Innovate, not Invent #IMMOOC

Why is innovation in education so crucial today?

In my daily work as Director of Digital Learning, I spend an inordinate amount of time talking about change. Not the pennies and dimes kind of change, but the hard stuff…the let’s scribble all over this and look at it differently change. And let me be the first to tell you: people do not like that kind of change.

I get it. It’s scary. Most of the time, at least in my line of work, talk of change evokes a trademark teacher move: the eye roll and sassy head crane, followed quickly with the oh, so you want me to reinvent the wheel? My answer is an emphatic no.

There is a basic misunderstanding between the words invention and innovation. I am stymied by this myself, as I often struggle with feeling compelled to find something “new and ground-breaking.”

If you ask most anybody to describe me, you’ll find a theme:

“a firecracker,”

“innovative, bold and courageous,”

“creative and flashy.”

And I can own that; I have my own special brand of crazy.  

But, I have a confession. I am terribly boring when it comes to my fear.

You see, my fear shouts “STOP!” to me, every single time I sit down to write. Fear doesn’t offer interesting insight or compelling rationale. Never. It just SCREAMS ad nauseam that one word, repeated and repeated with increasing hysteria: “STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP!!!”

My fear wants me to stop, because it wants me to be safe, as it perceives all inspiration, all work, all risk, all passion *whatsoever* as potentially life-threatening.

My fear wants me to be disconnected from my supports, to feel alienated and self-conscious in my pursuits of excellence.

My fear’s wicked whispers of inadequacy and destructive comparison often paralyze me, freezing my confidence when it comes to sharing stories of learning and my experiences as an educator.

For the longest, I’ve *almost* celebrated this fear: pretending as if it were a unique kryptonite that only I felt; but it’s not. Your fear is exactly the same as mine. I guarantee it. You see, fear is common. It’s ordinary.

This fear of not being creative enough, original enough, innovative enough boxed me into this notion of being ‘just.” So much so, that I found myself repeating the words that so many of my students and colleagues have told me: “I can’t…I’m just…” ( see #meant2BEE) 

I say all of this because we often stress over the notion of innovation. It becomes that daydream prize that is simply out of reach. As learners, we tend to limit ourselves through fear.

We fear it will be too hard. Too intense. Too isolating. Too controversial. Too challenging.


If we find strength and connection with others through shared experience; we improve.

If we iterate, refine, and tweak educational experiences, we’ll find the critical and crucial innovations necessary to improve and empower our learning systems and structures.  

How will you #BEEtheChaNGe?

3 thoughts on “Innovate, not Invent #IMMOOC

  1. Kerri says:

    Thank you! I too can by stymied by fear. I too have my own brand of crazy, and I would be the teacher who would be right by your side saying, “Yes! Let’s do it!” as we jump off the proverbial cliff together. I am empowered by educators such as yourself and I want to say again, thank you!

  2. Adam Hill says:

    Hi Brianna,

    Powerful post with some important messages. Thank you for sharing this. I can relate to everything that you have said. For me, I developed a more positive attitude towards fear when the growth mindset research started to become famous. Along with it, posts and quotes about fear, growth, risk-taking and constructive struggle.

    In short, fear (or certainly discomfort) has become a positive. “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”



  3. Tamara Letter says:

    Your words are exactly what I’m feeling this week! That paralysis of fear is REAL! I’ve been struggling to articulate a vision that is open-ended and fluid, but crucial to making change happen in my school environment. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not the only one who hears the screams of STOP as progress inches forward. Your words inspire me to keep going, keep pressing on, even when I don’t have all the answers!

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