Innovation…First steps

learning from experts

Paul Johnson, G4 teacher at our school, is modeling being an innovator during his class Genius Day. He wanted to learn how to make tortillas better. So he invited the experts in – a parent from a different class and her daughter – to teach him the secret to making better tortillas. While he did that, his students enthusiastically continued their own projects.

“The first step in teaching students to innovate is making sure that educators have opportunities to be innovators themselves.” -Suzie Boss, Bringing Innovation to School: Empowering Students to Thrive in a Changing World

George Couros, in his book The Innovator’s Mindset, defines innovation as “a way of thinking that creates something new and better.”

Don Wettrick, in his book, Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level has created an Innovation Class in his school and he did it by being an innovator himself. He insists that his students each have a mentor to help guide them through their projects. Learning from experts outside of the classroom is a key to success.

As teachers we need to facilitate the connections between students and experts – those who share the same passions.

How might we burst the bubble and create collaborative learning opportunities between students and experts?


wood cutting

movie makingpaper folding

3 thoughts on “Innovation…First steps

  1. Honestly, I think it is as simple as asking. I have people ask me for help/advice/ideas and I have done the same and overwhelmingly, people are only too willing to help. I think we can feel like we are imposing or getting in the way, but you’ll never know unless you ask. The worst thing…they’ll say no, but maybe they’ll suggest someone else or offer an alternative idea? I think parents are often an untapped resource. We ask them for help with reading groups or math centres which is potentially out of their league and maybe out of their comfort zone. What if we just asked, “What would you love to talk about with one of my kids?”. I spoke with a PYPX student in Laos a few weeks ago about dogs and bringing dogs to school as she had found a few things online that I had written about it. We Skyped for almost an hour and could have kept going for ages! The great thing about having a passion for something is that you are likely to want to share that with like-minded people. It’s hard to say no when you love something!


    • Agreed! I love the question to parents, “What would you love to talk about with one of my kids?” I can imagine a list at the beginning of the year posted in the room with names of ‘experts’ and their passions and their email addresses. Then the students could take charge and contact the parents themselves, skip the teacher intermediary.



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