A Case For Collective Planning Time: Innovation

The digital revolution and the advent of data processing through the internet defines the way we currently live.  Take a second and thank the inventor of computers.  Now appreciate the inventor of the internet.

"Who invented computers... who invented the internet?  Steve Jobs, Bill Gates?"

You should be embarrassed, you don't know who invented the internet?  The computer?!?!?

That's ok, you're not alone, and you shouldn't be embarrassed.  Asking for the sole inventor was a misleading and tricky question because there is not a single individual credited for each accomplishment.  The digital revolution is the result of GROUPS of people where credit is distributed.

You should care about the digital revolution not because of what resulted, but because of the process. You should care about the digital revolution because it outlines a successful process for innovation.

Identifying the necessary ingredients for innovation provides a case for collective teacher planning time.  As hardware, let's use The Innovators by Walter Isaacson.

The Innovators is a painful book to read.  Isaacson, with his flawless narrative style, tells an incredible tale of discovery, team work, and creativity.  He is truly talented and The Innovators is an absolute pleasure to read... but it was excruciating at the same time.

Isaacson tells a wonderful story about the digital revolution.  Behind every personal account, major milestone, and revolutionary triumph is a core theme: collaboration.  At it's roots, the book describes how cooperative effort leads to great advance.

The book is excruciatingly painful to read because the innovation process that Isaacson details IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT SCHOOLS ARE CURRENTLY DOING.

Innovation requires the following equation:

creative individual geniuses with great ideas + leader who brings geniuses together to work cooperatively = innovation

As leaders, we have schools filled with creative geniuses: teachers.  Is our responsibility to facilitate frequent collaboration because innovation results when creative geniuses mingle.

Schools have been stripped to their bones and efficiency has been prioritized.  Ultimately we maximize a teacher's responsibilities and "use" them as a resource.  This is seen in extra teaching assignments, additional duties, and encouraged extra-curricular activities.  Schools work to use an educator as much as they can leaving only the contractually required preparation time available to teachers.  Teachers get it: schools are businesses and businesses need to be efficient.

However, this formula for educational efficiency deprives the district of something important: collaboration.  The preparation time left for teachers is used for general teacher responsibilities.

Collaborating with colleagues is left by the wayside; productive mingling is lost.

Public education is in a rut and often the best way to get out of a rut is a new idea.  But new ideas take facilitation and time.  As leaders, we can facilitate the creative process of innovation by bringing our geniuses together and allowing the time for collective efforts.

As Isaacson says :"Innovation occurs when ripe seed fall of fertile ground."  You have the ripe seeds, now provide the fertile ground.

Thanks for reading.

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