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Innovation and Creativity…IMO

Matt Zarb, Head of Design and Technologies, Helena College

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I don’t know about you, but I have seen this before. I have been this before. It’s an easy trap to fall into. You unwrap the bright and shiny new ‘thing’ that will transform your classroom. The solution to a problem we never knew we had. And the gateway to a whole range of new and exciting problems that didn’t exist before but now do. If only it did what we wanted it to do or even delivered some of the expected outcomes?!

Design has many names. Many ruses. So many different acronyms.  At its heart, though, it seeks to do the same thing, whatever the label. Design is about solving problems. It is about solutions. Testing solutions. Improving solutions. “Design is the link between innovation and creativity, taking thoughts and exploring the possibilities and constraints associated with products or systems, allowing designers to redefine and manage the generation of further thought through prototyping, experimentation and adaptation. It is human-centred and focuses on the needs, wants and limitations of the end user.” (IB Design Guide 2015, p.4) Once we scratch below the surface and take away the shiny things, Design is problem solving methodology and technology is useful, only if it too, solves a problem.

'Why?' before 'What?' If I had a mantra, it would be this. ‘Why’ am I doing this has to come before the ‘what’ do I need to make it happen. I cannot solve a problem without knowing what I am trying to solve.

I see innovation as the output of creativity. The product of creativity. If creativity is the noun…then the act of this creativity finds its place through innovative thinking and doing. At times we blame lack of resources on our ability to innovate when in fact it’s the constraints that inspire innovation. It is not about what I have, but what I do not have that inspires innovation. And this drives our learning. To be innovative sometimes we need to limit what we have, what we get and what we give. We challenge our students to think. When you break that down. Challenging students to think shouldn’t be outside the realms of what we do, but it often is. And here is the response.

“Tell me how to do it?” is the cry of the student who is stuck.

“Well I could. Or you could just try something different. Have a go at solving the problem yourself. It doesn’t matter if you get it wrong. You just need to attempt something different to what you have already done.”

And at times they do. While others will not even budge. Fear of getting it wrong has been smashed into them so many times that the thought of not getting it right the first time overrides any natural curiosity. Some students would prefer getting in trouble for not trying, not even attempting to get it right, because its beats the shame of getting it wrong. And that says something about our schools. Our system.

Something needs to change.

Innovation as a classroom subject pushes our students to think they can, rather than believe they cannot and then asks them to attempt things they may not have otherwise tried to do. And the results are things we could not have imagined. Every class is different. New leaders emerge. Students in control of what they learn and how they learn. Our dream is students develop a mindset that they will attempt anything. No matter what they have been told in the past and no matter what others might think they can do. It’s the mindset I want our Design teachers to have. To take risks. To be different. To try something outrageous. And who knows what might happen?

Looking forward to talking more about this at the Leading a Digital School Conference ... And moving forward together.

IB Design Guide © International Baccalaureate Organization, 2015

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