Innovation. It’s such an overused term, isn’t it? I don’t know about you guys but everywhere I look at these days ‘innovation’ seems to be on the top of the agenda (well maybe covid is but we will bypass that). Everyone seems to be striving for innovation; companies all over the world seem to be promising and encouraging innovation – it’s the ultimate buzz word. I too have been influenced so much by the notion of innovation that I decided to do a Masters in Educational Innovation – but what does it actually mean?

Within the educational field the term is used quite frequently, in actual fact if an establishment is seen to be innovative it stipulates that the institute is creative in its approaches and students love learning. By being innovative they must engage students in ways that haven’t been done before, which to me is pretty amazing.

Define Innovation

Let’s rewind a little, when we delve into the meaning of innovation we come across the definition below:

Innovation, for its part, can refer to something new or to a change made to an existing product, idea, or field. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/innovation#other-words

But  we need to understand that innovation does not mean that it always has to come with disruptive changes, it can also materialise from stepwise improvements.

“In the world of education, innovation comes in many forms… innovations in the way education systems are organised and managed, … innovations in instructional techniques or delivery systems, such as the use of new technologies in the classroom… innovations in the way teachers are recruited, and prepared, and compensated. ”

– Department of Education.

Education innovation can take place at any level and scale — the crux is to make meaningful, impactful, and positive changes to student’s learning.

Digital Transformation

Education technology can enhance learning experiences through multiple ways

If covid has taught one thing, it has to be how well the world has dealt with working from home. I remember leaving the UK fighting to get a team of teachers (including senior leaders) to use Google classroom as a tool to engage with each other and their students but there was always an excuse as to why they couldn’t fathom it – the worst one being that they were of an age or they just couldn’t get the hang of it. Fast forward a good few months later when the pandemic hits Earth at an unprecedented rate and we are forced to use these tools to communicate and engage with one another in a way that most of us had not done before and just like that the curriculum was remodelled so that students, employees alike could learn from home. 

Albert Einstein — one of the leading intellectual luminaries of our time and an educator — once declared that he did not teach his students. “I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” This has taken many decades to understand but innovative schools are finally understanding the importance of creating rich and engaging platforms for all its learners.

The Search for Innovation 6,269 Miles Away from Home.

The primary reason for moving 1000’s of miles from the UK was due to a very innovative approach to teaching data science that was happening right here in Cambodia. As the Academic Director of Cambodia’s 1 Advanced Data Science Academy we work with the very best companies from right across the Kingdom to find, train and deploy people into exciting Data Science Jobs. With DataU, you get paid each and every month to train and a guaranteed job on graduation. 

The decision to leave the UK was easy, I wanted to make a difference and this was the way to do it. DataU is distinctive; it is allowing locals to upskill themselves and help put something back into their economy rather than someone else’s. With over 12 years of experience in education in the UK at a senior level I felt the need to take the skills and experiences I had acquired and not only start a new journey but also help the future of a developing and evolving country to strive towards achieving Industry 4.0 and as we help the future Cambodian data scientists excel in their careers. I am also being taught the Khmer traditions and history, which is making me want to ensure the future is bright and prosperous for Cambodia.”

What Now

As the world was forced to work from home. As a digital company Mekong Big Data made the necessary precautions and prepared all staff, students for Working from Home (WFH). The transition between chalk board to e-board was a success even though it was not completely seamless but after connecting trainees to mobile data and ensuring they understood the term self isolation we were well on the way to success. All hard skills and soft skills courses were taught online using zoom, google classroom. We shared screens, documents as well as whiteboard and organised whatsapp chats/calls to ensure that everyone within the company was able to work efficiently and effectively.

It became very clear after a few weeks of getting the hang of things that; although technology should not drive our teaching, technology does drive change.

WFH conditions became the new norm but the extended lockdown conditions have created conditions to evolve DataU in ways that we wouldn’t have necessarily thought about before. The idea is churning your product and ensuring that we are continuing to provide a learning opportunity for our trainees.

Today, educators are challenged by the ever so changing world of technology. They are seeking ways in which technology supports the methodology in which they teach their practices and that’s not a bad thing, we should be challenged in order to succeed.

Challenges

Throughout the world we are faced with many challenges in education, whether that be teachers leaving the profession, not enough teachers being trained or too few classrooms being built/developed in less developing countries. Technology, data, apps, online forums, videos all have a part to play in our digital movement. Online methods of learning enable students to access education innovatively through a medium that doesn’t involve sitting in a classroom with 30 other students but it gives them the opportunity to communicate with other students or teachers across a city or around the world that are all in different timeframes.

It has taken a pandemic for us to realise how innovative we can be. 

Can you believe that during this lockdown we also witnessed a commercial flight to space, who would have thought.We realise that we don’t have to be a billionaire to be innovative, we could do it sitting in our living rooms but obviously it would be nicer to be doing it in space though.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill.

By Faria Arshad