Auahatanga | Innovation

Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash

[This post first appeared on the CORE blog, April, 2019]

When Māori first made their way to Aotearoa they used a variety of innovative ways to navigate to places they’d not previously visited. Once on land, their challenge came in finding ways to meet their everyday needs using what was available in this new landscape. Over the ensuing years Māori became adept at using the local flora and fauna to build shelter, make clothing and provide food and medicines to sustain themselves.

Centuries later, the European settlers came, bringing a post-industrial approach to building a life in this new land. These early settlers also had to adapt and improvise to meet their needs – including finding ways of fixing and maintaining the industrial age tools they’d brought with them. Number 8 wire, brought with them for fencing, was readily available and often used as a substitute for the parts that were missing or not working well. Out of this grew the myth of the Number 8 Wire mentality; otherwise known as Kiwi ingenuity.

From these early times both Māori and Pākeha have been identified as practical, problem-solver types, able to invent, fix and create solutions, often through improvisation and clever thinking rather than having access to the level of resourcing available to others. New Zealanders are recognised on the global stage for this number 8 wire mindset, from Rutherford’s work towards the splitting of the atom to Rocket Lab’s launching of a rocket into space.

While we may have grown up thinking of ourselves as the nation with the Number 8 Wire mindset, in our modern world we have become increasingly accustomed to having our problems addressed for us by others who have the knowledge, skill and resources to do this. The Number 8 Wire may have been useful in fixing a mechanical tractor or milking shed machinery, but it’s unlikely to be of use on one of today’s electronically controlled cars or ‘smart’ building systems for example.

Reimagining Aotearoa’s future will require us to innovate in different ways. We will need to connect and strengthen our communities; to disrupt what we’ve known and innovate to find solutions that meet new challenges and effect change. This will be a challenge in a world of increasing complexity and exponential change where our problems won’t only be about how to address our immediate physical needs, but will extend to how to address issues and concerns that affect the way we live and survive as a society, locally and globally.

In the modern world, education becomes even more important for developing the next generation of innovators, problem solvers and creative thinkers. It can ignite a passion for learning and provide students with the tools they need to thrive and succeed in the innovation economy.

Innovation in education requires:

  • Risk taking – valuing the ability to push the boundaries, to think outside the square and to try things even when there’s no guarantee of success.
  • Failure – giving learners permission to fail, to learn from failure and to persist with ideas.
  • Open-mindedness – not limiting one’s thinking to the conventions that exist, but being prepared to embrace new ideas and new thinking.
  • Collaboration – while individuals may be acknowledged for their original ideas and creativity, bringing new thinking to the fore requires the effort of a team.
  • Support – learners need to know that their efforts are supported, that they won’t be penalised for something that doesn’t work but instead encouraged to try again.
  • Resources – innovative activities will require things to get messy at times, with learners requiring access to things that will enable them to experiment with their ideas. Often these resources will exist outside of the school, kura or centre, so community relationships and global connections will become important here.

Innovation is one of the CORE uLearn conference themes this year, The focus questions developed for this strand provide some provocations for participants to consider how they create a climate of innovation in their educational communities:

  • How can we prepare our young people to be innovators and change agents?
  • How might we intentionally teach in ways that promote creativity, innovation, wonder, joy, and a passion for learning.
  • What is the role of inquiry in learning? In teaching? How does this lead to innovation?
  • How do we bring new ideas to fruition in our schools/kura/organisations?
  • How might innovation look and occur from different perspectives and through different cultural lenses?

edSpace is CORE Education’s online network for educators to connect with others, discuss strategies, and share information – join edSpace here. Once you’re there, head to our uLearn discussion forum, and join the discussion about Innovation.

As young people around the world begin to mobilise in response to the growing concerns they have about the problems they see looming on the horizon, we need to think about how we prepare this generation of learners, through developing an innovator’s mindset, so that they become the solution builders.

The Genius of Kiwi Ingenuity 
Innovation in the Classroom: Why Education Needs to Be More Innovative

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