Learning Innovation Markers: A more natural integrative approach

Simply stated, innovation is almost antithetical to standardization.  If the standard is the goal, then there really is no room for innovation.  To innovate is to improve upon something using new methods or approaches.  Conversely, to make something standard is to establish a goal that all products are the same.  Of course, someone can use a standard to innovate or make a change for the better, but for that person the standard ceased to be the goal since they felt the need to improve upon it.  Therefore, innovation is the process of recognizing a standard and improving upon it.  An innovative mindset will purse this process indefinitely.  For an innovative person the standard is the starting point rather than the end product.

For an innovative person the standard is the starting point rather than the end product.

Educational Application

Many educational professionals love standards (or at least hold them as semi-sacred) .  They give us direction and provide criteria to measure our success with students.  The adoption of a certain set of standards or benchmarks provide us a normative affirmation that we are comparable to others around the state, nation, or globe.  There is certainly a need for such direction in planning the educational experiences of others.  However, if the concept of innovation is to be incorporated into the educational experience, setting new and different standards is not the vehicle to integrate innovative practices, strategies, and tools.

Standards and benchmarks are generally driven by student normative and criteria-based curricular data from a cross section of institutions.   A successful sets of standards become more readily adopted and less pliable as time progesses.  Unless there is an overhaul in standards, there tends to be little change in subject oriented standards from year-to-year.  Teachers use standards and benchmarks to assess student progress at regular intervals and over long periods of time.  This, of course, serves to help students and educators quantitatively recognize growth and development in subject areas and academic pursuits.  This is an important aspect of education, but it falls short if we are to assess a student’s innovation or a teacher’s ability to integrate innovative approaches.

Markers Instead of Standards

The concept of markers, on the  other hand, offer a viable enhancement to the idea of measuring and assessing the innovation.  Before proceeding, think of the function of a hashtag in social media.  The use of a marker is similar.  Markers share a normative quality in as much as they set a common language for people to apply and use to various concepts and/or actions.  Just like hashtags, markers provide an organizational framework to catalogue and track the development of ideas as they emerge.  Markers give terms and expression to emergent changes and trends.  Using key words, one can track and establish an order to new methods and ideas while maintaining responsiveness to the changes.  Markers are not additive in nature, but rather observant and integrative.  Again, similarly to hashtags, a marker does not replace a category, it provides more information about the ideas and trends present within the category.  The driving concept behind a marker is to enhance rather than replace or add to what is being currently practiced.  Therefore, day-to-day teaching does not need innovation/technology standards. Rather, educators need a way to translate observation to a plan of action that will promote innovative qualities in their students.

Markers give terms and expression to emergent changes and trends.

Learning Innovation Makers

Learning Innovation Markers (LIMs) are designed to help a specific community identify (or mark) evidence of innovative learning skills and practices.  LIMs should still be aligned with normative standards, such as the 2007 and/or 2016 ISTE Student Standards.  Through a collaborative development process, the LIMs establish a vision and framework for the integration of innovative tools, approaches, and practices applicable to established teaching practices.  The LIMs allow for an emergent implementation of technology and innovative practices by providing common terminology, focusing on current, successful teaching practices, and identifying areas for improvement through the assistance of technology integration specialists.  

Learning Innovation Markers allow for an emergent implementation of technology and innovative practices…

The learning innovation markers reduce technical verbiage and make the basic ideas of innovation accessible and easily identifiable for all.  Much like the function of a #hastag in social media, a marker can help identify, organize, and structure innovative teaching and learning practices to inform future vertical and horizontal alignment across the curriculum, grade levels, and sections.  The implementation of Learning Innovation Markers ultimately seeks to provide integrative guidance into already established teaching practices rather than adding a new layer of standards to be regularly assessed.

The nature of innovation is to surpass the standard.  By relying on standards to guide innovation is like fitting new wine in old wine skins.  Education’s propensity to standardize cannot accommodate the idea of innovation; thus, by applying strict standards, we corrupt the sweet invigorating taste an innovative thought or product can bring to our world.

Featured Image: Emergent by Ryan Vaarsi via Flickr




An Initial Blog Encounter (and why we should blog)

Courtesy of the Way Back Machine

Huddled in my college apartment’s bedroom among my four roomates, we click through the female members’ scanned images on http://www.Hot-or-Not.com at a lighting speed of 128kps. Abruptly, one of our female friends bursts into the adolescent male enclave.  Nicole gasps at our audacity to participate in such a degrading pastime.  We retort that our own personal pictures are posted as well receiving the same scrutiny among the other members.  She counters that there are better things to do with the internet than just simply rating each other’s appearance.  [insert crickets here]

Within the next couple of moments and with energetic passion, Nicole slides into the computer seat, takes the controls, and introduces us to a revolutionary form of internet use–a web diary, or web log.  As she navigates triumphantly through her own two or three pages on the web, our male huddle sits silently….waiting, watching, biding our time to…mockingly interject how great it would be to post our private thoughts so others could see them. How  productive?  How innovative..?  

Nicole puffs in exasperation and exits the room.  We resume the import task of giving and receiving ratings.

…..sharing through blogging is not just a high form of internet use; it is a high form of human existence.


Humanity by D.C.Atty via Flickr

While the internet has dramatically changed since 2002, the same sort of vain activities can be found on the web, just faster and slicker.  With 15 more years added to my belt size, I agree with Nicole now.  My current perspective has emerged from numerous constructive encounters with blogs.  My friend Nicole was right that one cold January evening.  There is a higher purpose to the internet.   Sharing our thoughts and experiences for others to read and interact with is a high form of internet usage.  However, sharing through blogging is not just a high form of internet use; it is a high form of human existence.  

We contribute to a blog, digital space, e-portfolio because we want to enhance our human capacity to establish and share the elements that make up our narrative.  A commitment to these type of constructive contributions may be driven by

  • Inspiration
  • An external task, assignment, reward
  • The need to connect with an audience
  • Reflection and growth
  • Emergence of one’s own ideas
  • Expression of one’s own opinions
  • The need to respond to others’ contributions from various corners of the world

Blogging, and similar contributions, engage individuals in the nonlinear, communal process of essential human endeavors.


Cyclical adapted from Tom Magliery via Flickr

Finally, contradicting my initial, un-informed reaction to an online diary/web log, blogging is much more than just displaying your intimate details for strangers to read. Blogging, and similar contributions, engage individuals in the nonlinear, communal process of essential human endeavors.  The practice of blogging allows us to

  1. Collect and piece together a personal story or narrative of our life
  2. Observe and reflect upon personal growth in various areas of our life
  3. Incorporate and process what we are learning from others on the web
  4. Use the web as a sounding board for feedback and critiques
  5. Practice new techniques in critical thinking, rhetoric, and presentational skills
  6. Connect with others and contribute to a community and address a real audience.
  7. Remix our previous experience with current ideas, products, and skills
  8. Learn skills and approaches that help us navigate and create digital content.
  9. Contribute our story for others to learn
  10. Pursue, expand, and showcase of our thoughts, ideas, interests, curiosity, and passion.

Feature Image Blogging by Sean McEntee via Flickr

iPad meet Google Classroom: A New Workflow for Grading

Just a couple years ago, I found grading multimedia projects laborious and time consuming.  The whole process from showing students how to submit their work, the time uploading their large media files, accessing the media files, viewing the media project, commenting on the work, and assigning grades was just too much to deal with and worry about while assessing all the skills.  This is not to mention all the different programs and applications I needed to be running to complete the task of assessing a student’s learning.  A few years ago, I still did it, but that’s only because I’m a ‘techy’ I guess.

Recently, I finished grading a number of multimedia projects that my students submitted via a completely online delivered course.  In my ‘techy’ way, I was committed to try the grading process using the iPad, Google Classroom App, and other Google Suite applications.  To my great surprise, these tools streamlined my experience in such a way that the grading process was not only as simple as grading on a computer, but as simple as grading with pen and paper.  The entire process fit right on my screen from collating all the student work, checking the student plan, viewing the final product, providing feedback, and communicating the grade with the student.  This heartening experience re-affirmed that educational tech tools are quickly catching up to the production capabilities of our students.  This is very good news for teachers’ workflow.

Here’s an annotated screenshot depicting the workflow of grading a multimedia project using an iPad.

Marking the Conditions for Innovative Learning

Featured Image:Exploration-Innovation Missy Schmidt via Flickr

Technology integration at Ruamrudee International School ties instructional practice and technological resources into 6 Markers for Innovation: Expansion, Creativity, Digital Citizenship, Digital Literacy, Lifelong Learning, Connections.

These markers set forth various indicators/descriptions that can help educators innovatively design instructional experiences and learning environment.  In his book, the Innovative Mindset, George Couros explores the necessary conditions for innovation in the classroom.  The following attempts to synthesize RIS’s Learning Innovation Markers and Couros ideas.


The key to expansion is learning how to access and work with content to construct and revise new understandings.  Through active learning and reflective thought, learners develop methods and strategies to find the right information and content for the purpose at hand.  Using constructive practices and a variety of resources, learners increasingly access valuable content via reliable avenues while developing adaptive learning approaches that promote critical thinking and idea creation.

What is Your Choice

by Aaron Davis via Flickr

Couros Conditions: Choice-One of main ideas of expansion is to promote authentic learning experiences.  There is no authenticity without ‘Choice’.  Critical Thinkers: Learning to evaluate resources to separate truth from fiction and separate the biases within sources helps students sift and develop ways to pursue valuable content.


The driving force behind creativity is the process of finding new ways of doing or expressing oneself to improve, or enrich, the life and experience of oneself and others.  Creativity does not originate from a void.  Rather, creativity is the emergence of thoughts and ideas one has from the interactions and reflections of their environment.  Finding new ways to meet others needs or connect with others enables a person to begin the creative endeavour.



by Denise Krebs via Flickr

Couros Conditions: Opportunities for Innovation–Innovation is combining, tweaking, and modifying various ideas and products to address a unique need for one’s community. Time for Reflection:  This condition of innovation can be closely tied to other markers, such as Expansion and Lifelong Learning.  However, creativity requires honest and concise reflective practices to promote active/critical observation of one’s environment.



Digital Citizenship


Pierre Phaneuf via Flickr

A learner can not gain valuable citizenship qualities in the vacuum of a self-contained classroom.  While it may start in the classroom, learners must develop healthy, positive interactions and respect for others, both in-person and virtually.  Learning to acknowledge and respect the validity of others’ expectations and values is essential.  By acting and interacting from this acknowledgement and respect provides the basis for developing healthy interactions.

Couros Condition:  Voice— Finding one’s voice in the sea of opinions and facts is an exercise not just in communication but also in conviction.  In the process, learners should develop an open understanding that others may not agree with or even criticize .  A learner who is developing a healthy ‘voice’ will attempt to positively interact with those who agree or disagree with their perspective in every context.

Digital Literacy

2015-07-05b Thinking about problem-finding -- index card #problem-solving #problem-finding

by Sacha Chua via Flickr

The ability to navigate different contexts by searching, constructing, and conveying meaning requires strategies and skills involving the ability to read, understand, and deliver.  Often times conceptual and physical tools are necessary to assist learners’ literary development.  In the modern era, digital tools are increasingly at the populace’s disposal when finding problems, generating solutions, and conveying results.

Couros Conditions: Problem Solvers/Finders–The better one’s level of digital literacy is the more access they have to ways of finding problems and developing solutions for the problems they find.

Lifelong Learning

By finding one’s passions and interests in life, individuals can become motivated to adopt and implement personal learning systems that help them pursue and develop into the next iteration of themselves.  Basically, learners who pursue improvement throughout life become masters at transference and can teach themselves anything that piques their interest at any time.  The ability to self-assess one’s own understanding and skills in a certain area is key to transference.  Learners must know where to start to gain new, more advanced, understandings and skills.

by Sebastiaan ter Burg via Flickr

by Sebastiaan ter Burg via Flickr

Couros Conditions: Self-Assessment: Being motivated to assess one’s own understanding is essential to learning something new .  In order to assess oneself, there needs to be some sort of comparison to set up an evaluative measure for true self-assessment.  Evaluative measures for self-assessment could include external comparison, authoritative guidelines, and personal evaluative approaches.  Whatever the evaluative measure used, a learner must produce some kind of evidence to employ an evaluative measure.  Over time, the collection of evidence provides an arch of development detailing one’s growth.  Digital portfolios can help tell the story of this development and evaluative strategies.  This intrinsically sets up a learner’s road map to passions and interests. Connected Learning: By connecting with others, students can learn how to do new things and old things in new ways.  While this process should not be directly competitive in nature, connecting with others to see how they do things can help one evaluate and improve upon their own practices and habits.


This marker focuses on the connections learners make to resources to further personal development and learning.  These resources can be physical inanimate objects (books, journals, etc), places (library, resource centre, maker space, classroom, etc.), people (teacher, mentor, coach, parents, professionals), and of course virtual.  In fact, virtual connections can supplant or augment the former resources.  This is why virtual connections are so important to focus on as we teach.  The more exposure learners have to various ways to connect with resources via virtual connections, the more resourceful learners become to draw upon in new situations.  Good connections can set up better adaptability to new situations.


by David Armano via Flickr

Couros Conditions–Connected Learning:  With technology and the skills to connect virtually  “students develop their own understanding of where they have been, where they are, and where they are going.”  Educators should create learning opportunities and environments that enable students to find and build connections both in-person and virtually.  Through their interactions, learners can access feedback while finding inspiration in others’ work, whether peers or experts.