Fostering a Culture of Innovation! Students who S.A.I.L!

Yesterday, I presented a new keynote for the NJAIS Innovation Symposium, The Keys to Fostering a Culture of Innovation! Students who S.A.I.L. The purpose was to help teachers facilitate and inspire student innovation. As I prepared for my keynote, I had to think about how teachers who perhaps didn’t define themselves as “innovators” might go about inspiring students to be innovative. First, I defined innovation as finding solutions to problems. Then, I propose that the main role of schools, who want to foster a culture of innovation, is to focus less on getting students to come up with “solutions,” and instead to focus on ideation and the problem-solving process. The role of schools should be to accomplish the following- champion student ideas, frequently involve students in the process of innovation, help students think of solutions for problems they care about or impact them, and get students to spend time researching and investigating problems, failures, and solutions.

If you like these ideas, take one of my courses or check out my books. Ask me about training your teachers,!

9,999 Failed Solutions?

I’ll be blogging about each of the steps of the process for harnessing student innovation in the weeks to come, but first let me explain why I believe we shouldn’t focus so much on finding the right solutions. If you’ve read the biographies of the world’s most profound innovators, then you realize that they had several prototypes or designs that didn’t work before they came up with the ideal solution/product/prototype/design. Think about our mobile devices and technology now. Most people know that if you are one of the first to get the latest gadget, chances are you will need to get an update or the next versions, because the first model always has bugs. Innovation isn’t a one day or week or month endeavor. Innovation tends to be years of investment and for the very passionate, a lifetime endeavor. Let’s take Thomas Edison as an example who had over 1000 U.S. patents. Before he came up with the working light bulb, he was reported to have 5,000 to 10,000 failed prototypes.

You also read how many innovators struggled in school. Back then schools didn’t have makerspaces, genius hour, or curricula that supported invention and innovation. Imagine, though, if Edison had been able to test out his ideas and 5,000 light bulb prototypes throughout his schooling. How much more would Edison, Einstein, and other innovators have accomplished by receiving the guidance to attempt solving a solution several times (S.A.I.L.)?

Students will come up with solutions as part of the process or problem-solving. Ideally, students should come up with hundreds of solutions and get the opportunity to test them out before they graduate. The more schools get students involved in coming up with solutions and investigating real world problems, the more opportunities they learn from the solutions that don’t work and come up with the ones that eventually do work. Read more about S.A.I.L in upcoming posts here. Below are the slides to my keynote.

If you like these ideas, take one of my courses or check out my books. Ask me about training your teachers,!

The Culture of Innovation! Teaching Students to SAIL from Shelly Sanchez Terrell

Challenge: Does your curriculum support student innovation? What are ways you can tweak it to support students spending time investigating problems and brainstorming many ways to improve the situation?

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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell),, and on her blog,, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at

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