Book Review: Innovate Inside the Box

Guest book review by Dr. Amy Sharp, Assistant Principal at Lakeway Elementary in Lake Travis ISD.

This book brings together the concepts of The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros and the practice of Universal Design for Learning (as detailed in a previous blog post). The authors detail information in three different sections of the book on the practice of an innovator’s mindset alongside the use of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). 

The Introduction and part one lays the foundation for the work: 

  • Relationships
  • Learner-Driven, Evidence Informed
  • Creating Empowering Learning Experiences
  • Educators who Serve as Master Learner

I enjoyed this intro and section because it reminded me of the core of our profession: build and foster relationships to grow learner capacity. Since I am a self proclaimed education book junkie, I read this book the day of its release in 2019. In preparation of this blog post, however, I reread this book considering our current times in our profession. My experience last year gave me a new set of eyes with this text. Considering the new school year ahead that is laid with barriers upon barriers as to why students are behind, this section recenters the reader’s why in an already complex approach to reimagining schools and the potentially glaring, opportunity ahead of us concerning teaching and learning practices. 

Part two details the characteristics of this mindset: 

  • Empathetic
  • Problem Finders/Solvers
  • Risk Takers
  • Networked
  • Observant
  • Creators
  • Resilient
  • Reflective

This section brought home the work ahead of me as an educator to support my students’ growth. The use of storytelling as examples spoke to my heart and practice. Again, with the last year and a half behind me, rereading this brought to life aspects of our field I know I need to grow in my own practice with staff, students, and families to maximize our capacity and human capital. 

Part three focuses on the work in general; everything is connected to the relationships educators build and foster and how each of us can and will choose to use the information gained from Innovate Inside the Box. The last part of the book is all about reflection and how to use this information to truly innovate in the box we have been given. Some hard questions are asked, and through that reflective process and space, barriers can be addressed. Though this is the shorter of the three, do not let that fool you! Allow space and time to think through it all as much as possible. In truth, this is a section I plan to revisit throughout the year to ensure I’m leaning into innovation that is best for kids. 

Overall, the book empowers educators to create opportunities that will benefit every learner despite “the box”. The authors explain that this approach is the answer to creating innovative teaching and learning opportunities within the constraints of our profession. It explains how educators can ensure regulations and limitations do not impede authentic learning, and the book provides informed, well researched insights on creating purposeful learning opportunities for all students. 

Throughout the book, the authors return to these three questions: 

  • What has challenged you?
  • What has been reaffirmed?
  • What will you do moving forward?

I have used these questions with most professional learning experiences since I read this book, and I have to say these have been the most powerful in gauging what was taught as well as its impact. There are a lot of gems here, and I encourage you to check out this book if you’re ready for that next step of teaching and learning innovation in spite of the box you find yourself in. 

What to Know More? Cool! Check it out-

  • To hear more about the book and learn about the authors’ vision for this work, listen here
  • To engage in a book study with this book, click here for a free resource to guide your campus or leadership team’s learning. 
  • To see UDL a bit better, check out this infographic
  • Social Media brings it home with the #InnovateInsideThe Box in Instagram and Twitter. Feel free to follow that hashtag to see how educators around the world are using this information! 
  • Still need more details? To get a play by play of each chapter, check out this resource. 

Ready to read the book? Awesome! Order the book here.

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