Innovation and Vinyl Records

As I sit in my office, thinking about my blog post for the week, I’m listening to an album on my record player. It is probably not an artist you have heard of (Hayden), but he is one of my favorites.

Now and then, the record skips, and you can hear some static, but there is a certain warmth to listening to a full album on vinyl. There is also a sweet inconvenience in the idea that only half of the record will play until I have to move over and either flip the album over or move the needle to the beginning to start over again. It creates the paradox of making me more attentive to the music while also allowing me to get lost in an album.

Strangely enough, in this same office, I have access to play music on a much better-sounding system through my phone. It sounds better, it is more convenient, and it can play on an endless loop with little to no effort. It is so much easier than my record player, but I go back for the nostalgia and warmth of what I used during my childhood.

I thought about this as someone who has spent at least the last decade focusing on innovation in learning to embrace “new and better” opportunities for learning for both students and adults.

Aren’t there lots of things in our life like this?

Some people prefer a handwritten card with the same words as an email, but not in the same format. I can easily access any device I have in my hand forever, and one takes more effort. Personally, I prefer an email over a card for that reason, but I can understand why so many love a beautiful message on a handwritten card.

As someone interested in basketball shoes, nothing will ever beat the style and look of the Air Jordan 1. They remind me of a time in my childhood when I was most interested in basketball and have some incredible memories of cheering with and against my closes friends. The technology of shoes is so much better now. But to me, Air Jordan 1’s are still the most iconic shoe.

We can write this and think, “but we need to move on in education; we can’t just do what we have done in the past.”

Or maybe, we can try to understand why people embrace the past so fervently?

I remember talking to a veteran teacher one day about all of the opportunities for student-led learning that we could do in education. She said something that really intrigued me.

“George, I agree with you that a lot of these opportunities are better for our kids to lead their learning, but I wanted to become a teacher so I can stand in front of kids and inspire them with my passion for what I teach. I wanted to be at the front of the classroom when I first started, and I haven’t lost that feeling.”

I didn’t respond because I wanted to think about what she had shared. She was a teacher that students loved and learned a lot from in her career. She was incredible, and she was doing things in a way that would be considered “old school,” but and was an incredible teacher. What she did was not just working for her but working for her students. She had inspired them to learn now and in the future.

I don’t know where I am going with this, but I am trying to recognize that sometimes when I know there is something “better” out there, I opt for something that is “better for me” at the moment.

Old does not equal bad and new does not equal good.

What works is what works, no matter the era it comes from.

For me, innovation is not about doing the latest and greatest but figuring out what works best for the people in front of us now. Sometimes that can be an old school idea or a new technology. It is less dependent on the “thing” and more connected to knowing the person you are serving.

That’s it for me now.

I have to flip my record over.

Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Consultant. I also like dogs.