February 9, 2023

Establishing an Innovator Mindset in the Digital Classroom

Note: This content is produced from sessions presented in Anthology’s Winter 2022 Digital Teaching Symposium.

Establishing any mindset, especially an innovator mindset, is no easy task — especially one that requires embracing failure and looking for ways to make improvements. In this case, establishing an innovator mindset over the past two years was necessary to adapt to a changing landscape in the digital classroom. The digital classroom is defined as the process of teaching and learning by integrating information and communication technology. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, no one knew what was ahead as universities moved in-person classrooms to Zoom. To those that had online teaching experience, there were new challenges that would arise. Challenges included students not turning on their cameras, students not showing up, and instructors not having the proper information to teach in a digital classroom environment.

To best meet these challenges, instructors needed to cultivate an innovator mindset in order to prepare for the digital classroom. In this blog, I'll talk about how educators can foster an innovator mindset in the digital classroom.

The Digital Classroom

The digital classroom is not new; it first appeared in the 1980s, but technological advancements have allowed students to access information more quickly than ever before. Students in today's digital classrooms are taking more control than ever before over what they see, hear, and read in the TikTok era. I define the TikTok era as seizing control and personalizing content to one's liking. Students in the TikTok era require a transparent digital classroom, as well as guidance to the knowledge that will help them succeed.

Educators cannot simply have students write a research paper when creating social media content that includes gifs and videos that go viral. Students are creative, and educators need to harness their creativity in the digital classroom. That is why the educator must build an innovator mindset to adjust, pivot, and try new things in the school that will engage students in the digital classroom.

The Innovator Mindset

In 2021, I completed the Innovator Mindset® profile assessment. The assessment consists of 12 dimensions that make up the innovativeness index. The more the lines bow toward the center, the less innovative the individual. The assessment is not the end-all-be-all for measuring a person's innovativeness, but it does guide the person's decisions and behaviors. My results labeled me as less innovative. I was shocked, given that I thought I was creative in the classroom with my assignments.

To best apply an innovative mindset in the classroom, one must first take a deeper look into the innovative mindset. The innovator mindset is constantly questioning and testing, looking for ways to improve, embracing failure, and having an imagination. As an educator, I suggest four things to do to start your innovative mindset.

The first is to be open in the classroom by soliciting feedback and learning new ways to teach. The second step is to embrace creativity by focusing on potential rather than flaws. Third, think big by figuring out how new concepts work and not being limited. Finally, take action. It is not difficult to begin an innovation mindset — all it takes is the first activity, and let me explain how I did it.

Applying the Steps in the Classroom

After the assessment, I began looking for new ways to engage students in the classroom. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed my innovative limits. Besides, department heads want to make sure students are engaged. I adopted active learning activities in my classroom. Activities included a leadership pizza activity, creative space, and analyzing and evaluating an innovation video from Marriott Hotels.

The exercises not only engaged students, but they were something they had to do on their own and think outside of googling their answers. The leadership pizza activity had students think about their leadership traits and how they can be improved. I enjoyed the activity because every student could come up with their features, and they turned on their camera to show us their leadership pizza. The video showed students how companies constantly innovate to ensure customer success.

If companies are innovating for the future, then everyone else can. I am not advocating for everyone to take the Innovator Mindset profile. However, I advocate for educators to cultivate an innovator mindset by being open to change and embracing creativity, as well as simply doing. What will be your first change in your classroom activities?

Jay Fulgencio

Jay Fulgencio, Ph.D.

Roosevelt University

Jay Fulgencio, Ph.D., earned his B.A. from Northeastern Illinois University and M.A., M.S.E., and Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University. He is the founder of Learngenix, a learning and development solutions company. Fulgencio is focused on using technology as a teaching tool and applying the entrepreneurial and innovator mindset in the classroom. He is a published scholar, practitioner, and educator.