Innovation – it’s the buzzword that echoes through the world of education, excited as we are as a society, in general, about the advancements we’re creating in this modern era. On the face of it, the idea of innovation promises a brighter future. 

Picture this: a classroom adorned with the latest gadgets, promising an innovative learning experience. “State-of-the-art facilities,” for example. Expensive computers, labs, and what have you, are sought after in many families’ quests for a school. These things are understandable enough, of course. 


Are we, in the pursuit of innovation, sometimes just chasing the flashy without really understanding if it serves a purpose? Let’s ditch the tech jargon for a moment and delve into the heart of innovation. Is it truly a revolutionary leap or just wanting newness for its own sake?

Let’s ponder whether our relentless pursuit of the shiny and new is truly making a lasting impact on the way we teach and learn.

In a world fixated on the allure of the ‘new,’ Gary Stager, educator, speaker, and author, presents an interesting case against the myopic pursuit of innovation, urging us to dissect its true essence; and find the distinction between novelty and genuine innovation. Too often, we mistake the two, imposing shiny solutions that don’t necessarily fit the intricacies of education.

So this raises the question of “true” innovations in learning. Are we witnessing authentic breakthroughs that actually revolutionise a child’s learning experience?

Stager also asserts that every educational problem has been solved before (drawing from the wisdom of Ecclesiastes), reminding us that the challenges we face today have historical precedents, if you will. 

We agree. Instead of chasing novelty the way we chase ever-fluctuating ideas of success, tied so closely to catching up to the “next best thing,” we should be allowed to delve into the wealth of past solutions, learning from the wisdom that precedes us; whether it’s others’ or our own. Tying into a belief we hold at Imagine If on the importance of self-knowledge–we believe in practising a sense of trust in the past knowledge and experiences that make up this wisdom.

Here are the consequences of continuing the way we do: the education policy spiral that Stager has vividly illustrated paints a disheartening picture of a system quick to label even teachers as failures based on narrow metrics. 

History repeats itself, and the cyclic nature of education policies perpetuates a detrimental cycle that hinders genuine progress. It’s an unsustainable model that affects everyone in its system.

All of this boils down to a crucial level of this rhetorical exercise. Stager makes an exploration of the interconnectedness of democracy and education, which forces us to scrutinise how our approach to learning shapes the very fabric of our society. (We concur because of course it does!)

The classroom, also as Stager offers, is a microcosm of democracy, where civic engagement or disinterest are sown. It prompts us to ask a very thought-provoking question lacking in educational spaces: are these educational practices nurturing active, informed citizens, or are we inadvertently perpetuating apathy?

The consequences of apathetic learners reverberate far beyond the confines of the classroom. When students disengage, learning starts to unravel. The passive nature most learners are positioned in anyway (reduced to receptacles of information), in mainstream education, is made even more profound with their understandable unwillingness to participate; the depersonalisation of them as conscious, learning individuals is taken to new heights. As such, that breeds individuals who avoid engaged, socially conscious investment in the life and people around them. And more recently, we can see this in the way technological advancement is so rife with inhumanity. 

Innovation for innovation’s sake isn’t just a less-than-optimal circumstance; it’s a problem. 

So, we’re prompted to bring light to our approach. Imagine If, in its commitment to individualised, inclusive learning, aligns with the need for genuine innovation. It advocates for an educational environment where authenticity, rather than novelty, is the driving force–innovation is simply a byproduct of these efforts. We find inspiration to create learning that isn’t just ‘new’ but authentically innovative, drawing from a self-knowledge informed by self-reflection informed by self-efficacy in our learners. And these things are made far more innovative with the unique essence of each learner, and the understanding or interpretations that they bring to the table. It’s rooted strongly in the personhood of the learner. 

Our journey toward emphasising authenticity goes beyond the pursuit of innovative learning methods in another way too; it includes a fundamental shift in how success is perceived, a topic that’s inextricable from the whys of the way we pedestalise innovation. Imagine If recognises that authentic learning is a dynamic process that goes beyond grades and standardised metrics. The ethos here isn’t to mould learners into predefined shapes of success but to welcome them for who they are—individuals with unique strengths, challenges, and learning languages who love to learn not just for what can be taken from them in the future for advancement’s sake, but what they can fully derive from learning in a way that’s conscious, embodied, and puts them in a position to be able to share their gifts with verve. 

In this liberated space, the focus shifts from the product to the process and even the processor. Academic success isn’t confined to a set of predefined outcomes but becomes a reflection of each learner’s journey. Imagine If understands that the real measure of success lies not just in the destination but in the exploration, the challenges overcome, and the individual growth experienced along the way. 

What’s innovation without authenticity? What’s authenticity without humanity?