“Education, for most people, means trying to lead the child to resemble the typical adult of his society. But for me, education means making creators. You have to make inventors, innovators, not conformists.” – Jean Piaget

When I think of how we have moved into the age of the innovator, a few examples spring to mind:

  • The candidate who contracted a billboard outside an employer’s office to promote himself (and was later offered the job).
  • Google offering employees the 80/20 rule allowing them to dedicate 80% of time to their primary job and 20% working on passion projects.
  • The fact that there are 28 million small businesses in the U.S, which outnumber corporations 1162 to 1, and employ 57% of the country’s private workforce.

Looking at today’s world, it’s not hard to see the sparks of innovation flying in all directions, creativity claiming its status as an essential ingredient in the recipe for success. From an industrialized workhouse to a creative hub, 21st century thinkers have managed to take us in a new direction, into the age of the innovator. Offices have been converted from suit-wearing, wheel-churning, money-makers into jeans-ridden, idea-generating think tanks. Job-seekers are encouraged to be bold, daring, different, as opposed to disciplined, diligent, yes-people. Entrepreneurs are sprouting up in every corner of the world, carving out innovative companies from scraps of paper. From conformists to inventors, somewhere along the perfectly aligned path we realized that to truly compete, we needed to stand out, rather than fit in.

Outdated Ideals

In 21st century education, we are beginning to translate these ideals to our youth, encouraging efforts that increase student voice rather than stifle it, promote creativity over discipline, celebrate difference over conformity. Educators are stepping out of the shadows to show their true colours as innovative leaders, guiding the next generation into the world of the ‘personal brand’ where every individual struggles to construct a personalized path to success. Yet, such brave efforts by innovative educators to change paradigms are often overshadowed by an outdated system, built on traditional ideals of industrialization that quench creativity, and promote conformism. While some classrooms are being flipped, transformed, and reinvented to move from instructive to constructive, many still cling to outdated methods that fail to nourish the innovative mindset of 21st century learners.  As a result, students are ‘completing’ their compulsory education, ticking every standard-aligned box and churning out grades only to be released into an unrecognisable society. Here, grades are useless, standards don’t count, and conformism sends you down the path of underachievement.

Innovation in Education

The road to embracing the creativity that surrounds us lies in certain key shifts towards the student-centered classroom, where educators assume the role of “guide on the side”, playing an even more central role in the teaching process. While technology is a key factor in this change, it does not begin and end with the tools. Rather, it’s the mindset that needs revisiting. Reconstructing the classroom as an interactive hub of innovation, movement, and collaboration is a task that challenges even the most inventive educators. The practicalities of managing such a classroom and ensuring student safety are obvious pitfalls that tend to cast a shadow over our exciting predictions. By incorporating secure technology, these tasks are increasingly easier to manage and the simple idea of being more innovative is a lot more achievable.

Fishtree’s philosophy is built around the idea that every student deserves a personalized learning environment that’s built around them. With tailored resources at their fingertips, students using the platform are encouraged to feed their curiosity, explore their personalized learning paths and indulge in self-education and meta-cognition. An adaptive system like this empowers educators by offering a real-time view into student progress, ensuring every single student is supported. Fishtree makes it easy for classrooms to take a more inventive approach to education, better aligned with today’s society… making innovators, not conformists.

P.S. If you liked this post, you might want to check out fishtree.com. Start teaching with the 21st century learning platform today… the ideal solution for flipped, blended and mobile learning!

About the author:


Lorna Keane is a teacher of French, English and ESL. She specializes in language teaching and has taught in second and third-level institutions in several countries. She holds a B.A in languages and cultural studies and an M.A in French literature, theory and visual culture. Follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

Image credits: Tsahi Levent-Levi / CC BY 2.0