Creating Innovation

It is human nature to research and document ideas, theories, experiments and concepts. Information and knowledge has always been shared in some way or another so that others may build further upon the ideas of their predecessors…and teachers encouraged students to build their own personal ‘brain’ bank of knowledge, so that these theories and ideas would be available to them when needed. It seems that information and knowledge are growing at an incredible rate – faster than ever before in the history of humankind, faster than we can keep up with, and certainly faster than we can ‘code’ into our personal memory banks. As Nobel laureate Herbert Simon sagely explained, “the meaning of knowing has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find and use it” (Simon, 1996). The magnitude of the human knowledge ‘bank’ means that it is impossible for us, as educators, to expect students to remember all of it…instead we concentrate on teaching the intellectual tools and learning strategies students can use to find the information they need to innovate, think productively and create. That is how we foster self-sustaining, life-long learners.

Facts are important for thinking and problem solving, however research clearly shows that “usable knowledge” is not the same as a mere list of disconnected facts. Showing evidence of knowledge transfer by using what has been learnt to create something new exemplifies the top level of the SAMR model (created by Ruben Puentedura). We have adopted this model as the basis for our educational technology integration. SAMR stands for “substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition.”

Substitution refers to using the technology as a direct substitute for pen and paper. An example of this would be typing a lab report on Google Docs…the report could have been hand written, but is necessary to type it on the iPad in order to use the report in other applications later in the lesson.

Augmentation is one step above substitution and implies the learner is doing something more with the information on the iPad – again using the example of Google Docs, instead of hand writing the lab report and having to manually copy it and share it with others, Google Docs provides extra services like auto saving, auto syncing, and auto sharing in the cloud.

Modification is the level where technology is being used more effectively not to do the same task using different tools but to redesign new parts of the task and transform students learning. An example of this is using the commenting service in Google Docs, for instance, to collaborate and share feedback on a given task. The lab experiment is shared with the rest of the group, results are compared through graphic illustration and peer/teacher review inspires further online research.

Redefinition is the highest level of the SAMR model. Students use technology to create new tasks, previously inconceivable. An example of redefinition is when students connect to a classroom across the world where they are each conducting the same lab experiment. They use the message and voice comment section to discuss the similarities and differences they noticed and the impact these would have on the results. They then embed the full report into the class website and share it with others.

The premise of this model is that within any learning experience, students should encounter all elements of SAMR, with the highest level of thinking, creativity and innovation occurring at the redefinition phase where students are involved in a learning activity that would have been impossible before the integration of technology. Structuring our lessons in this way allows for seamless technology integration; providing students with access to a vast resource of information, a way to collaborate with experts and other students, a way to share their work for peer review and a way to creatively demonstrate understanding. Learning has another purpose: innovation and creativity merge with knowledge and understanding, resulting in the creation of a product that is shared with others and forms part of the foundation upon which others will build.

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