Why Do We Need Innovation In Education: An Invitation to Gather Around A Question

Nov 25, 12 Why Do We Need Innovation In Education: An Invitation to Gather Around A Question

The Canadian Education Association (CEA) is inviting Canadians (and others) to consider some vital questions around the need for innovation in education—a narrative that has come to be accepted in many circles. The following post is written by Ron Canuel, the CEA’s Chief Executive Officer. You’re invited to join the conversation in one of the several ways outlined in the post!


So why do we need innovation in education? This is not such a straightforward question when many school districts still consider installing interactive whiteboards in front of the classrooms as the way forward. These technology “solutions” have to do with the belief that simply putting “tech equipment” into classrooms is going to improve teaching and learning. We haven’t worked very hard to get to the heart of the pedagogical approaches required to make these pieces of equipment hum!

Seymour Papert illustrated this thinking with a stagecoach that had two rocket boosters strapped on the sides with the caption: “Technology being applied to an old model of learning and teaching simply doesn’t work.” There are a lot of well-intentioned educators who still think that if we keep refurbishing the stagecoach, we’ll prepare students for what they need to learn to thrive in this world. Perhaps we need to abandon this “not having to reinvent the wheel” mindset. In fact, I think that we need to get rid of the wheel altogether!

Now keep in mind as well that the accountability indicators for school districts in Canada are heavily focused on student achievement results and do not reflect any mention of innovation. Sadly, our education system tends to value compliance, conformity, and complacency over innovation.

File 4608

No one innovative approach is the magic bullet. Our Ken Spencer Award Winners – featured in our recently released special Theme Issue of Education Canada – show how teachers, principals, superintendents, and community leaders work together to push the boundaries and redefine the structures of teaching and learning. And more often than not, when these types of initiatives are pitched to decision-makers to scale up, they respond: “that’s really interesting”, and promptly get back to work doing the same thing. I’ve been asking for quite some time: how do we move people from merely being impressed, to being convinced that they have to radically change their practice? Now.

CEA wants you to contribute your stories in the form of a guest blog post to help us define why we need innovation. We want to lead a discussion to start building some form of consensus of our collective expectations for what innovation is needed in education. How do we come to an agreement?

Questions for students, parents, administrators, policymakers, researchers, and anyone else concerned about innovation in education:

  • Do you think that we have the appetite to innovate?
  • Why is innovation in education so important?
  • How do we best spread innovative ideas?

Questions for teachers:

  • What has been your best teaching moment?
  • What was in place to make that happen?
  • When did you feel that you had it right?
  • When was your classroom humming? Tell us about these optimal learning and teaching moments.

We need you to “ground” our thinking in actual practice – examples of educators taking their visions and insights into what school could be and being given the space to work with them.

  • What personal and institutional assumptions and traditions did you challenge to move your innovation forward?
  • What didn’t work?

For teachers like Kelowna Flipped Classroom proponent Graham Johnson, the insights came gradually. For others like Oasis Skateboard Factory founder Craig Morrison, he seemed to know from the beginning what would work, and how he wanted to do it. How is it unfolding for you?

Your guest blog posts will be added to a variety of perspectives. Please contact Max Cooke at mcooke@cea-ace.ca or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/max_cooke if you would like to contribute.

Inspire us with your insights and ideas.

About Stephen Hurley

I've been privileged to spend the last 30 years serving the public education system in Ontario. Through opportunities to work at most levels of the system, I have developed a heart for big picture thinking that is grounded in the reality of today's schools. I'm passionate about my own learning and look forward to nurturing that passion through my presence at voicEd.ca


  1. Heather Lye /

    This is what I have been trying to move toward in my Grade 11 Physics class. Not in quite the same way, nor to the same degree – but my overall idea was that they would read the material before class (but they never do this…I will blog about the details sometime soon) I would do a shorter lesson in class than I used to and then they would have most of the time to work on problems and discuss. I even have my class set up in groups instead of rows.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 − five =

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>