Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TIES 2012: Tuesday Keynote: Tony Wagner on Creating Innovators

Tony Wagner, author of the book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World was the keynote speaker on Tuesday, December 11 at the 2012 TIES Conference
He began by sharing the story of a classroom in New Orleans, where kids were excitedly using technology...to do test prep.
In another question, he talked about a teacher using lots of technology, but never explaining, "why math?

Knowledge today is commoditized. Very quickly you will be able to get a college education without leaving your house. What's school for then?

Routine jobs are being outsourced. 
The world no longer cares how much our kids know. It cares about what are students can DO with what they know!
Students need to be able to transform knowledge.
So what is the teachers roll?

When he read, The World is Flat, it scared the heck out of him. He talked to executives, community leaders, college teachers and recent graduates. They stated that the following competencies are more important than content acquisition.


  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving-We haven't done enough here, because we rarely assess it. The ability to ask really good questions, and Identify problems is more important. 
  2. Collaboration Across Networks-Collaboration around the world so that things work in more than one culture. Deep appreciation of differences. Lead by "Peers through Influence." Aside: Education is one of the biggest silos. How are educators going to be able to teach if they are not collaborating themselves?
  3. Agile and Adaptable 
  4. Initiative and Entrepreneurial Spirit-Employees with 10 stretch goals, who only reaches 5-7 is a hero.
  5. Writing-Students don't know how to construct and argument and write with voice.
  6. Accessing and Analyzing Information-In high school, we had to memorize the Periodic Table and planets. These have changed...
  7. Curiosity and Imagination-He talked about "A Whole New Mind" as an example of how right brain skills are very important today.


Right now, most of our instruction is multiple choice test prep that doesn't prepare us for these key skills.

He believes we need "Accountability 2.0" and rethink high school education. Then came the global economic collapse...
For the first time, we saw students with a B.A. degree and $25,000 in debt, unable to get a job.

He thought that students who went to school became more skillful. He was wrong!

Those skills are not being taught! The only thing sure with a B.A. is debt!

Our economy is based on consumer spending, fueled by people going into debt. 

Innovation is the key-We need students to be creative problem solvers!

Start with healing the planet!
The United States has always been known as a place of innovation. 
He listed Bill Gates, Bonnie Raitt, Mark Zuckerberg and others who were all Harvard drop-outs!

He mentioned Sir Ken Robinson's work on school killing creativity.

Wagner interviewed several innovators in their 20's who could all remember a mentor who made a difference in their lives. Those teachers were all outliers!

The patterns of teaching in the innovative schools like High Tech High, the MIT Media Lab and the Stanford D-School were similar.


  1. The culture of schooling ranks kids, and creates individual competition. The schools above value collaboration.
  2. The culture of schooling compartmentalizes. Innovation is interdisciplinary.
  3. The culture of school is passive. Sit and Get. In the innovative classrooms, the emphasis is on creation.
  4. The culture of schooling is risk adverse. We penalize failure and reward compliance. The culture of learning as an innovator is to learn from mistakes. (IDO is an example of an innovative company. Need trial and error.) The grade of F for students who try something and fail is now the new A at the Stanford D-school. 
  5. The culture of schooling relies extensively on extrinsic rewards for learning. In every case, the young innovators he talked to were intrinsically motivated. Their parents and teachers had emphasised play, passion and purpose.

Sometimes kids have to be bored to learn how to get unbored! Limited screen time was a common theme.
The importance of whimsy! 

Passion was valued more than achievement  Time was built in for students to design and build their own questions. Students focused on their interests and grew. Students learned that they were not on the earth just for themselves!

Wagner has 2 ways to make this happen for every kid! Accountability 2.0.


  1. We have to develop an accountability system that samples rather than tests every kid. Every student should have a digital portfolio with core competencies. Students and teachers collect the best evidence of mastery of those competencies. Teachers work to develop standards. The work is transparent though technology. Pathbright.com, 3RingBinder.com,. We also need teacher portfolios, with video of student interaction and student feedback.
  2. The Google Rule of 20% or the 3M Rule of 15% where people can follow their passions should be followed. He believes this rule should apply to every classroom. Students should document in their portfolio, set goals, evaluate, and set new goals. The teachers works as a "coach for excellence." Every teacher needs to be an effective coach today. Teachers need to model this innovation in their classroom.
He ended talking about a trip to Singapore, where he was talking about needing to be innovative by writing a book. He added a QR code linking to videos that tie to the book. 



He closed with a quote from Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.."

He gets to see the good things happening in classrooms around the country where people are bringing passion to their classrooms every day.






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