Tag Archives: John T Spencer

Innovate, But Don’t Worship

This post is in response to John’s thoughts on innovation.

I think the real issue with innovation is that it is worshipped by many in edtech land. It is treated as always positive and progress. When someone calls a person, tool, or teaching method “innovative” it is always treated as a compliment and by many, one of the ultimate compliments.


In reality innovations happen all the time and sometimes are positive and sometimes are not. Bill Veeck was one of the most innovative people in the history of baseball. He is the one who started all of the “sideshow” entertainment between innings. He made the exploding scoreboard at Comisky Park. He tried things to make baseball more exciting for fans.

He also had the WhiteSox wear these hideous shorts, wanted to use orange baseballs, and famously had a little person bat in a game. So not every innovation is great or sticks.

In my opinion the huge push for progressive education in reaction to “traditional” schools has pushed the pendulum to worship of innovation. I would argue that it sometimes goes too far. Sometimes the best methods are old like apprenticeships for example.

So on the one hand I want to argue for a balance of tradition and innovation. On the other hand I think we need to seriously ask ourselves about the progression of things. Yes, the Astrodome was a cutting edge innovation that turned out to be an awful stadium. But would we have Camdem Yards without the experimenting with stadiums?

Yes, Lazer Discs were dumb, but would we have gotten CD’s without them? I have always found Google Glass to be silly, but is it the first step in wearable technology that will become ubiquitous?

So while I don’t think that we should worship innovation in schools, I also don’t think that we should wait for everything to be “proven” educationally to try it. We need some educators to push the envelope of what could be, using tools in new ways. But I would probably wait to make a district wide application of innovation until I saw great pedagogical use of the innovative thing in pilot programs.