Creating Innovators – The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World

How are we going to educate students to be prepared to live and work in a world where up-to-date encyclopedic information is as close as a smart phone click? Where new technologies are being developed at lightning speed? Where many jobs are being outsourced to countries where they can be accomplished at lower costs? And other jobs are being automated? Tony Wagner explores these questions in his book Creating Innovators – The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.
Wagner and videographer Robert Compton interviewed parents, young STEM and social innovators, and business and military leaders, to find out what it takes to create a mindset that is ready to be creative, take risks, identify needs, and work toward solutions. The message for teachers is that we need to take the role of guide on the side rather than sage on the stage. Gone are the days when sitting in a lecture hall to “receive” information will be sufficient to develop the skills students need. As Paul Bottino (of the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard) says, “The value of explicit information is rapidly dropping to zero. Today the real added value is what you can do with what you know.”
This may come as good news to students whose forte is not memorization, but instead, the ability and desire to explore, experiment, work and play with others, and think in divergent and convergent ways. It may come as bad news to teachers who like their students to sit quietly in neat rows and not ask questions that start with, “What if…” Wagner says, “It is a rare class that genuinely encourages students to take intellectual risks, and that encourages learning from- rather than penalizing – failure.”
Wagner quotes General Martin Dempsey of the US Army who tells rising battalion brigade commanders “I [make} three promises: one, we are not going to give you an organization that is perfectly fitted to your needs; two, we are not going to give you the equipment that is exactly what you’d like to have to accomplish your mission; and three, the guidance you get is likely to be late to your need. The answer is you – you the leader- have to figure this out.”
When I think about the path real life takes for most people, I think Dempsey has it just about right. You could promise that to anyone in any situation and be true to your promises.
As all of these interviews were taking place, Robert Compton has his camera running. The book is full of QR codes which, when scanned with a QR scanner such as Tag Reader, will bring up the video so you can watch the interview. All of the interviews can be found at
Whether or not you agree with Wagner, this book offers food for thought about how we should approach the education of today’s students.
My favorite Wagner quote:
“If you don’t fail, you are probably playing it too safe. But you will learn some of your most valuable lessons from failure – far more that your successes.”

Click here for more information on the book.

Categories: 21st Century Skills, Book Review | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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