The (Vintage) Innovation Exhibition

I first ran across the concept of “Vintage Innovation” in an email promoting John Spencer’s new book on the subject:

The idea is simple and yet, at the same time, counter-cultural. Vintage innovation rejects simple binaries and the notion that innovation always looks shiny and digital and instead asserts that “sometimes the best way to move forward is to look backward.”

Vintage Innovation is a both/and mindset. It’s the overlap of the “tried and true” and the “never tried.” It’s a mash-up of cutting edge tech and old school tools. It’s the overlap of timeless skills in new contexts.

John Spencer, Vintage Innovation (

It wasn’t so much that John Spencer rocked our world with a new idea; his argument instead resonated as familiar, echoing (and perhaps more clearly articulating) the song we’ve been singing all along. None of us have ever been interested in a monolithic vision of what an innovative class might look like. None of us have ever been interested in overthrowing effective pedagogical practices that happen to also be traditional and deeply-steeped. Instead all of us are interested in what happens when teachers have the resources, community, and time to step back and think honestly about the purpose and impact of the pedagogical choices that we make . . . and how much these choices make space for students to forge connections between school and the life they live today and will live tomorrow.

[Vintage Innovation] is a reminder that innovation isn’t about creating something new so much as relevant — and that relevance is often something disruptive. 

John Spencer, Vintage Innovation (

For me, the most effective part of that three minute video is when they cite specific teacher examples of innovation (e.g. “it’s what happens when you do sketch-note videos mashing up hand-drawn sketches with digital tools or blend Socratic discussions with podcasting.”) So when upper administration asked the i2 team to come up with some PD to launch Vintage Innovation during our PD on Tuesday 2/18, we quickly determined there was no need for a lengthy lecture presentation on vintage innovation. We wanted to show it rather than tell about it. Hence, we went to what we always go to: teachers sharing with teachers. One i2 team member, though, had an idea for a slight twist: “What if we asked for active demos rather than traditional breakout sessions? That way participants could actually try out these projects and ideas and really experience for themselves what it feels like to be a student in these classrooms!”

What resulted was the Innovation Exhibition, a packed afternoon featuring over 25 separate (very active) faculty-led demos (see above). All divisions of the school were well represented, and as I rushed from room to room to grab some pictures, I saw the many, many forms that innovation takes: from an academy-award-winning acting rendition of Goldilocks & the Three Bears (“Children’s Theater” led by Janie Bowen and the PK4 team) to faculty crammed in the i2 lab writing on the walls, trying out new apps, and sharing others they had encountered (“Wheel of Apps,” Lynda Morse).

In sum, I learned that innovation at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School takes on the shape of various forms of discussions, theater/drama, the incorporation of the arts, interdisciplinary STEM projects, immersive space adventures, mindfulness, project-based-learning & collaboration, movement, different forms of visual brainstorming, hands-on exploration, gamification, and so much more. This exhibition proved that faculty don’t need a lecture on Vintage Innovation. . . we are living into it each and every day.

Didn’t get to hit all of the sessions you wanted? (Neither did I!) Luckily, many facilitators uploaded resources and slides from their demos on the agenda. Innovation is, after all, ongoing. And as we continue to live into purposeful pedagogy of all shapes and sizes, one thing is certain: we innovate better when we innovate together.

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