Blog Post

InnovationLab: A space to "notice," "dream," "connect," "do"

In a Northern Colorado high school, students have the opportunity to design their own course, address a local or global concern, and follow their passion. I visited InnovationLab and met several students: one working on roller coaster design, one working on a music program based on an interest in Julliard, and another working to learn Hebrew. The InnovationLab is student driven and the director works to connect these students with an expert tutor online or otherwise. During my short visit to the lab, I spoke with the musician interested in Julliard about ways to incorporate themes from the books he was reading in English into his classical music. I am, after all, an English teacher.

The Colorado State University Digital Media and Learning Workgroup has splintered into two groups. One group will be working on universal design and accessibility issues with the online campus platform available to instructors, improving how courses that are taught online, and collecting information about how the students use the online campus system. The other group, the one I am becoming more involved in, will focus on InnovationLab and the possibility of initiating a similar lab already in action in the high school setting within a interdisciplinary collegiate context at CSU.

InnovationLab was simply defined as a place where students arrive with their own problem or issue in the world that they want to try and solve with the help of an expert mentor. A similar model has already taken root at Standford University where students can design their own course for credit and attempt to address their problem throughout a given semester. The idea of InnovationLab is to bring minds from various disciplines together to work collectively on a determined problem, thereby bringing thinkers out of their university silos (so to speak). Problems can range anywhere form local issues to global issues.

Research has been conducted at CSU that mapped connectivity between academics in different disciplines. The research has actually shown how certain individuals (who are being funded) create networks and become cut ties or bridges between members of various university disciplines. However, if one of these cut ties or bridges goes away then the connectedness weakens. In the last decade, the research has indicated some decline in the connectedness of disciplines across the university.

I have been invited to help out with some of the research involving the InnovationsLab and look forward to learning more about coding quantitative data to be able to draw maps of the learning process. Coding maps of the learning process will be a valuable activity to my interests of working as a secondary English teacher and research practitioner. In the end, I hope to be in a position to initiate a New Media InnovationsLab in whatever secondary context I find myself teaching.

A video was created that helps to explain the philosophy of InnovationsLab, which includes the model of notice, dream, connect, do. I have embedded a YouTube video that presents the mission of InnovationLab and discussions of those actively involved:

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