What is innovation?


” Innovation is the development of new values through solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulate needs, or old customer and market needs in value adding new ways.”



“To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need.”



“Educational innovations are the wholistic changes of educational system and management eventually leading to the use of innovative technology for teaching, leading, and manage the whole system for faster and easier resolution of issues and concerns.”


To me, innovation is…

” the implementation of renewed idea’s, goods or services. Innovation must be studied within its context and can be promoted by concurrence. It improves a current situation and is enabled by creativity”

So far for my definition. I believe innovation means a few things to me:

  • Innovation is being aware of trends, technology. Forcing yourself to rethink the existing structures. Being aware to improve things. Allowing news ideas in your life and classroom.
  • Combining new and existing technologies for the creation of new teaching methods, better pedagogy and circumstances.
    Further readings: Combining existing technologies to create a new teaching method
  • Trying to find new solutions, applications which have to potential to change people and the way they learn.
    Further readings: case Zelfstudie.be and case Trey Key

Some innovations I described in this blog:


Am I innovative? Part III

When I graduated in 2000, I already was interested in e-learning. One of my teachers, Valère Awouters, was one of the reasons for this interest. When I began to work as a teacher, I started with writing my own course materials. I published them on my website zelfstudie.be. In 2006 people had to start to register to obtain access to the course materials. Nowadays the website has more than 17.000 members and contains more than 7.500 pages of course materials spread over 50 courses, with subjects like webdesign, graphic design, social media, seo, etc. Three of these courses can also be taken by screencasts. The members can ask questions to the author of the course. This enables asynchronous learning. This principle is unique in Belgium.


Innovation in education: Flipping the classroom

I collected some very exciting innovations and wonder whether they can be useful in education

2012-07-31 11.19.29Flipping the classroom

A year ago I discovered a video on YouTube from Jelmer Evers, who uses web 2.0 tools and explained the concept of a flipped classroom. Evers teaches history and creates digital lessons using the combination of Prezi, Camtasia and YouTube. His students are very excited by the concept. Some students even learn by iPod while running or traveling by train.

In a flipped classroom, the teacher makes screencasts and other digital materials. The students watch and listen these at home. During the lessons there is more time for exercise and questions, because the theory is already learned.

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Google innovates

It’s a cliche, but a classic example of innovation in ICT, is Google. Google is more than a search engine. Chrome, Googles browser is since May 2012 worldwide the most used browser. Impressive since it’s also the newest. Almost everybody knows Googles services Gmail, Google Docs, Google Cal, Android, Google maps and streetview. Let’s talk about the newest trends.

Google glass
I couldn’t believe my own eyes when I saw this movie. Heads-up displays do exist for years, but because of the intervention of Google and a clever marketing campaign, Google glass are already in use in the USA. Google Glass is a combination of glasses and a smartphone. By voice command, you can record video’s, phone, email, take some pictures, use GPS, watch movies, browse on the internet, use social media, and much more with this device. How about opening the hood of your car while watching a manual provided by your glasses.
> http://www.google.com/glass/start/how-it-feels/

Of course it enables many application for education. Possible uses in learning:

  • record video and audio, take pictures: eg. record lessons, etc
  • teach or attend classes using web conferencing tools
  • search for information
  • etc

At this moment, Google maps is optimized for cars, but not for pedestrians. So they invented a genius game called “Ingress”. Ingress is an Alternate Reality Game (ARG), in which the player can choose between two camps: the Enlightened or the Revolutionists. People can claim places, by walking to them, take a picture and push a button on their smartphone (Ingress only works on android). They can put bombs, hack places, etc. The game is addictive, makes people walk and it makes sure Google has an enormous database of pictures. This game makes sure people are contributing voluntary to Google Maps for pedestrians.

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Am I innovative? Part II

Four years ago, my school decided to start with distance learning. The reason was the fact our government gives grants to schools who embrace this kind of education. Four teachers webdesign had to teach via web conferencing (blended learning: 50% distance learning – 50% f2f). At that time, we were the first school and teachers of the country who did this. Although we got some training, we all had to figure out ourselves how to teach using Cisco Webex. The credits go to the school for being innovative, but I think the teachers and I who were pioneers in this new kind of education, can be called somehow innovative. After one year, our results were presented to other schools. The TV broadcasted this reportage Continue Reading


My favorite innovation of 2012

Innovation can be the reinvention of a thing that already existed. Eg. reinventing the phone, etc. The captcha was created to block spam from contact forms, guest books and forums. However, the inventor of the captcha, Luis Von Ahn, felt bad by knowing every day people are losing 500 000 minutes by filling up nearly unreadable words. So he reinvented his recaptcha. He found a way by publishing words from scanned books. Nowadays by filling in captcha’s, yearly 750 million people help to digitize 2,5 million books. Without knowing!  At this moment Luis’ team is working on another project: translating the whole internet to every language. Impressive!

An example of the (re-)captcha:
Schermafbeelding 2013-01-15 om 16.15.56
Even more impressive is the fact that Bates (2007) wondered five years ago (!) if this wouldn’t be possible.



Innovation in education: the 3D printer

I collected some very exciting innovations and wonder whether they can be useful in education

3D printer
In my school we teach to draw and print in 3D. The first time I saw a printed 3D model, I couldn’t believe my eyes. In the meanwhile, it’s possible to print plastic, metal, wood, etc. With the newest bio-printer, it’s even possible to draw human tissues and organs. At this moment the US army uses it during war to print human skin for soldiers who burned their skin during combat. The 3D printer will not be used in all kinds of classes, but can be interesting in some cases, in some classes. Yesterday I heard on the radio (Radio1), the 4D printer already exists. This printer can print objects who change according to its context. Eg: a stent which transforms during its travel to the heart.

A few weeks later now. Meri sent me an interesting link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/shortcuts/2013/may/06/3d-printable-guns-cody-wilson, which proves the 3D printer causes also problem. The reply of the Flemish minister-president is that printing guns is illegal. http://www.hbvl.be/nieuws/binnenland/aid1389702/kris-peeters-uitprinten-3d-wapen-is-strafbaar.aspx (Dutch).

I also found out (while I was gardening), there can be other applications of 3D printers in education. The impact can also be indirectly. Eg: at this moment students learn to work with wood, iron and other materials. In the future people will print articles, which will change courses and education. Courses like woodworking may be dying breed.



led-zeppelin-the-song-remains-the-sameI’m wondering. Is competition good or bad for innovation? There are many car manufacturers. What if there was only one? Would cars be more or less advanced? In music the competition is in another level. What if there would be one band? I think there wouldn’t exist so many genres: rock, jazz, folk, metal, blues, hip hop, etc. The Beatles wouldn’t have made the sitar well-known.
Can we make the conclusion competition is promoting innovation? It shows that the relationship can be positive or negative, depending on specific competition perception and specific innovation activity (Tang, 2006).

In 2012, Europe received a maximum amount of patent applications. AOB received 257 744 applications, which equals a raise of 5.2 percent. This raise is a good indication of investment in innovation.


Am I innovative? Part I

I studied at the KHLim college university of Hasselt. As thesis, I built software that didn’t exist at that time. The software enabled to identify a tree, by identifying key characteristics of its leaves. At that time this was only possible by book (Flora). The software was honored by the Toshiba award in 2000, which resulted in an educational trip to South Africa.

In 2000 I converted the software to a website bomen-determineren.com (Dutch). In 2011 I translated the site to English: tree-key.org. In 2012 I created an app (iPhone/iPad). After more than ten years, the Tree Key can be used as it is meant to be: people can take a walk in a forest and identify trees, using the site or app. When I created the Trey Key, I created the potential for change to teachers and students.

The Dutch version of the site was visited a million times, due to the fact the matter is mandatory in the curriculum of primary schools.

To be honest, these facts and figures make me a little bit proud. The strong the fact I’m an innovator. But I’m also aware of my limitations. I’m not a visionary. I didn’t made research on the content. I was fortuned to have to right dose of inspiration at the right moment. Anyway, I have the greatest respect to visionaries and inventors. People who change other peoples lives by their innovations.