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