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Lesson: Innovation for Good

Quick Look: Students will engage in a discussion in small groups to create a "virtual innovation for the good," and present ideas to the class.

Grades: 6-12

Time: One to two 50-minute class periods

Materials: Internet connected computer with enabled sound, projector, computer lab if students are to conduct research on innovations (see resources below)

Learning Goals

  • Students will generate a definition of the difference between innovation, creativity, and invention.
  • Students will understand the historical significance of innovation.
  • Students will consider innovations around them.
  • Students will create a "virtual innovation."


MCREL Science Standard Level III - Grades 6-8

Knows that scientific inquiry and technological design have similarities and differences (e.g., scientists propose explanations for questions about the natural world that are always tentative and evolving, and engineers propose solutions relating to human problems, needs, and aspirations; both science and technology depend on accurate scientific information and they cannot contravene scientific laws)

MCREL Science Standard Level IV - Grades 9-12

Knows that science and technology are pursued for different purposes (e.g., scientific inquiry is driven by the desire to understand the natural world and seeks to answer questions that may or may not directly influence humans; technology is driven by the need to meet human needs and solve human problems)

Knows ways in which social and economic forces influence which technologies will be developed and used (e.g., cultural and personal values, consumer acceptance, patent laws, availability of risk capital, the federal budget, local and national regulations, media attention, economic competition, tax incentives)

Knows that technology can benefit the environment by providing scientific information, providing new solutions to older problems, and reducing the negative consequences of existing technology (e.g., monitoring a habitat or measuring greenhouse gases, improving renewable energy sources, and creating scrubbers to improve coal-burning facilities)


True innovators not only create something new, they create something that contributes to the creation of other new things. Creativity may generate art, and add ideas to a project. An invention can be anything new, like a toaster that can hold bagels, or a hand-powered flashlight — but innovation provides the materials or ideas for more innovations. Its results are exponential. Often it is a small idea, or an iteration of an earlier idea, but either way an innovation is quickly recognized due to its force of impact and broad application. Innovations are often small (batteries, microchips) they can often be found as parts of things instead of the thing itself. Also, consider that innovations can be processes, not always things.

Imagine using microchips only for computers, or batteries only for radios would that make sense? The innovations of microchips and batteries launched hundreds of new products and ideas — that is innovation.

True innovators recognize potential — they see ideas. They adapt what is good and make it better. Also, they don't wait for the right time or place; they make it the right time. This lesson explores: What does it take to be an innovator? How do you recognize a good idea?


  1. Discuss with students the ideas of innovation, creativity, and invention. Create a definition for each with the class that is mutually exclusive. Find out where the three words diverge from each other.
  2. Teachers may decide to have students spend part of the class doing Internet research, looking at some of the invention and innovation sites listed below, exploring the historical significance of innovation as well as finding examples. Create a class list of innovations that everyone recognizes and that are all around them.
  3. Consider: A light bulb is a kind of innovation, but the real innovation is what's inside that enabled many kinds of light bulbs and light-emitting devices to be created.
  4. Another example of an innovator: David Green established Aurolab in India, one of the largest manufacturers of intra-ocular lenses in the world. Aurolab sells lenses for $4-$6 that are priced at over $100 in the United States, thereby helping countless patients who otherwise could never afford such treatment to preserve their sight and ability to work. Following the success of these eye care models, Green turned his attention to developing similar solutions for the hearing impaired.
  5. What was the innovation that allowed David Green to produce items so cheaply?
  6. Have the students read more about Aurolab online.
  7. Listen to the David Green interview clips.
  8. Discuss the kinds of innovations that do good. Can the students identify other innovations that were intended to improve social, environmental, or economic conditions? (Suggestions: Microlending, see the "Power of Enterprise" episode of THE NEW HEROES; Braille, implementing bottle deposits to encourage return.)
  9. Put students in groups of three or four students. Using the class-generated list of criteria for "what is an innovation," ask groups to create a "virtual innovation." Describe the problem it is designed to solve, and how it works. Why is it innovative? What are its results? How does it create potential for other innovations? Is it a thing or a process?
  10. Share the ideas with the class in presentations.
  11. Additional activity: Students could choose one to invest in, based on quality of innovation and potential. This would generate higher-level thinking including analysis and critical thinking.

Key Concepts and Vocabulary

  • Innovation
  • Iteration, to iterate
  • Creativity
  • Invention
  • Exponential power, impact or growth
  • Applying an existing idea to a new situation
  • Recognition of potential
  • Adaptation
  • Look at challenges as opportunity


The Lemelson Center

The Tech Museum, San Jose California

David Green's site on medical innovations

Suggested Extensions

If starting with this lesson consider the connections to the unit titled "Bringing the Future to People" drawn from THE NEW HEROES episode "The Technology of Freedom."

About the Classroom Content

These teacher resources were developed by the Learning Innovation and Technology Consortium (LITC). LITC develops educational programs and materials in support of problem solving, innovation, and social entrepreneurship.