Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to Teach Young People to Change the World

Is the American Educational System Obsolete?  Yes, answers Tony Wagner, the Education Fellow at Harvard University's Technology and Innovation Center.  Prior to that, Wagner had spent over 10 years at  Harvard's School of Education analyzing the changes that need to happen in education in order to prepare students for the 21st century global economy.

In his new book, Creating Innovators:  The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World,  Wagner studies American innovators and discovers some common patterns in their childhood and education--patterns that, alas, are discouraged by most traditional schools.  Wagner puts forth a case for a radical transformation of the fundamental principles of education, with the emphasis on the following five principles:

1.  Focus on Collaboration and Teamwork, rather than Individual Competition and Achievement
All the most important ideas and issues are just too big for only one person to handle

2.  Take a Cross Disciplinary and Multiple Perspectives Approach
This is kind of the curricular corellary to the point above.  Wagner points out that the Carnegie-unit-based high school structure is now 125 years old and is outdated for today's realities.

3.  Take Risks
Innovation, by its nature, requires experimentation, which means that most time, you are going to fail and/or be wrong.  That is anathama to way traditional school curricula approach most things.

4.  Learning Should be Active, Not Passive
Wagner argues that our current educational systems make students into learning consumers, not learning creators.  How are they suddenly going to turn into creating exciting new ideas and projects if they've been trained to sit back and be spoon fed everything during their education?

5.  Learning Should be Based on Instrinsic Rewards and Passions
Traditional schools are built around motivating students through extrinsic rewards--grades, gold stars, praise from happy teachers and parents, etc.  But innovators are driven by their internal passions, ideas, and motivations.

You can learn more by viewing this TED-style talk by Wagner:

or, of course, by ordering his book.

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