As an educator, you’re responsible for helping unleash the full potential all of your students. While most young people will not make great discoveries for the benefit of humankind, they’re all capable of innovative thinking.

Our world is changing rapidly – new technologies are emerging all the time and they’re impacting the professional world. Various professions have emerged, many of them non-existent a decade or two ago.

Nurturing innovation starts at an early age. The current educational system isn’t really tailored to get kids thinking outside the box. They often fear that they’ll make a mistake, that they’re not following what’s been instructed. As a teacher, you are responsible for stimulating the creative mind and showing young students that they’re capable of innovation.

Taking Risks and Solving Challenges

The first thing that students need to learn is that innovation is all about taking risks. Going down the traditional path will never lead to a breakthrough solution for a problem. Show children that it’s ok to go off the beaten path, even if failure follows.

Next, make sure that students aren’t afraid of challenges but that they’re willing to embrace such. Getting them to solve a single new problem every day will be sufficient to form a mindset of curiosity.

Innovation is about being open to opportunities, expressing bold ideas and flipping the status quo upside down. Creating a safe environment where students will feel safe doing all of the things mentioned above is the first and probably the most important part of the process.

Help Students Identify Their Passion

Innovative thinking usually stems from a field that students are curious and passionate about. Individual work with every single child will be sufficient to pinpoint their strengths and the areas that they could potentially excel in.

Nurturing the natural curiosities of students is a much more effective approach than getting everyone to go through the same educational process. Needless to say, work with parents will also be required to extend the process beyond the classroom.

Once you have a better idea about the passion of students, you can come up with more personalized educational plans that will address the missing knowledge in the respective area. True, delivering such personalized learning opportunities is far from an easy task but it’s the only one that pays off in terms of helping young individuals become critical thinkers who are capable of unleashing their full potential.

Hands-On Learning

While theory is important in every single educational field, hands-on learning is the only way to get results in terms of fostering innovative thinking.

Give students projects and experiments that they could conduct on their own, applying the knowledge that they have acquired through the classroom sessions. Whenever possible, focus on the real-world applications of the academic fields that probably seem so abstract and let’s face it – useless to children.

Instead of giving students math problems that focus on speed, make them build paper airplanes and do calculation about speed and trajectory. Not only will this approach make math fun, it will show students how it can be used to solve serious issues in fields like aviation and astronomy.

Unconventional Learning Materials

Apart from giving students hands-on experiences, you may want to introduce unusual learning materials in the classroom.

Textbooks and notebooks are great. They will still be required but you can go way beyond the standard study supplies.

Virtual reality simulations are an ideal replacement for the field trip that you cannot take. Not only will such simulations take students to parts of the world they have never seen, they will also put emphasis on new technological developments.

You can also utilize video clips, TED talks and lectures. Acquainting children and teens with various ideas that they haven’t been exposed to before can get the creative juices flowing and pinpoint intriguing areas that they’ve probably never thought of before.

Educational podcasts, live video streaming with an inspiring person and even 3D printed models can all replace the standard items in the classroom. We live in a digital world and internet has affected just about every aspect of life. It’s about time for digital technology to make a more solid entry into the classroom.

Finally, don’t forget to encourage discussion about the things that students find fascinating and exciting. These can easily turn into powerful brainstorming sessions during which students will discuss their ideas with others and eventually find more clarity about the concept. Such conversations challenge students to express themselves and to also listen to the opinion of others. Every innovator knows that constructive feedback is of incredible importance and the sooner students learn the lesson, the better.