Innovation and education technology with Evo Hannan and Bett MEA

Do innovation and education technology go hand-in-hand?

Bett MEA sat with teacher and education innovator Evo Hannan to get his take on innovating school curricula throughout the Middle East, and where education technology can fit in.

Approaching innovation in education

Evo is a teacher with 19 years’ experience, 13 of which he has spent teaching at various schools throughout Dubai.
Evo Hanna is one of the Middle East's top educational innovators.

Currently, Evo leads design and innovation at Dwight School Dubai, an American international school, founded in 2018 and part of the global Dwight School community.

Recognised as one of the Middle East’s leading educational innovators, Evo is innately driven by a desire to enact positive change at all key stages, as well as channelling his formidable experience into numerous passion projects across the world. In 2020 Evo is speaking and connecting with educators globally including; London, Dubai, Sydney, New York, San Francisco and Houston. 

With his pioneering Innovation X curriculum model, Evo takes a four-pronged approach to inspiring effective change in learning. Here’s how.

Hi Evo, can you please tell us more about Innovation X?

Evo Hannan: It’s taken nearly a decade to create and design a framework held up by an innovative ideology that educators around the world can connect with and implement into their classrooms straight away.

Innovation X has four main strands, the first two are teacher focused.

The first is “Knowledge”, which relates directly to what teachers deliver. Knowledge is the first step towards any level of innovative thinking, reflecting on the knowledge that exists to create new ideas.

This leads to the next strand, “Creativity”. Blending knowledge with creativity within an inquiry-based learning environment will help students develop new ways of approaching a problem.

Traditionally education has been knowledge based. Innovation X balances the importance of knowledge and creativity to enable students to become more innovative in their own thinking.

Let’s take an example of learning about the First World War. Traditional methods would often ask students to write a paper. With the Innovation X model bringing creativity into the mix, students could show their understanding of the topic through various forms such as a podcast, a video news report or even a short movie.

Students would be using their knowledge in a creative way using a number of educational technology tools, and apps, which best suits their interests.

The third strand is “Characteristics” and is student focused. This is the strand that promotes students to develop their own innovative traits. We all have natural characteristics, some have been traditionally classed as a negative. 

Let’s say we have a very talkative student in a class, who is always told to stop talking. This student is a natural communicator and networker, something that very much relates to developing connections when promoting innovative ideas. 
There are 8 traits, called INNOV8TR. They all link to characteristics found in global innovators; Internationally minded, Networker, Noble, Opportunistic, Visionary, Abstract, Tenacious and Resourceful. The strongest characteristic a student has, is their ‘Alpha’ trait, and the second strongest as their ‘Beta’ trait. 

By developing these traits, we can help students be more confident and ready for 21st Century challenges they will face when leaving school.

The fourth and final strand is “Culture” and is school focused. By working on the first 3 strands, a school will slowly start to develop its own culture of innovation. With a little strategic focus on this culture, a school can improve year-on-year, allows it to embrace change and drive innovative ideas forward.

What does innovation in education mean to you?

Teachers delivering content creatively, whilst allowing for student agency. This results in students developing innovative traits helping them turn into confident global citizens, and the future leaders and innovators of tomorrow.

We really need to understand what Generation Z is about because teaching them how we were taught isn’t going to be effective anymore.

They have different aspirations, lead different lifestyles and their goals are different. The world they live in now is very different to what it was even a decade ago when Instagram and snapchat didn’t exist, and the term ‘youtuber’ was only being introduced.

How do you approach education technology at Dwight School Dubai?

We are very fortunate to be a one to one school, with each child having access to their own device. Students use apps and software available to them, most of which is free to use. If they want to use a new app, they can request this through a school system, keeping things relevant and moving forward.

I think one of the strongest messages that comes out of this conversation is that you don’t need to spend money in a classroom to be innovative. All teachers have a responsibility to keep things relevant and that’s at the core of Innovation X.

However, when looking at education technology, the biggest things teachers look for are:
  • Value for money
  • Links to curriculum

If there are direct links to the curriculum, it’s a much easier buy in. So, if you take Apple for example, who have created a host of tools that are free and easy to use, it’s much easier for teachers to implement apple devices in classrooms. All teachers want something they can use right out of the box.

The final thing is support. Not all schools are tech-orientated, making sure the training and support is available will encourage schools to invest in such technologies.

In your experience, how has the Middle East’s approach to education technology changed in your time there?

When I first came to the region in 2007, the market was fairly young in Dubai and the UAE in general. Since then it’s been through rapid growth with a lot of new schools opening, many types of curriculum you can find across the world are now catered for here including Swiss, German and Australian. There are now over 200 schools in Dubai providing great choice for students, parents, teachers and suppliers alike.

The KHDA (Knowledge and Human Development Authority), Dubai’s educational governing body, brought in an inspection framework around 10 years ago, and they added innovation to the framework which now forms a major part of school inspections.

All schools have a priority to ensure they are being innovative when delivering education, inspiring students to use tools creatively so they can develop 21st century skills.

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