It is with great pleasure that I share “Innovate Inside the Box: Empowering Learners Through UDL and the Innovator’s Mindset” my co-authored book with Katie Novak, is now available. As the follow-up to “The Innovator’s Mindset,” this book is meant to not only help you create a vision for what our schools and classrooms can look like today while providing compelling stories and practical strategies for educators through a shared lens of Universal Design for Learning and an Innovator’s Mindset. The style of the book is meant to be conversational yet practical and while focusing on ideas and strategies to help all learners find success in ways that are meaningful to them. In the following review from David Rose, Ph.D. and CAST’s co-founder, he articulates our hopes beautifully for what this book sets out to accomplish.
“No one articulates a more compelling, a more urgent, or a more motivating vision of education–for both teachers and their students–than George Couros. No one articulates how that vision can be reached–for every student and teacher–more daringly, more practically, and more inclusively, than Katie Novak. Having them together in one book not only helps us reimagine the goals and practices of education, it reminds us of why we ever wanted to be teachers at all.”
Katie and I are very excited about the release, and I wanted to give you a little preview of the book. The book is separated into three parts:
Part one focuses on the “Core of Innovative Teaching and Learning” and how we can refocus our intentions and actions in a way that will help our students to be successful now and throughout their lives.
Part two focuses on the characteristics of the “Innovator’s Mindset” and how we can bring these characteristics to life through the lens of UDL. Each chapter in part two focuses on why each characteristic is important in our work today, followed by Katie providing ideas and strategies of how to bring these characteristics to life through UDL strategies.
Finally, part three focuses on how we can influence others to move forward (no matter our role), and how sometimes, the best inspiration we can find is by looking from within.
Below is a short snippet from the first chapter focusing on the core element of “relationships.” After each chapter, we provide questions that are meant for self-reflection and group discussion. We hope this will lead to not only growth for the reader but allows myself and Katie to learn from you as well. You can also go directly to the “Innovate Inside the Box” website for full book study resources as well.
Rita F. Pierson, in one of my favorite TED Talks of all time, shared the following statement: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” I love the statement, but I have seen it challenged often by people who ask, “Isn’t it possible to learn from people you don’t like?” Of course it is. Every person reading this right now has learned something from a person they disliked or a situation that was negative. We can find opportunities for learning in any situation if we are willing to look for them.
Rita’s statement, however, points to the truth that we can learn so much more from those with whom we have a positive connection. Relationships don’t serve only to build up our learners; they give us a foundation to be able to challenge them as well. And the truth is, we are more likely to rise to high expectations when they are held by someone we like and trust.
If schools do not push our students to grow, then there is no purpose for them to be there in the first place. But if there is no relationship where learners feel seen and cared about, when we push our students or colleagues, there will be little motivation, if any, to respond to that encouragement. How do you find that balance between building up and challenging others to grow?
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I have any positive connection other than this initial interaction, and do they know their contributions are valued?
2. Do I ever connect with this person to say something positive, or do I only share feedback with others (or specific people) when it is negative?
3. Am I open to being challenged and critiqued in the same manner in which I am ready to deliver?
The common denominator in all three questions is the importance of the reciprocated relationship. Ultimately, you can learn without a relationship, but you will also go much further when one is present. Knowing and being known are not everything in education, but with positive relationships, our ability to effectively teach, inspire, and empower our students to make the world a better place today and tomorrow increase exponentially.
Questions for Discussion
1. How do you build relationships and know your students as individuals inside and outside of your classroom?
2. Think of two or three teachers who influenced you as a student, either positively or negatively. How has that made an impact on you today?
3. Share a story on social media (blog or video) about a time that you saw an impact of “relationships” as a learner or teacher.
We hope you enjoy the book!