Driving Forces of Innovation
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The Driving Forces of Innovation

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It’s the moment every teacher cherishes: the proverbial light bulb switching on over a student’s head that represents understanding and the spark of something new. These light bulb moments are often the start of deeper curiosity, further inquiry, and the ability to synthesize knowledge and form novel ideas. And Discovery Education can help educators guide students towards more of them.

Fascinating developments and advances across disciplines are around every corner in DE. Whether teachers and students follow a particular path within the platform, engage resources that support their established curriculum, or explore through searches and channels, they will surely find things that amaze and inspire them. We’ve identified just three ways to use these resources to drive innovation (stories, structure, and mashups), but we’re sure you’ll find more.

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Stories

Sometimes, getting lost in a story opens up students’ imaginations and that can be just the ticket for innovation. The STEM Solution Seekers is a collection of stories about a team of kids that actively seeks problems to solve and relishes the opportunities to come up with solutions. Introduce your students to the series to show them how the team identifies issues that need solutions and let them know you support creative problem solving.

For students who are interested in true stories of the science that is shaping our world, set them loose in Discovery Education’s Seeker Channel. It’s a digital collection of stories about the natural forces and groundbreaking innovations that are impacting our lives. The stories are rooted in things such as biomimicry, which has led to some of the most incredible – and most familiar – designs, such as wind turbines inspired by whales and Velcro inspired by burdock. Within Seeker, students will find information that could seed their own innovations, such as the video Focal Point: How Eyes Evolved to See the World Differently, which describes how the eyes of the walrus require flat corneas to see both underwater and above water.

Structure

It seems counterintuitive, but, in addition to things like curiosity and freedom to ideate, sometimes the guardrails provided by a little structure actually help people innovate. Discovery Education’s Generation Innovation: Concept and Create Virtual Field Trip includes several segments about the process of innovation, including steps like the design process and trial and error. As the Educator Guide for this VFT reminds us, “The basis for technological innovation is the design process. Engineers and scientists follow a formal model of iterative steps that lead to innovation.”

Mashups

Another pathway to innovation is through combining two seemingly unrelated things to make something new and amazing. Innovating in this way often requires a breadth of knowledge that can support novel mashups, but sometimes people have the knowledge already because it’s part of their lived experience.

The innovators in the following videos from Discovery Education’s Inventors and Innovators Channel each solved a problem by combining two things in a novel way and created something practical but potentially life-changing for their communities. Their stories may inspire your students to consider how to use the power of combination for innovation.

  • Sarah E. Goode, a featured inventor on DE’s channel, designed a cabinet bed and became the first African American woman to get a patent.
  • Seventeen-year-old Faith Florez created a Smartwatch app to protect farm workers from extreme heat, a journey documented in the video Sea of Change: Calor.

One of the most exciting things about innovation is the fact that we don’t always know where it comes from or, certainly, what it will lead to. But there are things educators can do to support some of the forces that drive it. Talk about it, let students explore the world of innovators, encourage creative problem solving, and watch your students take the world by storm.

About the Author
Jeanette Edelstein is an educator dedicated to making learning more engaging for students of all ages. She has been a classroom teacher, curriculum designer, and program developer. She was a founding teacher and the gifted and talented coordinator at Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts. Her curriculum projects include Hive Alive!, a collection of teaching resources about honey bees, Animal Planet Rescue, a disaster relief and educational vehicle that rescued over 1,000 animals, and CapsinSchool, an elementary curriculum based on the math and science of hockey.