Why? Why do we do what we do as innovators? Do we want to make an impact on children’s lives, so they can become the best people they can for a future that we do not know what it is going to hold? We want to raise a generation that cares about the world around them, shows empathy, knows how to problem solve, make things better, or invents something new to create a better the world. Do we need to transfer knowledge? No. Are we to dictate what they should know? No.
To develop caring individuals we need to provide them with a skill set, so they know how to act upon a given situation or a new idea. They need to know where to find relevant and accurate information, who to connect with, synthesize that information, and then how to communicate their findings to a captive audience. They learn how to collaborate and think outside of the box to solve a problem, build upon an existing idea, or design a radically new one. We are talking about innovation. Innovation’s definition is a new idea, device, or method. But it is more than just that it is to make something better. If we want (and we need to) provide our learners with skills, so they become successful, passionate, and applicable individuals, we need to innovate. And like George Couros says in his book The Innovator’s Mindset innovation is a mindset.
When we start with the youngest among us, we will have a bright future ahead. We can tap into knowledge with the touch of a button, but skills of identifying problems or opportunities and taking a vested interest in finding a solution give us an opportunity to teach the basics to learners and more. To research a topic, they need to know how to read. They need to know what the main idea is, how to summarize, how to make inferences. Data is most likely involved in some way, shape or form. They need to be able to make calculations, interpret data, visually represent that data and even predict outcomes. They need to learn how to write, how to organize, how to get a point across, and how to narrate, so readers clearly understand their story. Learners need to write in a way that it is a colorful and touching because we want the audience listening to act upon the delivered message. Findings can be communicated through a visual presentation as well. What we want for our learners is to be able to spark the interest of experts in an original way. They need to be able to pitch a speech. To deliver, inspire, or persuade others, they need to know and recognize emotions and character traits. To make an impact they need to be able to think creatively, to think out of the box, try different angles when faced with obstacles, and persevere. Learners need to have a vested interest in what it is they are doing.
Innovative projects that capture the interest of our youngsters have the opportunity to teach basic skills. Research gives us history. When they think of new ways of doing things, learners will explore the sciences. The arts might find a way throughout the whole process because we want to present or represent our passion in an expressive manner. Furthermore, culture and languages find a way into these projects because of real world connections in an ever growing global economic world. We no longer live in isolation. The world is changing so fast, consider the first human flying drone. No longer is the person in this new mode of transportation in control of the vehicle. Disruption of transportation is happening. How long will it be, so we no longer need driver licenses? We cannot think that giving kids just knowledge like education did for so long, can be enough for learners in school right now. The speed of technological advancement is one of exponential growth: we do not know what the world we will live in looks like when they get out of school.
Applying common core standards throughout a skill set of finding out what matters, researching, synthesizing, creating, redesigning, and delivering a presentation is possible. When they document and reflect on the process, they assess the risks they took. They learn from it and grow. Learning is now in their hands. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. As educators, we can guide them by saying “Let’s talk about what you’ve tried, and what you can try next.” Learners explore their passions, interests, and future through play and purpose like Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith describe in their book Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era. We want to design optimum learning environments where there is room for risk taking, critical thinking, self-assessment, reflection and connected learning. Never forgetting the person they are through character and citizenship. It is the skill set they can use for the rest of their lives. So I started with the WHY we do what we do as innovators. What possibly could stop you from doing so?