Innovation in the education sector

ed029_ent_FabioJosgrilbergIn an interview for the Open Innovation Newsletter, Fabio B. Josgrilberg talks about innovation in the education sector. Fábio is PhD, Pro-rector of Graduate Studies and Research, leader of the program of distance learning for the Graduate Program in Communication at the Universidade Metodista in São Paulo. He is also a member of the Consultative Council of Wenovate.

Wenovate: In your opinion, what factors may limit innovative projects?

Fabio B. Josgrilberg: The school and university culture became stagnant throughout the centuries. Therein lays its strength and its limitation. Whether we like it or not, it was this culture that made society advance in many areas. However, the strength of local culture, from an administrative, an educational or a research standpoint, may be a limiting factor for innovative projects.

One may not neglect local memory. On the contrary, while learning new strategies of open innovation, user-centered design, brainstorming, crowdsourcing, etc; one should be clear that there is no creative process that does not make use of institutional collective memory or individual everyday memory. It is through memory that the problems to be solved are identified and connections are established to sow the future.

Wenovate: Is having a good idea enough to innovate?

Fabio B. Josgrilberg: Having an idea is simpler than innovating. Innovation requires certain strategies to bring forth a good idea and transform it into a new educational service or institutional pedagogical practice.

Of course there are local innovators and entrepreneurs who promote innovation in school or university without a formal training. Nevertheless, the existence of workshops and trainings on innovation strategies help to spread the culture and expand the horizon of reflection of collaborators.

Wenovate: What importance do you give to internal/external communication in the process of innovation?

Fabio B. Josgrilberg: The innovation process requires intensive communication flows. In the educational environment, this rule could not be different. One should have the courage to express ideas and be humble to listen to proposals, critiques and suggestions.

Ideas may come from different actors in the educational process: students, faculty, managers, staff, suppliers, partner institutions and even visitors. In the case of institutions dependent on tuition fees for their financial sustainability, they should also include their competitors. It does not make sense to expect new ideas from the same academic and administrative leaderships. For instance, what about crowdsourcing among students to solve educational problems?

Wenovate: When we talk about innovation, is it important to be allowed to take risks?

Fabio B. Josgrilberg: Without a doubt. It is not rare that the structure of an educational institution hinders creativity. Disciplines are organized to achieve educational goals, which are determined previously, and students are awarded with their approval. The same goes for theses and dissertations. One should not give up previous pedagogical goals, but include a new one: take risks.

We should allow students to take risks in their learning process through individual projects or in groups, whose pedagogical goals are defined by them. We should also allow the teacher to take risks in their new teaching-and-learning proposals.

The construction process should be enhanced. In the short term of a discipline, there may not be enough time to evaluate the results, but the effort and the risk of creating something new will bring an invaluable learning for students and teachers, even if the project “fails” in its conclusion. However, there is also the ‘risk’ of starting a transformative process in the life of the institution.

Wenovate: Which other factors may inhibit innovation in the classroom?

Fabio B. Josgrilberg: I often say that we should value the ‘fairies’ and not hunt the ‘witches’. Innovative projects in the classroom start, in general, on a smaller scale, whether through institutional pilot-projects, or through student’s or teacher/professor’s isolated initiatives. Those initiatives should be recognized, promoted, and whenever possible, valued with incentives of different natures – financial, equipment or human resources to promote the project.

There are teachers or professors who innovate in their educational practices, but they see their initiatives inhibited by institutional bureaucracy. Other innovative collaborators may see their ideas threatened by peer pressure, creating tragic future scenarios, which impede any change in the established practices.

Instead of ‘hunting witches’, it is better to value and protect the ‘fairies’. It is always more effective to disseminate an innovative culture through peer examples and best practices.

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