Innovation is Alive in Today’s Schools

GUEST COLUMN | by Britten Follett

Follett ChallengeWhat does 21st Century Learning really mean? Each of the 115 schools that entered the Follett Challenge defined it in a slightly different manner. The Follett Challenge team is still reviewing the entries, but a quick look at the entries reveals innovation is very much so alive in our schools.

In this second annual Follett Challenge contest, Follett sought out the most innovative schools in the world by offering $200,000 in Follett products and services by challenging entrants to incorporate the following skills into their video and written entries:

-Critical thinking




_between students

_among librarians, teachers, special teachers and/or administrators.

Many schools focused their entries around their library programs. So often, great 21st century teaching and learning is centered in the library; however, some of the entries took that innovation a step further, transforming the library into a learning hub that has no physical walls, where inquiry is born and learning transitions from teacher-led to student-led.

In one video, a student describes her innovation project that started when she earned from her music teacher how vocal warm ups should change depending on the type of music she will be singing. Through research on appropriate vocal training, the student is now developing an app that will lead the singer through the perfect warm up. Now that’s innovation!

From apps to robots, technology is very much so infused in these innovative programs. One school connects its students to science, engineering, and technology by collaborating to enter a unique robotics competition. Their student designed, engineered, programmed, and built a robot that plays basketball!

The programs are not all centered around technology. Many use the arts to teach critical thinking. Another school took Bruce Springsteen lyrics and developed a cross-media, interdisciplinary project to illustrate how collaboration can achieve a reading/learning objective.

Whether the schools are using Follett solutions like checking out and reading eBooks or other eContent using the FollettShelf or Destiny, we created the Follett Challenge as a way for schools to highlight their innovative programs. But just having a great program is not enough. We believe schools need to be advocates for learning. So the Follett Challenge is also a platform for schools to show off their programs to their community and the world. Between February 6th and 11:59:59 pm Central Time on March 18th schools will be sharing that innovation through social and traditional media, earning votes and comments for their videos. Thirty percent of each school’s final score is based on how well they share their school’s story by earning votes.

Each entrant will receive a video promotion kit from Follett, including a sample letter to their local media, suggested Facebook and Twitter posts, and even posters and tent cards to download and print to display throughout the school.

On April 5, make sure to tune in for the live announcement of the winners at! We think you’ll be inspired, and you’ll see (as we have) that innovation is alive and well in today’s schools.

Britten Follett is Marketing Manager at Follett International. She is an Emmy winning investigative TV reporter turned author, public speaker and now marketing manager in a fifth-generation family business devoted to selling education-focused content, technology and services worldwide. Write to:

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