Innovation: Are you ready for it?

Sign on wall saying I am making the future

The Australian federal government’s National Innovation and Science agenda is aiming to restructure and refocus the Australian economy.

As a society we’re being told to value innovation after decades of (at best) a rather laid back, dismissive attitude to it.

What does this have to do with education?

Isn’t innovation something that huge companies do, something otherwise known as R & D?

The federal government is set to spend $28 million in a marketing campaign that seeks to change the Australian community’s mind on innovation and dispel that notion.

Schools and the education system as a whole are going to be affected by this revaluing of innovation. If communities start to engage with innovation as something important – something that creates new value – it won’t be long before the communities of interest that connect with schools start to ask schools – what are you doing to make your school function better, to be more innovative?

Schools and the education system are going to be affected by this revaluing of innovation.

Male teacher with laptop and students

Teachers have been at the forefront of innovation in the classroom, embracing flipped learning and finding unique ways to use 3D printers to teach lesson points and equip students for the future.

But the classroom isn’t the only opportunity for innovation in a school, and educators are increasingly expected to own the innovation they are championing for students.

This is a new and exciting landscape for schools and their leaders. The stakes will be high – those who can’t or won’t innovate, particularly around internal functions that waste staff time or unnecessary resource, are in danger of becoming the ‘also-rans’.

Competition for students, funds, staff and profile will be reorganised. It’s a wonderful opportunity for schools ready and willing to innovate their processes at every level to take the slingshot to the slow-moving Goliaths of the sector.

If there wasn’t already enough pressure on Heads of ICT and IT managers in Australian schools, the Australian government’s new Innovation and Science agenda, will amplify this tenfold.

If innovation is the new buzzword, it’s worth unpacking what that is likely to mean specifically in the schools context.

Disruption is already here

The education technology space in Australia is enjoying new vibrancy, with innovative start-ups jumping out of the gates.

Some recent successes include: Literatu – a formative assessment and learning platform making great strides into SE Asia and the US; Class Cover – the CRT booking app taking the headache out of booking casual and relief teachers across SE Australia and New Zealand; Reach – automation of the contemporary boarding school; ourselves, Parent Paperwork – a born global platform that automates paper forms in schools everywhere, already in seven countries.

There are many more, with plenty of new Edtech companies in the curriculum space and we think, a number likely to move into the schools administration space. When schools start to embrace innovation, we will see  new, highly adaptive, customisable, specific solution technology companies enter this space.

These new products will be best of breed, often times replacing an older, dated and clunky system with a solution critically designed to how the user will use the system.

A number of the new applications currently available or about to be are set to challenge the current notion of how technology can best serve the specific needs of your school.

Many new technology entrants into the education sector will be drawn by the opportunities to be involved in curriculum, pedagogical practice, administrative and communication improvements.

With close to two million schools in the world, with many of the processes inside a school being universal wherever you are in the world, the opportunities for scale are obvious.

How these new products are implemented and embedded in school practices will be a major challenge and a measure of success. For many schools a new mindset needs to be adopted.

How these new products are implemented and embedded in school practices will be a major challenge and a measure of success.

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself- education technology is just a byproduct of what a school is all about, it’s on the periphery, it’s not the main game, then consider this… Edutech which takes place annually in Brisbane, is the largest education event in the southern hemisphere attracting over 8,000 participants each year and growing.

This is not a fringe development.

Innovation will be moving centre stage in the near future. The question is – are Australian schools up to the challenge?

This is the first of a series of blog posts intended to provoke discussion and opinion about how the community of educators worldwide take up the challenge of using innovation to better our schools.

Photos: Duncan Hallpeteselfchoose

Author: Sam Sapuppo

Sam has over 30 years experience in the education sector in Australia and believes in the transformative power of education. He worked for Xavier College, Kew, where he held leadership positions in Curriculum, Deputy Head – Administration and Director roles for Boarding and the Community Relations Office. He is a “Visiting Teams” member for the Council of International Schools’ accreditation process and has held national and state executive positions in the Australian Boarding Schools Association. He specialises in stakeholder engagement, change management and innovative problem solving in the educational setting. Sam is also the consultant advisor for the boarding program at the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School.

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