Innovation Wall

What if every school had a wall where teachers/students/admins could write or draw examples of acts of innovation?

Photo of Carolyn Wendell
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What was my Inspiration?

When I visited Zappos one of the elements of their culture that stuck out to me the most was the Wall of Goals they had in one of their stairwells. The Wall of Goals, was a place for every employee to write what their personal or professional goal was right on the wall - not a white board wall, a real cement wall. Each employee was also given a personal coach to help them achieve this professional or personal goal. This ritual of Zappos has inspired me to think of this idea of the school "Innovation Wall."

So what's the idea?

What if every school had a wall, a physical space, that was open to write on freely - similar to Zappos. However this wall would be a place where students, teachers and administration could celebrate small acts of innovation that had happened in the school. For example a student draws a picture of a virtual classroom field trip the students took using Connected Classroom, and a teacher writes a description about how swapping out fixed desks for desks with wheels changed her entire lesson plan. Teachers could look at the wall for inspiration every day as they walked by it. Prospective students would walk by it on their tour and better understand what sorts of teaching practices were taking place here. Administrators could better understand the shifts that were taken place in classrooms.

Why is this important 

This is important because as we have seen being able to talk liberally about how routines are shifting and practice is shifting away from traditional means, will help teachers in schools feel less isolated and silo'ed and encourage them to embrace the change that we know will improve learning. No better way than for teachers to all share what they're doing and have a constant reminder that others are also embracing the change, by having it so present in their space. 

Could I make this scaleable?

Absolutely! What if every school in a district took a picture of their wall and created a scrap book for the district, or even better what about a digital scrapbook, pictures of all the walls together. We could post these pictures on social media with a catchy hashtag like "#innovationwall" Then this would encourage other schools and districts to post images of their walls. 


Join the conversation:

Photo of Margaret

What if the whiteboard, and other interactive wall elements, took over an entire hallway? It's happening at Northfield Community MS:

It would be great to design and have a scalability handbook that could come in the kit discussed in the comments below (@Moss & my comment 8/6). It could show how a wall like this could be used in a classroom, then expand to a wall for the school, and eventually maybe take over a hallway ... then all hallways!?

Photo of George

I love this idea Carolyn! I would put one right in the front entrance. That way, everyone can see what is happening and if something happened after school, it could be added that next day.

Photo of Carolyn

Thanks everyone! It's been amazing to see how far this idea has developed with all your comments. I love the idea of photographing all the comments on the wall into a digital storybook. Brilliant!!

Photo of Alice

Great idea Carolyn! How long will you keep your wall up? I am reading Creative Confidence, and they recommend having a fresh wall once a week. I might do tables instead as I have moveable tables and am thinking about setting up an "innovation lab" as opposed to a makerspace. They could be covered with butcher paper. At the end of each week, I will take them off and post them in a central location.

Photo of Ellen

Butcher paper... what a great, low budget solution! The sheets could be photographed and saved each week!

Photo of Moss

Fantastic idea, Carolyn; thanks for sharing it! I would love to see an "Innovation Wall" placed centrally within a school, just as you described. It'd also be great to share walls on social media, especially if we could connect different schools to learn more about how communities define and embrace innovation. The more I've been learning about innovation, the more I've come to understand how much of a role physical and observable space plays in creating this type of culture. This idea goes a long way toward getting there.

How might we design an "Innovation Wall" kit for schools? What would a school need to get started (e.g., materials, cost, maintenance, etc.?). Let's see if we can build the idea out a little more over the next few weeks!

Photo of Elysa

I love this idea!!! Feels so easy and FUN to prototype. Sign me up to build it!

Photo of Margaret

A writable wall to post/share ideas and give feedback was one of the first requests that came out of a design challenge I led last year for faculty around redesigning our faculty room. I think it could be neat to have one large space for an entire school and also smaller versions for specific audiences. I think the kit Moss is talking about could be pretty easy to compile with something like the dry-erase wall stickers Staples has ( at least for prototyping. I bet a Raspberry Pi and a camera attachment could also be used to take photographs of the wall space at certain increments to help document/capture what's recorded (and erased) there and maybe the materials list for that and the code for a program to run it could be part of the kit.

Photo of Jennifer

This is a great way to share with each other. So often it's difficult to know the wonderful learning happening in the classroom next door because we never get to go next door (we're busy teaching in our own room). We usually have a staff sharing at a meeting during the year where each teacher shares 1 thing, but it would be wonderful to have a forum for more sharing.

Photo of Daria

Terrific idea Carolyn! I was thinking if it was a large whiteboard with magnets and markers, students and teachers could easily tack things on and/or write ideas. Then at the end of each week or month, it would be easy to erase/take down, for a fresh batch of innovations. I think a online duplicate component is very important, whether it is a scrapbook as you suggested, or a searchable database. Otherwise, I think the ideas may not be remembered, or later utilized. Also, not everyone has time to take a whiteboard (or wall) in as he/she strolls by, but many teachers would scroll through an online version as their time permits.

Photo of David

Great idea. Indeed, this is about as scaleable as they come. I love it. In the Atlanta office where I work, we have a chalkboard that we write comments on. It is right in a public space. Nothing is off the table. Transparency is a beautiful thing. I love the idea of making a scrapbook of the ideas/comments.