Innovation in schools

This article was published in The Jewish Life Magazine August 2015

In the past few months worldwide, the broadcast and print media have covered taxi driver protests objecting to the operations of Uber. Uber is an online taxi application which allows one to order a taxi using a mobile device. You are given the name of the driver who is collecting you, the registration number and type of car, the time you will be picked up and all this is done at a very competitive rate. This innovation has created huge resistance from taxi drivers in countries where Uber operates, as their livelihood is threatened by this system.
However, Uber may not be the ultimate disruption in public/ private transportation. We may find that another innovation such as the driver-less car will soon take precedence over both Uber and Taxis. Fantasy? Google, Volvo and other well-known car brands have already produced the first prototype of cars that cruise the road without a driver! One can only imagine the implications of such innovation, not only on our own lives, but also on the lives of the future workforce.
Globalization, skills shortage, escalation in the unemployment rate, leadership crisis, the need for a sustained plan to look after our natural resources and the climate crisis are all challenges that motivate us to transform education. The perception is that any future growth and prosperity will depend upon the education system -systems that theoretically are meant to provide our students with 21st century skills that will equip them to adapt to an uncertain future.
This requires schools to become leaders in innovation and to embrace and adapt it as part of their values and culture. I believe the three main components to drive innovative leadership in education are curriculum, pedagogy and leadership. What we teach, how we teach it and the leadership to do so in an innovative manner.

“If you are not changing your curriculum, you are saying that nothing is changing” Heidi Hayes Jacobs.
ORT Argentina realised the importance of entrepreneurship for the future of the economy and incorporated it as a part of their school curriculum. They have adopted the approach that although entrepreneurship can be taught, they do not guarantee to produce a Bill Gates or a Donna Karan, any more than a physic professor can guarantee to produce an Albert Einstein, or a tennis coach to produce a Venus Williams. However, by getting students with a suitable aptitude to start a business, ORT Argentina guaranteed to make them better entrepreneurs.

“If we teach today’s students, as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow” – John Dewey
How we teach must echo how our students learn and it must also prepare them for the future. Education systems are more and more adopting an approach to teaching that takes into consideration the learning and teaching that will be required in the 21st Century.
In Israel, Kadima Mada has implemented Smart Classrooms in schools at the periphery of the country, simultaneously training the teachers on the new pedagogy. The Smart Classrooms are technology enhanced classrooms that foster opportunities for teaching and learning by integrating learning technology, such as computers, specialized software and audio/visual resources.

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and follower” Steve Jobs
Becoming innovative schools leaders, who promote innovative teaching and stimulates innovation amongst students and teachers, requires a proactive approach from school principals and school management teams. Innovation cannot be delegated and has to be modeled by the leaders of the schools. This can be done, by embedding it into schools’ values, promoting programmes such as exchanges students/ teachers with other schools to learn and explore other successful models, by continuous learning of future trends and by modelling creative thinking and communicating.
The World ORT ICT Seminars are held globally. In South Africa it is hosted by the South African Board of Jewish Education (SABJE) and driven by ORT SA. They assist Jewish Schools to learn about cutting edge technologies and trends and to actively learn about new pedagogies which support 21st century learning.

We all need to be able to learn to operate in a challenging, unpredictable environment. Change cannot be avoided and unfortunately cannot be predicted either. We therefore need to adopt an approach of innovation and leadership that will assist us with adopting change and gaining skills to help us cope effectively in unfamiliar and complex situations.

How to integrate ICT at your school?

No more talking about the problems, frustrations and the state of ICT in education, in this post I would like to propose a process a school can follow for the integration of ICT.

The steps to consider when thinking about ICT integration at your school:

  • 1. Start by defining ICT distinctively to your school
    What is ICT?

    What is ICT?

Definition of ICT can be found in the DOE White paper:

Information technology (IT) is a term used to describe the items of equipment (hardware) and computer programmes (software) that allow us to access, retrieve, store, organise, manipulate and present information by electronic means. Personal computers, scanners and digital cameras fit into the hardware category; database programmes and multimedia programmes fit into the software category.

Communication technology (CT) is a term used to describe telecommunications equipment through which information can be sought, sent and accessed – for example, phones, faxes, modems and computers.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) represent the convergence of information technology and communication technology. ICTs are the combination of networks, hardware and software as well as the means of communication, collaboration and engagement that enable the processing, management and exchange of data, information and knowledge.

 Note that not all ICT implications are internet or computers based. This broad definition needs considering when a school defines their “own” ICT vision and mission.

 •2.       Planning process   He who fails to plan, plans to fail”

Planning is a vital and crucial component in the implementation of ICT and its importance lies also on who was involved in the planning.  (Don’t treat planning strictly and be flexible to adopt your plan to changes as you encounter them in the process)

The planning process starts by setting up a steering group comprises of educators, parents’ representatives, lay leaders in your community, experts in the field of ICT.

  • i. Define the role and tasks of this group
  • ii. Visit schools and have workshops on ICT to ensure your group of people are knowledgeable and well informed regards ICT at schools
  • iii. Develop a vision for ICT at your school (based on School’s vision)
  • iv. Conduct an ICT audit (infrastructure, software, teachers’ competency skills, survey learners/ parents/ teachers)
  • v. Perform a SCOT analysis after data has been collected and analyzed
  • vi. identify the gap between your vision and your current status at the school (you may need to adjust your vision based on findings)
  • vii. you are now ready to put a plan scheme

•3.       Plan scheme for ICT integration “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow” 

 It is a good idea to collate all your findings and thereafter include in your plan scheme : project goals, project’s description (a brief description of activities and actions to be taken to implement ICT at your school) project’s deliverables, outcomes, performance indicators, and time line.

 This post is inspired by the following site: