Rediscovering and redefining innovation in education in Europe

Image: Sergey Nivens /

Innovation is usually defined as a new idea, or a new method. It can also be a change, a reorganization or a transformation. When it comes to education the approach to innovation is in terms of school development and improvement, appropriate to the needs of learners.

In this article we present three projects that have tried to use already existing resources and means but with a different perspective, and to use them in new contexts.

Irresistible project: partnerships between schools, research, and industry

The Irresistible project applies the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) approach which aims to engage the public actively in research and innovation, and make access to seemingly incomprehensible scientific results much easier. The project focuses on primary and secondary education and encourages children and young people to apply the knowledge they have acquired from all subjects in the curriculum in solving real problems.

Within this EC-funded project the six aspects of RRIengagement, gender equality, science education, ethics, open access and governance – have been addressed and developed in ten teaching modules, which have been co-developed by teachers, education experts from universities, exhibition experts from museums/science centers and researchers from the respective thematic field.

Students have learned about healthy ageing, genomics, oceanography and climate change, renewable energy and sustainability, and nanoscience including nanotechnology and nanomaterials. This has been both in school and by the students visiting relevant research labs and translating the results from their programme into exhibits offering insights into the relationship between research and society. 

For more videos from the Irresistible project visit their YouTube channel

Creative Connections: fostering creativity and innovation through action research

The EC-funded Creative Connections project (2012-2014) used art as means of exploring citizenship and offered pupils the opportunity to express feelings about European identities through visual media and online blogging. The project didn't only apply an interdisciplinary approach, but it engaged teachers in action research that helped them to develop their practice.

Within the project students and teachers from the Czech Republic, Spain, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Finland create together the Connected Gallery which includes five steps: depicting their identities, presenting their nations and communities, composing visual reports, developing cultural guides and acting upon these ideas. The Connected Gallery is a powerful tool that can be used to explore and help children identify their national, but also their European Identity.

The project offers also a rich list of lesson plans and practical advice for instance on how to set up a blog or manage online translation tools, and links to resources for teaching. 

iTEC - designing the future classrooms

“The future classroom is not about the environment or about the furniture or the technology either. It’s about how the students learn.” Kerry Shoebridge, iTEC teacher, United Kingdom

In iTEC (Innovative Technologies for Engaging Classrooms, 2010-2014), European Schoolnet worked with 26 project partners, including 14 Ministries of Education, to transform the way technology is used in schools.

Over the course of the project, educational tools and resources were piloted in over 2,500 classrooms across 20 European countries, with the goal of providing a sustainable model for fundamentally redesigning teaching and learning. The project involved funding of €9.45 million from the European Commission’s FP7 programme. Read about the evaluation results here.

The key project outcomes included Future Classroom Scenarios course (face-to-face and online version), Edukata Participatory Design Model, and the Future Classroom Toolkit (see the video).