I don’t remember why this book came on my radar. I wasn’t at ACTFL 2013, where Tony Wagner delivered the keynote address. I thought someone blogged about it but now I can’t find out where that was. In any case, I’m so glad someone recommended I read this book.
Summary: Passion, purpose, and play. What kind of people come out of training that is infused with those three things?
The answer: innovators. Creative people who will change the world.
My take on it: I sit down to write a review of this book, and I realize I cannot even do justice to it. Read it. Read it please. So there are some parts of it where I think, Tony, you don’t know what it’s like to be in a classroom day after day, year after year, and we can’t just change that because we know we should, and I found myself falling into that old trap of thinking, wait, Tony, but what about how they’re going to make money? And I appreciate a quote with this nod to practicality in the book’s epilogue:
I sensed this one blind spot in these young people–the lack of a clear understanding of how their innovations can be converted into value that sustains their enterprises, their communities, and themselves… I think this will be the biggest hurdle for this generation of innovators–making passion pay the bills.
But oh wow, this book. How could I not love it when it’s so fond Daniel Pink (Drive) and his research showing the motivation that comes from autonomy, mastery, and purpose? It’s sweeping, it’s inspiring, it’s game-changing, it’s life-changing, and not just your life, not just your students’ lives, but all our lives if we could just decide once and for all that we’re going to believe in kids and inspire them and that we don’t even have to inspire them, we just need to cheer them on as they inspire themselves, and we’ll finally stop killing creativity in our classrooms and homes and schools in the name of you need to be just like …. [me, angel kid, superstar, rich guy]….
If you’ve read Brain Rules and Drive and you need another book to change your teaching/parenting/mentoring world like those did, if you’re only going to read one nonfiction book in 2015, please make it Creating Innovators.
Three ways reading this book will change my teaching / parenting / homeschooling:
- I will work harder to help guide my children and my students to find out how their passion may become their life purpose.
- I will ask students to consider how a new language could help them use their passions to change the world.
- I will explore what design-based teaching would look like in the world language classroom, with a lot of research on project-based learning via pumping Don Doehla and Laura Sexton for expertise.
On our education system:
I am frankly appalled at the idea, now widely held, that the best measure of teachers’ effectiveness is students’ performance on standardized, multiple-choice tests. I am not a fan of teacher tenure, and I believe strongly in accountability for improved student learning. However, most policy makers–and many school administrators–have absolutely no idea what kind of instruction is required to produce students who can think critically and creatively, communicate effectively, and collaborate versus merely score well on a test.
I rarely hear a teacher at any grade level talk about wanting to empower their students… but as Ed explained the deficiencies of his own education–where the learned the content needed to pass his professors’ tests, but couldn’t do anything on his own–the goal of empowerment made more sense to me. Academic content is not very useful in and of itself. It is knowing how to apply it in new situations or to new problems that matters most in to the world of innovation.
We see the importance of an outlier teacher whose collaborative, project-based, interdisciplinary approach to learning had a profound effect on the development of a young person.
There is growing alarm in this country about the inadequate preparation of teachers and school administrators.
What I have learned is that merely giving students more of the same education will not create students who can innovate. For students to become innovators in the twenty-first century, they need a different education, not merely more education.
As adults–parents, teachers, and mentors–it is sometimes too easy for us to treat the dreams and fantasies of someone like Jamien as peculiar or even ridiculous. Apparently, that’s how Jamien’s college teachers reacted to his aspirations. And it is precisely this kind of adult behavior that stifles curiosity, creativity, and imagination.
From some young innovators-
Everything in grad school was project-based–one project per semester for the entire two-year program. There were no classes or tests. Teams were usually given a real-world client or a problem to solve. Grades were determined by the presentations we did…
[MIT’s Media Lab is] the only grad school I would have gone to. There are no grades, no structured program, no required classes–you just create and build things that people need. That’s what I wanted for my education–classes I want to take skills I want to learn, instead of having to take silly classes that don’t matter.
When I first started the project, I never thought in a million years that teachers would want me to come in and talk to their classes because I wasn’t the greatest student, and I never had a teacher who liked me.
My parents also didn’t schedule my time to the last minute. I had time to think and make up my own games…. Most kids’ parents push them to excel in sports or get into a good college–they don’t let kids explore–which makes a big difference developmentally…. In high school, I did work for good grades…but all the pressure from so many tests hurt my creative endeavors. Math was my least favorite subject–too abstract, and there was no creative way to apply what I was learning or mess around with ideas.
If you look at 4-year-olds, they are constantly asking questions and wondering how things work. But by the time they are 6 1/2 years old they stop asking questions because they quickly learn that teachers value the right answers more than provocative questions.
[One of my objectives was] to get our children out of their privileged enclave. So rather than enroll Kirk in the suburban soccer league near us, we went down to a blue collar neighborhood, where everyone spoke Spanish…. I didn’t care if he was on a winning team or even a starter–I just wanted him to develop his interest in sports and to experience other kinds of people.
Young innovators almost invariably develop a passion to learn or do something as adolescents, but their passions evolve through learning and exploration into something far deeper, more sustainable, and trustworthy–purpose.
From inspiring teachers and professors:
In the seminar, I am teaching them how to figure out that mitochondria make energy. Problem solving. Asking questions. Coming up with novel solutions. Unfortunately in my classroom, I don’t feel that I have enough time to do these kinds of activities because I have all of these rigid content standards that I have to cover for the state tests.
The value of explicit information is rapidly dropping to zero.
Today, it’s not what you know, it’s having the right questions. I see three stages in the evolution of learning: The first is the memorization-based, multiple-choice approach, which is still widely prevalent; then there’s project-based learning where the problem is already determined; finally there’s design-based learning where you have to define the problem… We are trying to teach students how to frame problems versus repeat the answers.
The key to success in the future is not what you know, but whether you are able to think and act creatively.
Wagner uses Teresa Amabile’s three elements of creativity for part of his framework: expertise, creative thinking skills, and motivation.
I asked what they most wanted [Bing Nursery School @ Stanford] students to learn from their play.
“To observe, problem solve, be able to take perspectives, have empathy, use multiple strategies for problem solving, have a love of learning and a capacity for design thinking” was Beth [Wise]’s immediate answer.
(She has been reading How Children Succeed.)
Many of the parents I interviewed said that it is important to allow their children to make mistakes and to not protect them from failure.
And I’ll leave you with a terribly unpopular and absolutely vital comparison to the army’s strategy:
Imagine how different things might be if our nation’s leaders talked and acted as though transforming education was a matter of life and death for the economic future of our country–as, indeed, I think it is. And imagine if our secretary of education had the clarity that was evident in the army paper about what needs to change immediately in our education system. imagine how different our schools and colleges could be if they all simply made the same three changes that the army is implementing: “Convert most clasroom experiences into collaborative problem-solving events led by facilitators; tailor learning to the individual learner’s experience and competence level; dramatically reduce or eliminate instrcutor-led slide presentation lectures.”