Tony Wagner: “Change Leadership: Transforming Education for the 21st Century” | Talks at Google

Tony Wagner: “Change Leadership: Transforming Education for the 21st Century” | Talks at Google

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>>Female Presenter: It’s my privilege today
to introduce Tony Wagner. Who I consider to be one of the most innovative and forward
thinking thought leaders in education today. I could read his long list of accomplishments.
His work at Harvard. His work as a teacher. And as as principal. But you could read that
all on his website at Tony Wagner dot com if you’d like to. And I just wanna basically
let you know that this book that he’s written “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young
People Who Will Change the World” is really a fabulous read. We’re gonna be selling it
outside, right outside there. You can buy a copy and have Tony sign it afterward and
he’s gonna be kind of giving an overview of the work he’s seen in this space. So please
welcome Tony Wagner. [applause]>>Tony Wagner: Delighted. Good morning. Thank
you, thank you. It’s really a pleasure to be here. A lot more fun than being at Microsoft,
where I was three weeks ago. I have to tell you. [laughter] But, that’s not for attribution. How many of you here are parents? Raise your
hands. How many of you here are educators? Raise
your hands. OK. I love to begin with a quote from Einstein.
“The formulation of the problem is often more essential than the solution.” We talk a lot
about problem solving. Problem identification is arguably the most important skill of the
21st century. For 25 years we’ve been talking about failing schools and the need to reform
education. Part of the problem is it’s a little bit punitive language. Anybody wanna go to
reform school? Raise your hands. It’s very punitive. [laughter] But beyond that I think that problem is not
the right problem. If we merely aspire to bring our disadvantaged students up to the
levels of achievement of our middle class students, we will fail all of our students.
And put our economy in even greater jeopardy. So that’s what I wanna talk about. Fundamentally the problem is this. Our system
of education is obsolete. And needs reinventing. Not reforming. And that is a completely different
education problem. And guess what? Google is mostly to blame for that obsolescence.
I’m about to explain why. Because of Google and other events, what one knows today no
longer matters? How much you know is not a competitive advantage. Information has become
commoditized. It’s like air. It’s like water. It’s on every internet connected device, growing
exponentially. How many of you had to memorize the periodic
table in high school? Raise your hands. How many elements were there? [quiet audience response] I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that answer. [audience members call out answers loudly]
[laughter] Whatever answer you gave was wrong, because
two more were added last week. If you don’t believe me Google it. [laughter] Ah, how many of you had to memorize the state
capitals? Raise your hands. OK. Let’s have a competition. How many of you would like
to recite them from memory while I Google them and let’s see who’s quicker? [laughter] Memory is not something we need to think about
educating as we have in the past. The world no longer cares how much you know. What the
world cares about is what you can do with what you know. And that is a completely different
education problem. It’s not about filling people up with more knowledge. It’s about
skill and it’s about will. So I’m gonna be talking about skill and will in the context
of education. Back in 2005, I read “The World Is Flat” by
Thomas Friedman. How many of you have read that? Those of you who haven’t I encourage
you to. Most important book I’ve read in at least a decade. Scared the heck out of me.
Because as many of you know, Friedman describes a world where increasingly any knowledge,
I’m sorry, any work that can be routinized is very rapidly be off shored or automated.
And I talked with him recently. He said he got one thing wrong in that book. I said “What?”
He said, “The pace of change.” It’s happening far, far more quickly than he ever imagined. So I think the question becomes in a global
knowledge economy, what skills will our young people need? Will your children need? To succeed.
So that was a burning question for me back then. And I decided to interview a very wide
range of leaders. Corporate leaders from Apple to Unilever. Leaders in the military. Community
leaders. College teachers. Asking all of them “What are the skills that matter most? What
are the gaps?” And I came to understand there’s a set of core competencies every single student
must be well on the way to mastering before he or she finishes high school. Some of you may have read my book “The Global
Achievement Gap” that describes this. Came out about four years ago. Very briefly they
are: Number one, critical thinking and problem solving. And fascinatingly, executives describe
critical thinking first and foremost as the ability to ask really good questions. Try
an interesting exercise. Do a learning walk. Observe classrooms. And listen for who is
asking what kinds of questions. Collaboration across networks and leading
by influence was number two. Agility and adaptability was number three. Initiative and entrepreneurialism
was number four. Number five was, effective oral and written communication. And it is
by the way the number one complaint of both college teachers and employers. Number six
was accessing and analyzing information. Number seven was curiosity and imagination. So that book came out about three and a half
years ago. And it describes the new skills. And the global achievement gap is the gap
between the new skills all students will need. Not just for a good career, but for continuous
learning and active and informed citizenship. Those skills versus what is taught and tested
even in our very best schools. That’s the global achievement gap. That gap between the
new skills all students need as well as how they are motivated to learn. Versus what we’re
teaching and testing. So that’s skill. So two things happened when that book came
out three and a half years ago. Number one, I got a kind of affirmation frankly that stunned
me. From literally from Taiwan to Singapore to Helsinki to Bahrain to Thailand to Birmingham,
England. Around the world, people saying “Yep, these are exactly the right skills, would
you come and talk to our audiences about them?” From Wall Street to West Point, same message
exactly. But then the other thing happened. The global financial collapse. I saw students
with a BA degree and about 30,000 dollars of debt on average coming home to no job.
Now they had seemingly mastered many of these skills. But what was missing? Why weren’t
they able to find jobs? Or create jobs? Right now today, the un- and under-employment rate
among college graduates 2005 and more recent is 44 percent. [pause] About 22 percent are completely unemployed.
The other 22 percent have jobs that do not require a college education. What’s the problem?
Well, as I came to try to understand it and come to grips with the global economic collapse.
And mind you, I’m a recovering high school English teacher. So what I knew about economics
four years ago you could put in a thimble. But I really studied it and I came to understand
a couple of things. Number one, our economy has become a more and more and more dependent
upon consumer spending as the engine of our economy. Back at the end of World War II,
nearly 50 percent of all jobs were manufacturing related. Now we don’t make so much as we do
buy stuff other people have made. That’s point one. Point two, that consumer economy has been
fueled by debt. People putting money on their credit cards as fast as they can. Pulling
the money out of their houses as fast as they could. The savings rate in 2007 was minus
two percent. Leading me to conclude that perhaps we’ve created an economy based on people frequently
spending money they do not have, to buy things they may not need, threatening the planet
in the process. Now, the question becomes, how do we become less reliant on consumer
spending? Which is not sustainable economically, environmentally, or spiritually in my opinion.
How do we become less reliant on that? What’s gonna replace it? What’s gonna be the engine
of growth? What’s gonna create jobs in the future? So I read, over and over again, one
word kept coming up. Innovation. Now let me be clear, we’re not just talking
about breakthroughs in science technology, engineering and math. Innovation as I’m using
it is broadly defined. Becoming a country that produces young people who have more better
ideas to solve more different kinds of problems than what we have today. Young people who
are creative problem solvers. That’s the simplest definition of innovation. Someone who is a
creative problem solver. First of all, a problem identifier, and then a creative problem solver. Now, we’ve always been known as a country
that’s been highly innovative. But is that because of or in spite of our education system? [audience chuckles] [unintelligible] percent question for the
day. Are you ready for this? I’m gonna say it so fast you won’t have time to Google it.
What do Bill Gates, Edwin Land the inventor of the Polaroid instant camera, Bonnie Raitt
the folk singer, and Mark Zuckerberg all four have in common? They were not college drop outs, I’m sorry.
They were Harvard college dropouts. [laugher] That’s different. I mean, you know, Steve
Jobs, he was just a college dropout. Michael Dell, he was just a college dropout. These
guys were Harvard college dropouts. So I decided to take on a very different kind
of research. I wanted to try to understand, what must we do differently as parents? As
teachers? As mentors? And as employers? To develop the capacities of many, many, many,
more young people to be creative problem solvers. To be innovators. In whatever they do. Not
just STEM fields. Social innovators and entrepreneurs. Innovators in all domains. So I first interviewed
a very wide variety of young people in their twenties. Who were highly innovative. But
again in a broad range of fields. Some were artists, musicians, social entrepreneurs.
Some were in STEM fields. And then I studied their ecosystems. By that
I mean I went and interviewed each one of their parents. Trying to see if I could discern
patterns of parenting that had made a difference. I asked each one of them, “Was there a teacher
or a mentor?” who had made a significant difference in their lives? In their development as innovators.
30 percent could not name a single teacher. Almost all of those young people were from
disadvantaged backgrounds. Where their schools and teachers were not what one finds here.
The other 70 percent could name a teacher. And you know the span of teachers was elementary
to graduate school. Then I went and interviewed each of those teachers and mentors. From these
young innovators. Profiled. Talked to them and came to understand something
that I still to this day find shocking. In every single case, these teachers from elementary
to graduate school, were themselves outliers in their educational settings. Their institutions.
Teaching in ways that were very different than their peers. But remarkably similar to
one another. And further, when I went to those few schools that we have identified as doing
an outstanding job of educating people to be innovators, talking about High Tech High.
I’m talking about Olin College of Engineering. I’m talking about The D School here at Stanford.
I’m talking about the MIT Media Lab. When I visited those places, the kinds of teaching
I saw there was totally consistent across those schools. And completely congruent with
the ways in which these young, these outlier teachers whom I had interviewed were teaching.
And so I came to understand that the culture of learning that produces innovators. The
work culture which we’ve been talking about. It develops the capacity to innovate. In a
classroom or in a corporation indeed. Is radically at odds with the culture of schooling in most
classrooms. In five essential respects. Number one. Culture of innovation is all about
collaboration. Teamwork. Accountable teamwork. All of these teachers built accountable teamwork
into almost all of their assignments. Valued teamwork as much as individual achievement.
Number two, the culture of learning to become an innovator is all about problem based learning
using multiple disciplines. It’s right here. Judy Gilbert director of talent here at Google
said to me: “If there’s one thing academics must understand is that problems can neither
be identified, let alone solved, within the bright lines of individual academic disciplines.”
The culture of schooling is all about becoming a specialist. That’s what we incent. That’s
what we reward. First we divide and conquer the high school universe. With curriculum.
Carnegie units. Which have not changed in 125 years. Then when we go to college we’re
supposed to have a major. Oh and we want to teach in college. We wanna have a, uh, doctorate.
When I did my doctorate at Harvard, I was told my first year that my dissertation would
be a conversation between myself and one or two other people in the world. Conversation
with two people. For four years? I don’t think so. [audience chuckles] I chose a different path. Got through Harvard
but by other means. Number three. The world of innovation, learning
to become an innovator is learning how to make mistakes, reflect on them, and learn
from them. Iterate. I was down here at IDO, talked to folks there. They said “Our motto
is ‘Fail early and fail often.’ There is no innovation without trial and error.” A student at Olin said “You know, we don’t
even talk about failure here. We talk about iteration.” Very different world. The D School
at Stanford they’re sitting around the table talking. “Actually, you know we were thinking,
F is the new A.” [laughter] Try that out on your parents. [laughter] Number four. The culture of learning to become
an innovator is an active process. Where students are creators. Where students are producing
real products for real audiences. Solving real problems. So often the culture of schooling
is the absolute antithesis. It’s about consuming, not creating. Sit and “git”. In fact, I wonder
if that’s where we learn to be such good little consumers. We start out, that’s how we get
schooled 12, 16 years. Number five and most important, I think. I
discovered that every single one of these young innovators whom I profiled from both
advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds was intrinsically motivated. And then when I looked
at what their parents and their teachers had done they too were very focused on intrinsic
motivation. Radically at odds with the culture of schooling which is all about carrots and
sticks. As and Fs and pizza on Fridays if you get good test scores. So what do these
parents do? What do these teachers do? There was a pattern of play, to passion, to purpose.
Parents encouraging much more exploratory, discovery based play. Simple toys. Sand, blocks,
clay, water, paint. Lego toys as they got older. Toys without batteries. They limited
screen time. They actively encouraged their kids to find and pursue a passion. They gave
them a rich buffet of things to try out. Making sure though, that they didn’t over schedule
their kid’s times. So the kids still had time for more discovery based play. But they encouraged
them to try instruments or Scouts or sports or whatever. Not insisting that they put in
10,000 hours to become absolutely excellent at it. But that they really give it a try
and see if it’s something they were interested in. These parents as well as the teachers
believed it was more important that these kids find an pursue a passion than they simply
achieve academically for its own sake. Teachers building time into every single unit
of study where students could investigate, explore, create, invent, ask a question. And
you know, the 20 percent time here at Google comes immediately to mind, ’cause I think
the best teachers build 20 percent time into each one of their classes. To insure that
students have that time to explore, invent, and create. I wonder, what would happen if
we said “Why shouldn’t every teacher have 20 percent time?” [audience response “Mmmm.” ] To pursue his or passions in the context of
teaching and learning. As these young people continue to explore
ideas and interests and their passions. Their passions didn’t stay the same. They morphed.
They evolved. Tell a quick story. Kirk Phelps grew up here in the Silicon Valley. Father
worked at HP at the time. Passionate about science. Really totally passionate about science.
By the age of middle school he’s sort of working in labs in the summer, washing out beakers.
Doesn’t matter what he’s doing. He’s around science and scientists. Parents say “Oh, wow,
let’s go find the best science school for him ’cause that’s what he’s interested in
now.” Knowing that it may change. Got him into Exeter Academy. Because it was reputed
to have the best of the best science programs. By the end of the 11th grade Kirk has done
pretty much every science class there, and he’s kinda bored. The Harkness table, the
famed idea of sitting around and having a Socratic discussion. Well, it isn’t quite
like that. And Kirk says “I wanna leave. I wanna drop out.” What would you say as a parent
to a kid who’s about to drop out of the most prestigious private school in the country.
With no diploma. Well, I can tell you what Exeter said. They
said “Oh, well you’ll never get into college.” Well, he did. He got into Stanford. For a
combined BS/MS program. And he evolves. You know, at first he thinks he wants to be a
scientist. Then he thinks it’s too lonely. He’s drawn to computer science. But then the
idea of writing code all day that nobody would see didn’t quite grab him either. So then
he takes this extraordinary class. Taught by Ed Carryer right down the road here. In
a smart product design lab. It’s a combination of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering,
computer science. Where teams build things. Using those disciplines. They solve problems.
They build things. Ed Carryer by the way is one of my outliers. He’s taught at Stanford
20 years. Has a PhD from Stanford. Ten years of industry experience. He is a professor
of practice with an annual renewal contract. And he has to scrounge money every single
year for his smart product design lab. Kirk said he was hands down the very best teacher
he had ever had. Why does he not have tenure? For the same reason the faculty whom I interviewed
at Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Tulane don’t have tenure and will never get
tenure. Because they don’t do research. Their focus is teaching. And teaching young people
to be innovators. But that’s not privileged by the university. So to finish the Kirk Phelps story. His passions
have morphed. They’ve evolved. He now knows that he loves the combination of electrical,
mechanical scientific engineering. But what he really loves is to manage complex projects.
He become a teaching fellow for Ed Carryer. Totally excited about this. So what happens
next? Two courses shy of both degrees, which were concurrent degrees, he drops out. Again.
Now what do you say as a parent? [audience chuckles and mutters] Well, you might not worry too much when you
hear that, in fact, he was recruited by Apple to be the product manager for the very first
iPhone. And today he is working at a startup called Sun Run, which is developing a whole
new model for installing solar panels on residences. But I illustrate this story because it’s a
wonderful story of play to passion to purpose. And purpose for young adults become an expression
of passion. But one that goes deeper, ’cause it’s about making a difference. It’s about
having an impact. And at the same time, it is a form of adult play. So I’m gonna stop
at this point, ’cause I really wanna hear your questions, your comments, your concerns.
And we’ll sort of take the conversation based on where you want it to go. OK? Questions. Comments. Actually, you know what
I’m gonna do? I’m gonna break it up. I’m gonna invite you for exactly two minutes to turn
to your neighbor and talk about the conversation we just had so far. What struck you, what
you didn’t like. Did like. Agreed with. Disagreed with. Take two minutes, talk to each other.
And generate some powerful questions. [audience chattering and laughing] OK, two minutes are up. We have two people
with microphones. Invite you to raise your hand. And the mic might mysteriously come
to you. And first question is right here.>>Female #1: Hi Tony. Thanks for coming. My
name is Tara Canobbio and I work here at Google in k12 education outreach. So much of what
you said of course resonates for who we are and we’re actually quite proud to say that
our team works in this space a lot. But the majority of the work we do is in kinda after
school programs. Experimental things we do with partners in here. And I would ask of
you, what are some effective methods to be able to get in the traditional schooling system
with these ideas that you talked about? For example we’re inviting administrators to come
here and observe some programs that adhere to the concepts and the principles that you
talked about. But its’ difficult for us to say, we’re Google we have these ideas, it’s
great, now you go back in your classrooms and your school districts and you change.
How do we bridge that gap?>>Tony Wagner: I think it’s an incredibly
difficult challenge right now especially. Because as you all know increasingly we have
one curriculum in our schools. And it’s test prep. Public schools, independent schools,
it doesn’t matter, it’s test prep. If it’s independent schools it’s the advance placement
curriculum. I’m speaking now especially at the high school level. So if you can’t offer
something that’s gonna improve test scores, chances are you’re not going to get the attention.
So here’s what I would recommend as a strategy to consider. It’s a language that I think
we need to introduce into education. You know Cisco’s RND budget is 13 percent.
Microsoft’s is 17 percent. With your 20 percent rule you’ve got a 20 percent plus RND budget.
Ask the principal, ask that superintendent, “What’s your RND budget?” They don’t have
one. Doesn’t exist. So I think the argument is to go to leaders. Superintendents and school
board members. And say “You want change. You want improvement. You must invest in RND.
There is no change or improvement without RND.” So a simple idea would be to create
a little simple request for proposals from teams of teachers to develop an interdisciplinary
hands on curriculum. More ambitiously, I’d like to see every large school district or
consortia of smaller school districts start a lab school. A charter-like school that would
have some of the same autonomies as a charter school but district and/or state sponsored.
Where there are intentionally developing the new methodologies for teaching, learning,
and assessment in the 21st century. I think those are a couple of the steps we
need to take. But the whole idea is it’s, I think is to generate the understanding that
we must have RND in education in order to develop new and better models.
Other questions? Yep?>>Female #2: Hi, this is sort of a follow-up
to the previous question.>>Tony Wagner: Little closer please.>>Female #2: Oh. OK. As government is a really
big actor in this space, I’m curious what you would do if you were Arne Duncan and are
there any low-hanging fruit?>>Tony Wagner: I think the first and most
important problem we have is to understand that what gets tested is what gets taught.
Period. The end. In this country. And the business folks will tell you having the wrong
metric is worse than having none at all. Our test results especially at the secondary level
tell us absolutely nothing about college, career, or citizenship readiness. There are
much better tests out there. There are assessments of critical thinking, analytical reasoning,
problem solving, and writing. I have a chapter on it in The Global Achievement Gap. But basically
we’re going to have to, I think, create accountability two dot oh at a national level. And incent
the creation of very different tests. Now there is a new generation of tests coming
down the pike. But I worry that they are still too content driven and still too much multiple
choice. There’s an international assessment called
PISA. Program for International Student Assessment. Three quarters of the PISA test is open ended
constructed response questions. Only 25 percent multiple choice. And it really is a test of
your ability to apply what you’ve learned not merely regurgitate what you’ve learned.
Those point in the direction of the kinds of assessments we need. The only way we’re
gonna be able to afford them is to stop this crazy notion of testing every single kid,
every single year, grades three through eight and then grades ten. We can accomplish the
same level of accountability by testing a demographically representative percentage
of kids every second year or even every third year and let districts develop local assessments
that are aligned with these better assessments. So for the same money we can get dramatically
better results. and we need an informed constituency of concerned citizens and parents to advocate
for accountability two dot oh. Along with educators and business leader. Unless and
until we have that advocacy, test the skills that matter most. That’s the bump, bumper
sticker. Right? Unless and until we have that advocacy, Arne Duncan and his successors are
not gonna change at all. ‘Cause they’ve invested too much time and energy into accountability
one dot oh, which is failing us totally.>>Male #1: Hi, are you familiar? Right here.>>Tony Wagner: Ah.>>Male #1: Are you familiar with the Waldorf
system. And if yes, what do you think about it?>>Tony Wagner: I don’t know it well. But what
I’ve read sounds absolutely intriguing. The whole idea is a school that is really an attempt
to create a curriculum around what we know about childhood and adolescent development.
I think it’s’ very intriguing. Uh, what I know better is Montessori. And
it’s fascinating when I did research for this new book I discovered things you may already
know. But a huge number of the most successful innovators and entrepreneurs in this area
went to Montessori schools. Including the co-founders of Google. Yes. We got a guy here who doesn’t have a
mic.>>Female Presenter: [inaudible]>>Tony Wagner: Alright. Where’s the mic?>>Female Presenter: [inaudible]>>Male #2: Hi. So I have one thing that frustrates
me is people’s lack of ability to take risk, ’cause I think especially in older age. Because
I think most young people do have the idea and the ability. But they’re held back by
the money and the prestige and the security.>>Tony Wagner: Right.>>Male #2: And I think to me, a lot of that
is due to the lack of choices for students. Especially in their younger age. And also
I think societal, like, societal pressure to sort of follow one straight path. Do you
kind of come across anything, any innovative approaches that can kind of bypass that and
just, give students more freedom? Or just kind of preventing people from getting a degree
in philosophy and then go into banking and consulting afterwards?>>Tony Wagner: Right. You know, it’s, again
it comes back to parents and teachers and what messages they give kids. Right? So if
you give the message “Look, pursue your passions. No matter where they lead you.” I’ll give another example. Another student.
Young innovator whom I profiled. Passionate about art from the age of seven. It’s all
she wanted to do was art. Now her parents were in the medical field. What do they know?
They couldn’t draw stick figures. Let aloneóso what do you say to a child who wants to do
art? Right? That’s all she cares about. Well, what they thought is “Oh, God she’ll never
get a job.” But they never said that. What they did instead was turn a spare bedroom
into an artist’s studio for her. So I won’t tell you the whole long story, but the version
is, she graduates from high school with a wonderful portfolio of her artwork. Doesn’t
get into the school of her choice. Goes to Carnegie Mellon, takes Randy Pausch’s course
on entertainment design. Catches on fire. Long story short she starts her own startup
called Wild Pockets. Designing a web interface for 3D design. Struggles through the worst
recession in our recent history. But manages for five years to keep she and her 12 employees
afloat until Auto Desk comes along. Buys her company and employs all of her colleagues
in their new wing. Their new business. So here’s now a kid who from the age of seven
only wanted to be an artist. Whose parents totally supported that. She’s now, at the
age of 29, a senior executive and very successful at Auto Desk. And I think that would not have
happened if her parents had said “Well you know, really you’re not gonna make a living
at art. You should just quit that.”>>Male #3: Hi, I’m a ninth grade algebra teacher
in the area. And I wanna ask a question about the fifth factor that you mentioned earlier.
The intrinsic motivation. Which you said might be the most important one. With the end of
the school year coming up I’m struggling to get my ninth gradersó Excuse me. To show a level of mastery to be
able to be tenth graders. They’re not motivated by extrinsic factors like grades. But I also
don’t see the intrinsic motivation. So I’m wondering from your experience as an English
teacher do you have any words of wisdom? How to develop that intrinsic motivation in our
kids.>>Tony Wagner: I do in English. I’m not so
sure about math. [chuckles] [quiet laughter from audience] I think that the dilemma in math is, how do
you make it real for kids when they take algebra? How do you make something as abstract, something
that they understand they can and want to use every single day? I think that’s the challenge
in any kind of advanced math. Beyond that, I think what kids really could be engaged
with in math, and need are statistics, probability, computation, and financial literacy. But we
don’t require any of those things in school. Why? So maybe an end of the year unit where you’re
thinking about a very applied way of using algebra. As it relates to something that is
immediate to them. I think that’s the challenge. How do you make it less abstract? More like
a tool they want and need to use? I mean, what I did in terms of English, was [clears
throat]. First of all, every student had a portfolio. And this was back before digital
portfolios. And every week I’d assign a particular genre of writing or type of writing. Like
childhood memoir. Description. Dialog. And every student brought one piece of writing
in every single week to read aloud. They didn’t care what I thought. But they cared a lot
about their peer views. And they learned an enormous amount from everybody trying to tackle
the same problem. There’s 17 and 25 ways of doing a childhood reminiscence. And then for
me the grading became simpler. Because I graded students on a body of work. And I said “Here’s
my standard for a B.” which is what I consider to be your standard of proficiency. And here
is exemplars of B quality work. And now let’s talk about what an A is and what that should
mean. But what I basically said is, I held the standard constant and varied the time
and support students needed to meet that standard. So the B was, a B, I mean students work was
considered incomplete until they met that standard. And I don’t care how long it took
them. One student took an entire extra year. Not to say that he repeated the course. But
continued to work until he met that standard and finally got the credit he wanted. Yes?>>Male #4: So. Um. Oh. Hi. [laughs] So I very
much enjoyed your description of your methodology. Speaking with young innovators and looking
at that from a scientific perspective I couldn’t help but wonder ifóI mean I understand you
can’t do a randomized study and assign people to different educational systems. But did
you talk to people who were not innovators and tried to find of those patterns were present
or if they were not present? And sort of look at the other side of the equation?>>Tony Wagner: Well, sadly, people who are
not innovators are pretty easy to find. [laughter] And you know what one finds is kind of something
of the polar opposite of what I’ve just been describing. Those kids frequently have “Tiger
Moms” or “Helicopter Parents.” Tiger moms driving them to do something that they’re
not interested in. Or helicopter parents who say “Look, you can’t make a mistake. We’re
building the resume for Harvard now. You can’t take a risk.” So they, I didn’t do it in a
scientific sense. But having spent many years of teaching. I’ve spent 12 years in the classroom
as a high school English teacher. I’ve seen the alternative patterns and they’re all too
common sadly. I did something else though that may relate
to your question. I talked to Joel Podolny who’s vice president of Human Resources at
Apple and head of Apple University. Now Joel’s previous job, he was Dean of the Yale School
of Management. And he’s taught in both Stanford and Harvard’s business schools. And he has
a PhD from Stanford. I wanted to find out what he saw as the best preparation for business
schools for young people to be innovators. And he said “Look, you have to understand.
To get into Harvard or Stanford, you’ve learned to play a game. And a very safe game. Because
that’s the only way you get into Harvard or Stanford. You go work for a place like Goldman
Sachs or whatever and then you go.” And he said “Problem one is, the kinds of people
who get there are not risk-takers. They’re not innovators. They’ve had no experiences
in innovation. Problem two is what they learn. What they learned” in his words, “Is how to
squeeze more juice out of the orange. Economies of scale versus how to grow better oranges.”
Which is innovation. Other questions?>>Male #5: So what if schools can’t be fixed?
So, I’m basing this off of, there’s another set of researchers that came and talked to
us last week that wrote a book called Race Against The Machine. It’s all based on the
idea that Moore’s Law is processing power and things are doubling every few years. And
the world’s just changing really fast. What if schools will never change fast enough?
And teachers will never change fast enough to keep up with this? How will you use technology,
in your research, to fix this problem?>>Tony Wagner: Yeah. Well I think that’s a
really, really interesting question. But first of all I can take you right now to schools
that are really doing an extraordinary job of all the things I just described. So it’s’
not true that schools can’t change. If we think about startups. And schools that are
startups. Then we see a completely different landscape. Now let me be clear, I’m not saying all charter
schools are better. I wanna be really, really clear about that. The research is quite clear
that about 17 percent of charter schools outperform comparable public schools. About 20 percent
underperform comparable public schools and the rest do no better. No different. So I
think we need to incent more RND through lab schools. But having said that I think the
whole issue of technology is a fascinating one. Since information knowledge is now commoditized,
we’re seeing Coursera, Udacity, EdX all of these online opportunities to acquire certification
for taking courses. But that’s content. What about skills? So here’s my idea that I’m,
I would love to play with. What if you put together a blended learning experience for
the last two years of high school, first two years of college? The blended learning would
be a combination of taking some of these courses for certification. From EdX or Coursera . it
would include an, a face to face experience with this brand new organization called Project
Breaker. Where you work in a team to solve a problem, create a product over a three month
period. It would include taking the college and work readiness assessment. One of these
really good tests I describe. It would include a number of challenges that you would undertake.
All of which you would then put into your digital portfolio. Pathbrite is my current
favorite example of a really interesting web model for digital portfolio. P-A-T-H-B-R-I-T-E.
And then you would submit your digital portfolio to a panel of reviewers. Who would use valid
external criteria for determining whether or not you should earn a certificate of initial
mastery. Which would suddenly be worth more than a highs school diploma. Because it’s
evidence of mastery. And so suddenly colleges and employers were see a body of work. Not
a piece of paper with some numbers on it. It would have far more, I think, value in
the real world. Than what we see now. Certificate of advanced mastery would be equivalent of
two years of college. I think we have to get past the idea that every kid should or will
or needs to go to a four year college. That’s lunacy. Yes please. I’m sorry we’re gonna do a, hands,
and mics. Sorry.>>Male #6: Hi, my wife is a cofounder of a
charter school in Atlanta that serves underprivileged kids. And they do project based learning.
But their big innovation is six kids per classroom.>>Tony Wagner: Yeah.>>Male #6: And they’re really focused on tutorial
style teaching. I wanted to know if you have any research or any insight into the optimal
team size? Or tutorial style versus applied?>>Tony Wagner: Well there’s a lot of research
about smaller classes. Smaller classes don’t necessarily improve learning and here’s why.
You can lecture 15 kids as easily as you can lecture 150. The teaching style has to change.
To take advantage of a smaller learning environment. And I think the learning size can vary depending
upon who the students are, what the task is, but generally speaking, 15 to 20 is I think,
close to optimum. And I spent a whole period of time researching Finland’s education system.
And made a documentary film many of you might find interesting. It’s called “The Finland
Phenomenon.” You can get it on the web. They have been at the business of systematically
reinventing their entire education system for the entire country. For over 40 years.
And they’ve come down to this idea of about 20 students per class. But they also have
very, very highly trained teachers who know how to use different groupings of students.
And also a teacher who’s a specialist in learning difficulties. So if a student or if some students
are shown at a very early age to have learning difficulties, they’re pulled out for that
extra help. Think I only have time for one or two more.>>Female #3: Just one more question. It looks
like most of us parents and educators seem to want our students to succeed. But sometimes
there’s confusion about how we define success. What you mentioned about this whole idea about
a world where people are consuming for the sake of consuming, and not because what the
real and what was meaningful. I mean they’re all stuck with big mortgages and two car garages
and thing that are not making us happy. So then, I mean that’s sort of forcing us to
redefine success in a certain way. But where do we begin on this, right? When I look at
my own kids and wanting to see, I just want them to be happy. I really don’t want them
to be powerful CEO. I mean it’s OK if they become. But if they don’t it’s OK. And I mean,
but where does one start? And you know, have you seen any trailblazers out there in terms
of schooling where people are thinking philosophically in a different way?>>Tony Wagner: I think it’s a wonderful question.
And I suppose where one starts is by defining happiness. When you say you want your child
to be happy, how do you define happiness? What does that mean? Some people might define
it as having, owning a nice house. Living in a great neighborhood. More and more young
people saying “I don’t know that I ever wanna buy a house. I’m not even sure I need or want
to own a car. I’ll do zip car when I need to ’cause I prefer to bike most places.” So
I think the definitions of happiness may be evolving and changing. And I think that’s
the first place to start. Then the schools, so often, a friend of mine said, “When you
pick your school, you pick your complaint.” [laughter] Unless you’re fortunate enough to be in High
Tech High or send your kids to Montessori schools, I think there’s no perfect school.
So then you have to think about how do you supplement what school is not offering by.
And also how do you advocate within the school for 20 percent time within the class.>>Female #3: What do you think of homeschooling?>>Tony Wagner: I think it’s a valid option.
I see more and more people doing it. I get that question in almost every audience now. Time for one more question.>>Female #4: Hi, my name is Allie. I’m a resident
sophomore in college. And I guess I’m kind of the product of this assessment one point
oh that you talk of. I did my STAR testing in California schools. I did my AP testing.
I got into Harvard. I’m now a Google intern. And I guess it’s a little selfish. But is
there like something wrong with me? [laughter] I mean, you kind of keep hating on the system,
but.>>Tony Wagner: Um, we’ll talk later. [laughter] No, come on. I mean there are people for whom
that is not a crippling environment. There are people who know how to thrive in that
environment and can do well. You know, I don’t mean to sound critical. I’m simply suggesting
that for many people, that is not a formula that they can or need to or want to follow.
If it worked for you that’s fine. I have daughter who went to Brown. She’s OK by that. She’s
now a teacher by the way. [laughter] I think the issue is not what you went through,
what hoops you jumped through. But where do you wanna go? What do you wanna contribute?
Paraphrasing Steve Jobs, you know “What’s the ding in the universe you wanna make?”
So I’m gonna stop now. But lemme, I’ve got a surprise for you. This new book, Creating
Innovators, was a collaboration with Bob Compton with whom I did the “Finland Phenomenon” documentary.
Bob shot more than 60 videos to accompany the book. He said to me “I couldn’t just write
a book about innovation. It has to be innovative.” So embedded throughout the book are series
of codes which you scan with your Smartphone with the right software. And you see all of
these different videos. And what we did was put together a nine minute compilation of
the videos that you’ll find throughout the book. Now, Maggie you may have to help me find,
so I just go to QuickTime, right? Alright. So we’re set. So this is just a quickie to
give you a sneak [inaudible]>>Dean Kamen: Oxygen to life. I mean I don’t know any other way to define
innovation other that it’s what drives us to the next level. [quiet percussive music]>>Amanda Alonzo: I think innovation is the
ability to look at a problem or a question in a new way. To have a passion for that question
and make it meaningful. [music continues]>>Tom Friedman: CQ plus PQ is always greater
than IQ. That is, you give me a young person with a high curiosity quotient and a young
person combines that with a high passion quotient to pursue their curiosity. I’ll always take
that young person over someone with a high IQ. Because when you get young people who
are curious and then they have a passion to pursue their curiosity, good things tend to
happen. [music continues]>>Larry Rosenstock: The future lies for our
country to become more productive. We need people to innovate. We need people to create
and you start with your young. [sound of drill]>>Annemarie Neal: Raising someone with that
intention that they’ll be an innovator is actually different than raising a child that
you want to behave all the time and be quite compliant. How do I help create an environment
for this child to be curious? I’m going to ask a lot of questions and not be in any way
inhibited by the answers that he comes up with. He’s in a school system that also provides
that same type of an environment. So he gets it in school. And then we continue to foster
it at home. But the goal is to let him ask as many questions as possible. And for us
to always think in terms of, let’s be curious about what’s in front of us. [music continues]>>David Kelley: Everybody is created naturally,
look at what happens in kindergarten. I mean you just go into a kindergarten class and
walking the streets. Just totally coming up with ideas that nobody, they’ll interview
a second grader. And they’ll have all kinds of ideas that you never thought of, right.
Because their minds are free to do that. So I think the school system kind of trains that
out of a lot of us. [dark percussive music]>>Jennifer Winters: Our school really gives
kids enough time for, to really get invested in something. To really figure it out. It’s
not a quick study of something. If you’re interested in blocks, you can build with blocks.
For a two hour period of time. And really sort of experiment with materials. We talk
about these basic open ended materials that we have for children every single day. There’s
blocks. There’s clay. There’s easel painting. There’s sand and water. [music continues]>>Beth Wise: In that environment children
have a way to work with each other. And it’s very collaborative. [music continues]>>Male Speaker #1: The philosophy of High
Tech High is founded largely on the idea of kids making, doing, building, shaping, and
inventing stuff. Along with teachers. And you can see when you’re here that we’re producing
things because when you’re producing things you’re also consuming those technologies.
But when you’re consuming those technologies you’re not necessarily producing [unintelligible]
those technologies. [music continues]>>Richard Miller: The science part is simply
the power tools behind you that make you do it faster. And more efficiently. It’s not
in fact, what engineering is all about. [music continues] The curriculum at Olin requires that all students
have a series of courses in design. And in fact, the day they arrive they begin designing
and building things. They haven’t yet had the calculus and the physics background material.
But that’s OK. Because design thinking doesn’t require science. Design thinking actually
has a lot in common with art. [slower music] It’s about asking the right questions. It’s
about having the right insights and perceptions. Do whatever it takes to increase the level
of student engagement so that they are intrinsically motivated. They ask the right questions. They’re
empowered to use technology to find them. And they’re committed to making a positive
difference in the world. [synthesizer plays] [machine whirs] [synthesizer plays]>>Semyon Dukach: I think that there’s a class
of young people that really wanna change the world. [music continues] They come from countries like the US. And
some have had pretty comfortable backgrounds and others have had to work very hard. But
they’re really motivated to try to make a difference. And there’s a whole movement of
organizations that are on the edge of non-profits and for-profits. That really have a social
mission. But also want to, they don’t want to just ask for donations. They want to run
it as a business to keep themselves honest.>>Amy Smith: It’s really important for students
to find out what is their passion. Right? There’s plenty of problems in the world. And
we’re, no one’s gonna solve all of them. So why not choose the one that means the most
to you? [music continues]>>David Sengeh: We have lots of amputees in
Sierra Leon. I do have a lot of amputee friends from the war. Where couple thousand people
were maimed. Allow the users to work in different terrains. To work in a rainy season. To do
things on ground that is not level. But also have it be low cost. And have it be enabling.
Have them to have another dimension to their lives. They have to be able to do more than
just walk. They have to be able to do their basic general work. [quiet music]>>Shanna Tellerman: I’ve always really wanted
to make a real impact in the world. That’s the biggest desire I’ve had. I want to feel
like what I’m doing every day matters. And it matters in a bigger way than myself. So
when I was doing art, the biggest struggle I had was that I felt like art has meaning
to people but I wasn’t really changing the world with my art. And so the desire I started
having in high school and even in college was how can my art be more extended. How can
creativity be more extended and have a bigger impact? [quiet slow music continues]>>Laura White: I’m not afraid of poverty.
I’m really not. I think that’s really important. I want to improve the society that I live
in. and I believe that I can make it work of it’s doing the right thing. [music continues]>>Jamien Sills: I can’t reinvent the foot.
But I can reinvent the shoe or the way the shoe is made. I always say, if I’m able to
take an image from my mind and make something out of it and then share that with the world,
it means everything to me.>>Jodie Wo: Everyone’s here for a reason.
And if you’re here and you have a talent or this ability to do something, if you’re not
gonna utilize it, you’ve basically like, are taking away from the world. You’re not giving
it, you’re not playing your role in this big ecosystem of things. I have the capacity to
do it. So I need to do it. If I’m not, then I’m not only failing myself, but I’m failing
the world. [melodious music]>>Tony Wagner: The one thing that cannot be
commoditized is innovation. It is increasingly clear to me that young people who are capable
of innovating in whatever they do, not just high tech stuff. But in any kind of job. Are
really going to have richer, more satisfying lives. And many better opportunities to earn
a decent living. To have interesting and challenging and rewarding work. So rather than all kids
college ready, what I’ve come to see is that we need to think about all students, all children,
innovation ready. And that poses a profound set of challenges for us. As parents. As teachers.
As mentors. As employers. What must I do to enable my child or my student to be innovation
ready. [rhythmic music swells] Our success is measured more or less by the
rate of innovation. [music fades]>>Female Presenter: Can you join me in thanking
Tony? [applause]


  1. The information that public schools train students to memorize is useless, and sometimes incorrect. Memorize uselss information, regurgitate it on a standardized test, and you get a piece of paper. Curiosity and imagination are natural traits of young children. But regimented compulsory schooling factories destroy them. Read the books by John Holt. All economies depend on consumer spending. But spending on what, goods made in the US or those made in China? Spending on goods or services?

  2. We've been trained (programmed) to buy on credit. Immediate gratification–never mind about tomorrow. Paraphrasing Edward Bernays: The purpose of advertising (propaganda) is to convince people to buy what they don't need. Young people offer creative solutions, but the established dogma (or vested interests) slaps them down. I prefer hiring a high school drop-out over the valedictorian. Aren't teachers forced to follow the curriculum set by the morons on the curriculum committee?

  3. Pursue a passion instead of academic excellence. According to John Holt in "How Children Learn", this is how kids actually learn. They learn because of their desire to learn. From play to passion to purpose. Read about Alexander Neill's "Summerhill" founded in 1921 in England for "troubled kids". The kids there play and play and play until they acquire a passion to learn. One of John Holt's fellow teachers said, "If we taught children to speak, they'd never learn".

  4. start watching at 44 minutes.  There is a short film embedded in the video.   fascinating.   "What am I doing to prepare my child to innovate?"   Children should be ready to innovate, ….. not everyone needs to be ready for college." 

    "Everyone is here for a reason.  If you don't use your talent, you are taking away from the world.  You need to play your part in the ecosystem."   Minute 51:49  Jodie Wu

    "Design thinking is about asking the right questions, more about Art than about Science."   President of Olin College of Engineering  

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