To borrow from Dr Johnson, I find that most innovative ideas in ICT I read about are both new and exciting. Unfortunately, the ones that are new are not exciting, and the ones that are exciting are not new*. It’s all very well “pushing the boundaries”, but all that does is give you more of the same.
In my opinion there are four main ways of generating ideas that are both genuinely new and genuinely exciting. Here they are.
Throw the box away
Rather than think outside the box, which implies there is still a box to think outside of, get rid of the box altogether. Why have a box?
So what does this mean in practice?
What’s the most outlandish thing you can think of, something so ridiculous you would never be able to implement it? I once worked out that I could teach almost all of the ICT Programme of Study by taking students to my local park more or less every lesson. Now, that would never be OK’d, but what you can do is scale it back until you find a point that might be acceptable to the (usually highly risk-averse) powers that be. For example, what if you devised a project that entailed going to the park every other lesson for one half term?
A couple of years ago I was involved in a multimedia project spanning several primary (elementary) schools, and one of the things that one school did was to have the children make a video comparing and contrasting the area in which they lived to a completely different area on the coast. It was great, but in my opinion this sort of thing shouldn’t be a one-off. At least, why not do it (or something similar) once a term rather than only once a year?
Reverse engineer the syllabus
If you start with the syllabus and try to identify work and projects to serve as vehicles for it, you often end up with boring, unrealistic, activities that feel forced. That's because they are forced. Far better to identify a really interesting topic for a project, and then see which bits of the syllabus it will naturally cover. If you do that over the whole course, using very different sorts of topics and tweaking the activities or focus where necessary, you should end up covering the syllabus anyway, but in a far more interesting way. There’s nothing wrong with tweaking or adding in order to ensure that the whole syllabus is covered, because you’ll be providing a rich learning experience for the pupils anyway and no doubt for the teachers too.
I’ve always taken the view that I don’t know everything, that I can’t think of everything and that I have no idea what brilliant ideas have not occurred to me. Asking colleagues for their ideas can help in the creation of some great, innovative and exciting activities for your ICT course.
Consult the pupils
If you really want way out ideas, ask the kids. I’m not one of those who believe that whatever ideas pupils come up with are automatically brilliant, edgy or exciting just because it’s a pupil who thought of them. You need to inject some realism into the mix, because youngsters tend not to think of practical issues or legal ones. But then, of course, it’s precisely that untrammelled thinking that you want to tap into!
How do you generate ideas that are both new and exciting, but not in the Johnsonian sense?
* Samuel Johnson, having read a manuscript submitted to him by a would-be writer, is reputed to have responded “Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.” There is some doubt as to whether he did so, but it's a great quote anyway!