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How might we create the next great innovator?

By Lisa Abel-Palmieri
July 1, 2014
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Empowering students to be critical thinkers, to design, develop and devise solutions to both local and global problems, to be coders, writers and computational thinkers — these are just a few of the ways schools promote innovative thinking and doing.

In Creating Innovators, Tony Wagner describes the crisis facing education in a society that requires innovative workers and thinkers. Wagner argues we must invest more in enabling play, passion and purpose in the lives of learners and focus less on industrial modes of production and standardized testing.

In his session on " "Creating Innovators: Educating Students Who Will Change the World," " Howie DiBlasi said creativity is the foundation of innovation and is vital for our students to succeed in the global economy. Students must be engaged in creative problem solving, failure, critical thinking, adaptability, collaboration, communication, curiosity and imagination.

New to the conference this year, ISTE's EdTekTalks focused on topics meant to inspire innovative thinking: maker education, design thinking, taking risks, next generation robotic technologies and ways to engage girls and young women in technology.


Why making matters

According to Dale Dougherty, Creator of Make magazine and Maker Faire, growing makers in schools is a key strategy to promote innovative thinking and problem solving. Some of the applications for this technology are personal. The maker movement isn't just about kids, its about designing creative school cultures. MakerBot Replicator 3D printer

In maker education, people use everything from fairly complex tool systems to junk, but its still meaningful and creative. The intensity of doing something and making something is powerful. Making is physical, digital and social. It's taking the physical world and connecting it to the digital realm. Anyone can design and develop a product or teach someone else how to make something.

" "Everyone makes at some level, but we have forgotten about it," " Dougherty said.

As psychologist Jerome Bruner said in 1996, effective learning requires " "deep immersion in a consequential activity." " It matters to be a maker. Experimental play helps students learn both what doesn't work and what does.

Maker education engages kids through relevance, which STEM classes often lack. How can we reinvent our STEM curriculum to incorporate maker education?  We need more maker spaces with tools, mentors and materials. Dougherty calls for maker coaches in schools who can give students feedback on performance. Kids need to document their process and share with others.

Embracing limitation Phil Hansen visual quote

Phil Hansen, an experimental artist who also spoke during the EdTekTalks, says when grow older we stop asking " "what if" " and tend to believe " "what is." " Hansen went from a single approach to creating art to one that opened his creative horizons. Hansen took a risk, embraced limitations and solved problems in innovative ways. His message to the audience was to quit trying so hard to think out of the box but get into it.

Could our students be creative if they actually embraced their limitations? Might they become limited to become limitless? Taking a cue from his own artistic journey, Hansen challenged us to spark our creativity by thinking inside the box. Through an integrated view of what sparks creativity, he has devoted himself to teaching others the approaches to creativity that have changed both his outlook and his artistic endeavors.

The global world requires students to think about " "what if instead of what is." " Students can take the creativity developed inside of class and apply it to the rest of their lives. Teachers can free up class time to make a space for project-based learning and design thinking challenges by flipping classroom lectures and putting them online in a system like the Haiku Learning Management System, Project Foundry or recorded with Juno Connect by Front Row, featured in the exhibition hall.

Explore the maker education resources on the Maker Education Initiative website, such as the Young Makers Playbook, or join the #dtk12chat Twitter discussion on design thinking in education, which happens every Wednesday at 9 p.m.

Innovative makerspace

Want to learn more ways to incorporate STEM skills into your lessons? Check out ISTE's STEM webinars.

Lisa Abel-Palmieri, Ph.D., is the director of technology and innovation and head of computer science at The Ellis School. Connect with her on Twitter via @Learn21Tech.