On my journey to become a better educator, I’ve continually heard about “instructional design.” However, it wasn’t until now, decades later, that I realize that what I’ve been contributing to my curriculum (and others) hasn’t really truly been design. I’ve been a technology instructional coach now for four years and only because of the work I’ve done in the last two, have I begun to understand what design means in education. The key to innovation in education is, without a doubt, through instructional design.
You see, while I was a classroom teacher, I taught fine arts and like most, thought that I naturally knew design. After all, I was classically trained to be a designer. However, it wasn’t until I was in a position to critically analyze instruction that the proverbial blindfold was lifted. It’s not enough that I see what instructional design means though. You see, when we take a closer look at design, we are actually analyzing our students: what they need, who they are, and how they best learn. Once we know who we are designing for, we can approach an understanding of how to best design.
What does innovation in education through design look like, you ask? It is about exploring the choices that students have and the mutual respect afforded to them through their voice. When a student gets excited about coming to class, takes it upon themselves to do more than what is expected, or can’t stop explaining their class to their parents, that is when you’ve designed something well. We talk about innovation as if it is any single idea. The problem is that it is human nature to repeat what works, which of course, neutralizes the innovative properties of the idea. So innovation in education is about seeing your curriculum as a continuous, living context where lessons are designed and redesigned in a systemic journey without end. Innovation in educators is about inspiring students to want to learn by instilling curiosity. I deeply respect Sir Ken Robinson’s ideas about needing to teach creativity. However, I believe that what he really means is that we need to teach curiosity with opportunity in such a way that it invites creativity.
Innovation in education is a garden and the teachers are gardeners. We can feed as many of the children in our classroom as we grow food for. God knows, they are all starving. Your ideas are the seeds. Knowing what seeds to plant is the design. Once planted, your enthusiasm is the water. The weeds that need tending are nothing more than your attention to detail as you organize your instruction. So the new question begs, how are you as as an educator tending your garden? Will you be able to help just a few, or can you feed them all?