT) in teaching and learning purposes. Evidence from this study offers insight into how higher education administrators may support their faculty to implement appropriate ICT tools and strategies to improve teaching and learning practices.
I have not read beyond the abstract so the following comment may not be fair. But since the abstract represents the most important findings of the study, I must say that I was struck at how the participants of that study were so extrinsically motivated to innovate with ICT. Qualitatively speaking, the same could be said about university faculty elsewhere and teachers in general.
With the exception of perhaps the last factor, everything else that led faculty to be innovative was a push factor from the outside. What happened to innovation as a personal responsibility? I’d rather push than wait to be pushed! Trying to innovate is not easy, but it beats the heck out of just keeping still or complaining about the status quo.
A recent article in Wired magazine was one of the more interesting ones I have read in a while. It proposed “How YouTube Changes The Way We Think“.
The central idea was this: When a new tool comes along, people tend to use it based on their previous experiences with existing tools. Thus the potential and true value of the new tool does not come to bear. But then a few people start to innovate and that snowballs into a more common and acceptable phenomenon.
I think that trying to harness the potential of technology tools, particularly Web 2.0, in education is like that. Teachers use these new tools like they did in the past. But to be effective, they have to take risks and innovate. Along the way, they will make mistakes and colleagues may even give them a hard time.
But they must persist, as I do. And I aim to help them as much as I can.
The Australian government sees the importance of Web 2.0. An article in Oz Computer World titled National Innovation System Review urges Web 2.0 adoption starts off by saying:
The federal government has released the report of the Review of the National Innovation System Venturous Australia, which details recommendations for remodeling the nation?s innovation system.
Among 72 key recommendations was a call for an advisory committee of Web 2.0 practitioners to be established to propose and help steer governments as they experiment with Web 2.0 technologies and ideas.