Why Good Teaching (Not Just Technology) is at the Heart of Innovation in Education: Observations from a teacher, innovator and student

“Many of us educators naively believe grand reforms or powerful technologies will transform our education system…however, again and again, we realise that neither loud reforms nor wondrous technology will do the hard work demanded of teachers and learners.”

Serdyukov, Peter. (2017) Innovation in education: What works, what doesn’t, and what to do about it. Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching and Learning.

When people discuss innovation in education, there’s a tendency to become swept up in the compelling story of the digital age. Progress, we are often told, will be delivered to us through technology. TED prizewinning educator and founder of the ‘School in the Cloud’, Sugata Mitra, even goes as far as to say we no longer need an education system. “In nine months…” he said at a TED gathering in 2013, “…a group of children left alone with a computer in any language will reach the same standard as an office secretary in the West.”

New technologies are opening up incredible opportunities for change in education, there’s no doubt about that. From online learning to the adaptation of apps and games in schooling, there’s a lot to get excited about. However, when we assess the impact of how it’s actually applied, the results tell us a more complex story.

There’s no innovation without skilled teachers to drive it.

According to research published last year in the Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching & Learning, the latest evidence suggests that it’s teaching, pedagogy and the educational environment that are the underlying drivers of innovation.

There are two critical points that may seem obvious, but which are often overlooked. Firstly, new technologies can only be effective, when utilised by teachers who know how to use them to get results. Secondly, teachers need the support of their institutions in order to succeed with innovations.

“Teachers are so important in helping to grow innovation at a school level. It is imperative that all staff feel empowered, and understand that they all have some ‘buy in’ in the strategic direction of the school.

You will always have the early adopters; the ones ready to innovate immediately. It is important that these early adopters are given the opportunity and encouragement to innovate. This helps to spread a culture of innovation (and of suitable risk-tasking) across the staff. In time, other teachers become less hesitant. Once they know they have support, they will begin to take more risks in their practice and innovate.”

Joshua Pacek (Teacher and student, Master of Education Innovation & Change, Torrens University Australia).

Why Good Teaching (Not Just Technology) is at the Heart of Innovation in Education

Teachers require professional development and support in order to become innovation agents.

It was with this basic principle in mind that Torrens University developed the Masters in Education (Innovation and Change). The course is designed for educators who want to become champions of innovation in their education communities.

Students learn a mix of the latest research in design theory, practice and pedagogy, as well as how to implement new technologies in ways that deliver results. Each research project can be directly applied to the classroom, and teachers learn how to assess their effectiveness as they’re applied.

Meet Joshua Pacek: Teacher, innovator and Torrens University student.

Joshua is 29 and has been a primary school teacher for seven years in Queensland, Australia. His pillars in life are learning, family, friends and sport. He recently won Educator of the Year from Learning Environments Australasia, for his inspired approach to teaching. In his view, lifelong learning is essential to being an innovator in schools.

“Professional learning is critical when innovating as a teacher. You must continue to up-skill yourself so that you can provide the most holistic, contemporary and engaging learning experiences for your students.”

He began his Masters of Education (Innovation and Change) at Torrens University last year, in order to pursue his passion for educational development and change making.

I was ready to take the leap and move into a leadership and consultancy role. Innovation is all about changing the way you work. It is extremely important to think in new ways when educating the future generations. It is more about giving children the skills they need to succeed in the future, not just knowledge and understanding.

Torrens appealed to me, as they were a new university keen on doing things differently to others. They really aim to ‘push the envelope’. With my interest in innovation, I thought that I should do a course in innovation by an institution that ‘walks the walk’.”

Joshua Pacek: Teacher, innovator and Torrens University student

Living in Queensland, he’s chosen to study his Masters online. As a regular Twitter user, he’s no stranger to the digital sphere. However, he’s also cautionary about the danger in relying too heavily on technology as a vehicle for educational change.

“I love Twitter, it has provided me with so many professional learning opportunities. There are a lot of people on there from the education field, and I love connecting with them and learning collaboratively. But, to be innovative in education, you must be critical about your use of technology.

It is important that technology does not just substitute something; otherwise that iPad would just make for a very expensive pen or pencil! New technologies, when used correctly, should redefine learning and get the learners to engage with concepts differently and develop new skills.”

In addition to studying his masters, Joshua is working in an innovation and learning design role at a primary school. He supports teachers in implementing strategies for improvement. Although the hours are long, he loves his job. He’s now begun to introduce some lessons from his masters, such as design thinking, into the school, and he’s excited about the results.

He hopes to further develop his career in teaching support and innovation, in the future.

“My dream job would be a Deputy Principal with an educational consultancy business on the side, supporting teachers with the ever-changing learning environments.”

To learn more about Torrens University Masters of Education (Innovation and Change) contact one of our helpful course and career advisors.

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