Innovation Does Not Equal Technology

I was following a recent conversation about the idea of “innovation” often being synonymous with “using technology.”

In “The Innovator’s Mindset,” I define innovation in the following way:



“I’m defining innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better.

Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” (a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of “new and better,” it is not innovative.

That means that change for the sake of change is never good enough.”  


Can innovation and technology be connected? Of course.

For example, if a student is struggling with reading text and you can use an iPad to enlarge text that will support the student in that process, that is a great way to use technology to create a “new and better” learning opportunity.

It might be simple, but I would consider that innovative because it is helping the child improve their learning.

So let’s take a different example that utilizes technology. 

Is using a “scantron” an innovative practice?  

Depends on what the goal is, I guess.

Here is a simple example of how this technology use made my practice worse.

Early in my career, when I was teaching at the high school level, we received a scantron at the school. As soon as possible, I made every single assessment in my class multiple choice that year to make grading easier for me. 

If the “new and better” goal was saving me time, I guess it worked.

But did it improve learning for the students?


Can you use a scantron in ways that could help student learning? Maybe. I just know that I didn’t in the example I just shared.

So the question of what is the problem you are trying to solve is also essential to the idea of innovation.

Take, for example, a leadership practice regarding the use of time.

I was very aware of staff time on professional learning days. As a teacher, a practice I saw by my former administrators was sending out an email and asking “staff, “what items would you like added to the “agenda?”

That question could lead to an endless discussion that didn’t apply to the majority of staff in the room, and it would often lead to frustration among myself and others, feeling we could be using that precious amount of time in a better way.

Understanding this and thinking about the practice from the viewpoint of my staff, I changed the question to this; “Are there any things you would like to add to the agenda that you are willing to speak to?

Sometimes, this would lead to me changing the space where conversations were held based on the idea if they were not appropriate to the whole staff (i.e., Could we talk about grade 2 planning time?) 

It was a simple alteration to a question that would save staff a ton of time in our meetings to utilize that time in ways they felt to be more beneficial.

To be innovative, we have to start by not only asking what problem are we trying to solve but also who will this help?

If the practice does not lead to something “new and better” for those we serve in education, it shouldn’t be considered innovative.


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