Innovation continues to spark in international schools

Posted on 6th Jan 2020 in International Schools, International Education

Innovation is all around and is no longer limited to trend-setting organizations. Disruption has made it more important than ever for future-focused organizations to innovate – and collaborate” touts the main headline of the 2019 Innovation Survey of 500 executives, prepared by the global firm, EY. The report continues that leaders “must harness the power of emerging technologies, maximize current and future investments in innovation, and build a workforce with the right skills to usher them into the future of work.”

With all of the dialogue about innovation in the workplace, what is happening in international schools? John Burns, Chief Innovation Officer for International Schools Services, says the momentum is building. “It’s an exciting time to be an educator," says Burns. “Innovative ideas are sparking everywhere and the lines between home, school, community and industry are blurring. We're seeing universities creating new admissions pathways, employers removing degree requirements and advances in technology fundamentally shifting how students can create, collaborate and learn.”

Burns has been an advocate for these shifts, opening Level 5 Creativity & Innovation Hubs, inviting educators, parents and students to workshops and essentially, championing the concept of de-privitizating innovation. Level 5 workshops on graffiti art and wearable tech are popular as they allow attendees to try out innovation, basically stretching their boundaries and exploring new ways of doing. Level 5 professional learning sessions on topics like “Diffusing Innovation” and “The Power of Design Thinking” are more geared to educators so they can carry the concepts back to their own schools, wherever they are located. Burns says there is no one formula: “ISS schools are at the forefront of embracing these changes. Some are providing students with new ways to invent and learn through maker-spaces, and STEAM based inquiry. Some are leveraging technology to create more personalised, authentic and challenging learning experiences for students. Others are actively de-privatising their practice, sharing it online and codifying the best. And finally, we’re seeing the rapid exploration of the impact that physical spaces can have on both students and the wider community. While there is no single right way to spark innovation in schools, continual professional learning and educator agency are keys to creating authentic and relevant experiences for students.”

The interest in modifying physical spaces at schools has been growing, with some international schools taking a holistic approach throughout the entire facility, while others have opted to create dedicated maker spaces. Keith Cincotta, Director of School Supply for International Schools Services, has watched the evolution: “Many of our client schools have created innovative, flexible and tech-rich learning spaces over the last few years. Designing these spaces tends to be a collaborative community effort and therefore no two turn out the same.”

While all of the innovation and change is exciting, Cincotta says, “Unfortunately the effort to individualize the spaces often leads to budget challenges.” The pressure on school budgets is real and Cincotta says he has seen way too many business managers and school staff through the years juggling the demands to assess products, prices and transportation requirements to get the items they need. His team, part of the nonprofit organization, International Schools Services, was created to fill this acute need and help schools get the best pricing. With experience in working with more than 100 customs agencies each year and fulfilling thousands of school supply orders for many international schools around the world, Cincotta says he has seen many different scenarios. He offers these tips: “We recommend to always talk to an ISS School Supply representative about what you want in the spaces and seeking their input on the best vendors to work with. Our annual ordering volume usually means bigger discounts for individual schools and consolidated shipping can also save a considerable amount. Involving the business and purchasing office early in the process will allow them to maximize the budget and plan the timeline for delivery to be sure your new learning space is ready to go for the new school year.”

The ISS School Supply team supports the sourcing, procurement and worldwide transport of school supply items ranging from technology and digital equipment to furniture to general classrooms supplies, covering the wide spectrum of the resources international school educators and students need to succeed every day in their classrooms and other learning spaces. In addition to supporting items for innovative learning spaces, Cincotta says, “We of course still fulfil many orders for playground equipment, sports equipment and uniforms, music instruments, science laboratory equipment, art supplies…you name it. Years ago, we even were asked for frogs! Today, our free, downloadable school supply checklist is a favorite resource for international teachers and business managers.”