7 Habits of Highly Innovative Educators: Lessons from The Oregon Trail – Habit 1

7 Habits of Highly Innovative Educators: Lessons from The Oregon Trail – Habit 1

March 22, 2018 Professional Learning 0

Everything I know about innovation in education I learned from playing the game
The Oregon Trail. For those of you that might be too young to recall The Oregon Trail, it was one of the first and most successful educational video games. It has gone through many different iterations but the premise remains the same. You are the leader of a group of pioneers who attempt to migrate from Missouri to Oregon and must deal with a variety of challenges along the way.

Just like these original pioneers, we, as innovative educators, are embarking on a journey of our own to re-imagine and re-invent the educational landscape. To be successful, we need to embrace this pioneer spirit and become pedagogical pioneers ourselves. Over the course of my career in education, I have seen some amazing innovative teaching. Based on these personal observations, Clayton Christensen’s work on disruptive innovation, David Kelly’s experiences at Stanford’s D school and with apologies to Stephen Covey, I present to you ”The 7 Habits of Highly Innovative Educators: Lessons from The Oregon Trail.”

To begin, Habit Number One: Stock the Cabinet. Before starting out on any journey it is important to be well provisioned. In The Oregon Trail, the first stop was Matt’s General Store where you picked up oxen, food, clothes and very importantly bullets.

As pedagogical pioneers, likewise we need to build up our innovative stores whenever possible.

What does this habit look like in practice? – One educator, who exemplifies this habit in practice, is @NishaSethi2 – pedagogical Physical Education pioneer. Over the last five years Nisha, a middle school PE teacher at AES – New Delhi, has continually stocked her cabinet by completing her certificate of educational technology and information literacy, identifying and following numerous PE related blogs, including her favorite: the PE geek, and downloading and trying MANY different iPad apps that could be used in a variety of ways as part of enhancing her teaching practice. By adding a wide variety of provisions to her cabinet Nisha is a great example of someone who is well stocked for her journey in innovative practice.

One way stocking the cabinet has benefited her students is through the creative use of the iPad and the the apps Book Creator and Coach’s Eye. As formative assessment, during the unit students use the Coach’s Eye app to videotape each other performing the skills being developed in the unit. Nisha then meets with each student to analyze the video. Together they point out areas for skills refinement. Students practice, videotape again and meet again to look for improvement and determine next steps. These videos and reflections are then added to an e-book each student creates using Book Creator that documents their PE experience for the year.

How can you start to cultivate this habit?

  1. Make time to go to the General Store. Create sheltered learning time. Block out 20 sacred minutes a day to read and learn more about education and your content area. Put it on your calendar as you would any other important meeting or event. Stick to it. No excuses. Your life on the trail depends on it!
  2. Choose a wide variety of supplies. Read widely. Harvest ideas from as many sources as you can. Push your thinking and explore topics you would not naturally gravitate toward. Exploring new hashtags on Twitter is a terrific starting point. Lists of popular hashtags can be found here and here. Peruse the shelves.
  3. Create a cabinet to house your supplies. Leverage a social bookmarking site like Pinterest to serve as your virtual cabinet. You never know when that website on how to make colorful ice orbs might come in handy? Right? Bump up this strategy by inviting your colleagues to add to it. You’re not on the trail alone!
  4. Review your inventory. Don’t forget to clean out the pantry from time to time. There is a difference between simply hoarding and actively curating your inventory. If you spend time curating your inventory it will help ensure that you use your innovative ideas, remove those ideas that are past their expiration date, and remain energized for your journey along the trail.

Now that you have stocked your cabinet you are ready to head out on the trail itself. The journey of innovation is underway! Spend some time this week putting habit one – Stock the Cabinet into practice. Then, stop back to read Habit Number Two: Ask Questions,  the next post in “The 7 Habits of Highly Innovative Educators: Lessons from The Oregon Trail.”


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