Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Innovation Day 2014

Year two of Innovation Day went down on Friday. As always, I’ve got a few thoughts.

Similar to last year, students showed up and created. They made things in areas they were passionate about. Though this is the point of Innovation Day, it merits mentioning here: too often, kids are forced to go to school and do what we tell them to do. The choice students have around Innovation Day is always a nice reminder.

Similar to last year, kids worked well. As with last year, it was important this year to recognize that kids needed time to take breaks and process; time to go for a walk and collect their thoughts. Time to refocus.

This year, turning 110 tenth graders loose on Hillsdale’s campus resulted in a grand total of zero behavior issues. Just like last year.

Screenshot from Google
However, things were different this year. It seemed to our teacher team that the Innovation Day projects this year were areas projects that our students had fun doing, but weren’t necessarily innovative. Kids were excited about the projects, but most projects didn’t seem to stretch students’ skillsets or interests. The projects didn’t innovate.

Could this have been the case last year? We may have been too busy trying to keep track of our students last year to notice students not innovating. We may have been too excited watching the day unfold to realize that the students weren’t innovating.

So what is next? We’re definitely doing Innovation Day next year. However, we are going to put in a few additional stipulations. Student projects will have to build a new skill or build on an existing skill. We will share with students several models of possible ways to think about innovation: for example, forcing students to introduce a new or better way of doing an ‘old’ thing or fixing a flaw in the way a thing is done. We hope to force students to articulate how what they are doing is new, how it is innovative.

Does this mean that students can’t make a how to basketball video? No. But it does mean that we are going to make students watch how to basketball videos on YouTube and explain the shortcomings they see in these videos. How they plan to address these shortcomings in the video they create will be part of their project proposal.

Was Innovation Day a failure? Absolutely not. Was it worth doing this year? Yup. Do we want to make it better for next year? Most certainly.  

Pictures from Innovation Day can be found here. Students projects will be posted soon here.