By Dee Whitby, Principal of Orana Steiner School
The world is constantly changing and schools have to keep abreast of new approaches to work in order to prepare students for life beyond school.
One of the things we need to teach our children is the difference between ‘initiative’ and ‘innovation’. Even as adults we get bogged down in lots of new ideas that never go anywhere. Innovation is what happens beyond that first flush of excitement when a new idea is put on the table. It’s the process whereby ideas are sorted, evaluated and put to the test.
Two of our students, Joshua Edye in Class 8 and Kaiden Edye in Class 5, along with their father, had the opportunity to take part in InnovAGE, an innovation event organised by Leading Aged Services Australia in May this year. InnovAGE brought together innovators in aged care, technology, data and design over the course of two weekends. The aim was to encourage entrepreneurial thinking to develop, build or launch age related solutions to improve the lives of older Australians and their families.
To the boy’s delight they took out the overall prize as well as the Microsoft Kinect prize for their project S.T.R.O.K.E. Their inspiration came from their grandfather who had suffered a minor stroke a month prior to the event and was given exercises to do by the hospital occupational therapist. However, he wasn’t a very good patient and didn’t do the exercises once he got home. Their innovation was based on using off-the-shelf hardware like the Microsoft Kinect; paired with games older people are interested in playing, to develop a therapeutic system patients would be motivated to comply with.
While winning the competition was great, the boys also learned a number of valuable lessons over the course of the competition.
- Learning not to throw in the towel when you face an obstacle. The boys learned that it’s important to focus on problems that people care about and where current solutions don’t solve it particularly well. On the second last day they discovered Microsoft Research was already looking at using the Kinect with stroke patients. So, they ‘pivoted’ their idea, focusing instead on the innovation that sat in the sweet spot of the types of games that older people like to play online. They knew their grandfather could spend hours playing Solitaire on the computer, but there was no way he would play games that traditionally were available on the Kinect.
- Learning that innovation often needs diverse teams to deliver the idea. The boys discovered the importance of teamwork especially when under tight deadlines. They learned about recognising and respecting different viewpoints and how this contributes to a well-rounded idea. They also learned about taking responsibility for respective tasks, negotiating their point of view and compromising for the good of the project.
- Learning to pitch an idea. One of the most valuable lessons Joshua and Kaiden took away from the competition was the importance of being able to clearly present your ideas. They had to present their project both in video format and on the final day to a panel of judges and over 80 participants. All those years of doing puppet shows and school plays at Orana stood them in good stead and they confidently pitched their project to a panel of judges made up of angel investors, older Australians, technology specialists and representatives from the aged care sector.
Joshua and Kaiden are now keen to take their project further and develop a prototype and their grandfather will be the first one to test it.
An Innovation Competition for teens in September
As Kaiden and Joshua discovered, one of the best ways to teach students resilience, problem solving and creativity is to get them to work on a specific project. On the 5th and 6th September this year, Orana will be hosting Teen Start-Up, an innovation event for high school students from all over Canberra.
Students attending the weekend will be asked to come up with a solution to a challenge facing their generation in the next ten to twenty years. Some of the challenges they will be asked to tackle centre around topics of sustainability, energy, communication, globalisation and health. To aid the innovative thinking process, students will hear from mentors, young entrepreneurs and experts in these sectors.
At the end of the Teen Start-Up weekend, teams will present their ideas to a panel of judges consisting of investors, experts in commercialisation, successful entrepreneurs, and industry specialists. The top three teams as determined by the judging panel will be awarded prizes.
Teen Start-Up is an opportunity to get young people excited about innovation, creativity and problem solving while also encouraging entrepreneurial thinking. To book a place at Teen Start-Up visit https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/teen-start-up-2015-tickets-17333348512.
About Orana Steiner School
Orana is an independent co-educational school that offers children a seamless pre-school to Year 12 education recognised by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. Orana’s education is about students “doing things” and our curriculum provides an education that prepares our students to take their place in a global society. Students and teachers are happy at our school and we aim to inspire creative and flexible thinking, resilience and a will to engage in life. The phrase most commonly heard from parents on our school tours is “I wish I had gone to a school like this”. http://oranaschool.com