Innovation is a good thing. I believe human beings are intrinsically creative beings that are always inventing new things because this is part of our nature. In my opinion, for something to be innovative it doesn’t need to be a new Physics theory, but it must be something that provides new creative solutions or approaches to old problems or new challenges. Something that makes people think and do things in an easier, more efficient and/or enjoyable way. Something like finally finding out a logical way of shelving the books! (Well, that would be great really – I am still trying to find a reasonable way of doing that.)
Ten years ago the British Council created the ELTons, which is a really nice acronym for ELT Innovation Awards. As the blurb says, the ELTons ‘are the only international awards that recognise and celebrate innovation in the field of English language teaching.’
I am particularly fond of the Macmillan Education Award for Innovative Writing. I think this is an example of a big publisher really fostering innovation that come from teachers. I also think that the Local Innovation Award is very important because it recognizes initiatives that have a focus on local communities in different countries around the world. Yet, the fact that we need a category just for that shows perhaps how much the other categories are still very much dominated by mainstream publishers.
I have nothing against big publishers. On the contrary, I think sometimes they are really the ones who push the boundaries of innovation and give us all conditions and incentive to work. However, I confess that I still find it difficult to nominate a new dictionary or another textbook series, for example, as ‘innovative,’ no matter how different in certain aspects they can be.
Besides that, it seems to me that we still fail to recognize innovation and creativity that comes from teachers working in classrooms. Most English language teachers I have met in my life are incredibly innovative in the way they plan lessons and come up with ideas to teach students sometimes in the most adverse conditions and circumstances. Unfortunately, most of this grassroots creativity and innovation goes unnoticed and unrewarded. I suppose I would like to see a new category that awarded educational projects and innovative teaching ideas.
In spite of that, I do believe that 10 years later the spirit of the ELTons is still very much alive. I do think the ELTons are a great initiative and we, as a profession, are much better served because it exists and pushes us all to never rest on our laurels but keep changing things. Thanks to the BC for the ELTons (and the party!) and congratulations to all the 2013 nominees and winners!