'Making' is as much an attitude and mindset as it is a particular technology. Whether the artifact being produced is an electronic circuit, a hydroponic garden, a piece of knitware, or a 3D-printed prosthetic, we are seeking to develop in our students the 'maker mindset':
that students can direct their own projects and learning
that designs are improved through iteration and play
that knowledge rests in the community (both in person and online) rather than in a single individual or company
that regular reflection and documentation will both improve our own work, as well as allowing others to build upon it
that student work is worthy of being exhibited, celebrated, and shared
From: Wagner, Tony; Dintersmith, Ted (2015-08-18). Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era (pp. 141-142). Scribner. Kindle Edition.:
"...Our choice is stark. We can continue training kids to be proficient at low-level routine tasks and to memorize content they won’t remember on topics they’ll never use. Or we can embrace the reality that much of what school is about today can be “outsourced” to a smartphone, freeing up time for kids to immerse themselves in challenges like the following:
Learning how to learn. This is arguably the single most important skill a student can develop; yet most schools accomplish the exact opposite. The teacher structures the content around a textbook, assigns the homework, designs the test, and grades the student on ability to jump through the hoops laid out by the teacher. Given an almost dizzying array of resources, we should be teaching young adults how to be effective in “learning how to learn.”
Communicating effectively. This life skill will be important almost every day of an adult’s life, unless he or she ends up in solitary confinement (this may sound flip, but it’s one of the real risks we face with so many kids). Schools teaching grades seven through twelve do a miserable job of teaching kids to write— for lack of time and teacher preparation, as we’ve seen. Kids will also need to be good at public speaking, making a video, writing a blog and cultivating a following, and using communication to achieve a range of objectives.
Collaborating productively and effectively with others. These are essential skills that don’t just come down from the heavens the day students get their diploma. Over and over, educators tell us, “We tried having kids work together on projects, but it never seems to work. One kid ends up doing all the work and the others just tag along.” School networks like New Tech High have learned how to teach students team accountability through 360 peer reviews, so that there is genuine collaboration with every project.
Creative problem-solving. Over and over, employers tell us that the ideal characteristic they’d like to find in new hires is being a creative problem-solver. And, over and over, it seems to have been “schooled” out of fresh graduates, irrespective of their academic pedigree. For almost all schools we visit, the prevailing attitude among students is, “Just tell me what I need to know to get the right answer.” And too many faculty members unconsciously seek a specific answer. We need to teach kids to be innovative and creative problem-solvers.
Managing failure. School today is all about risk aversion. Both kids and teachers are discouraged, almost hourly, from trying anything that might not work. Understanding how and when to take risks, how to deal with setbacks, and how to handle the expectations and criticisms of others are all skills that need to be taught and learned. Innovative progress necessarily requires a healthy degree of risk-taking and “failure.” The motto in most innovative companies is “fail early, fail often.” There is no innovation without trial and error. We argue that there is also no real learning without trial and error. So not only do our schools not teach our kids the skills and perspective required to deal with risk, we actively dissuade kids from taking considered risks.
Effecting change in organizations and society. One of the most important contributions any adult can make is to effect positive change in existing organizations or communities. As we know all too well from our work in education, changing things is hard. Schools are the most natural of microcosms for helping kids learn how they can work hard to effect positive change. But when we ask schools to describe opportunities for students to take leadership in moving the school ahead, we’re generally met with blank stares.
Strategic planning processes are led by consultants, board members (who went to school decades ago), and school officials. Department reviews are driven by faculty. Even most clubs and after-school programs are defined and led by adults, with modest student input. Wouldn’t it make sense to give students as many opportunities as possible to improve their school? Their community? And provide students with guidance and resources to help them learn how to effect change productively and develop leadership skills?
Making sound decisions. As we overschedule our kids, they have fewer opportunities to make their own decisions and experience the consequences. We take it for granted that they’re learning how to make decisions, but how do they get good at something they never do? Effective decision-making can be taught using powerful and important math and emphasizing clarity on values and ethics.
Managing projects and achieving goals. In order to be successful, it’s important to understand how to set goals and manage projects. It’s curious that this course can be found at the college level, but it’s something every high school student needs to be good at.
Building perseverance and determination. Paul Tough, in his groundbreaking book How Children Succeed, cites the research of MacArthur Award winner Angela Duckworth and others on the importance of a set of character attributes that are more important than IQ in determining adult success and well-being. These traits can be summed up with one word: grit. Much has been written about the importance of putting in ten thousand hours in order to master something difficult.
But both in Duckworth’s work and in our friend Dan Pink’s excellent 2011 book, Drive, there has been little discussion of where the motivation to persevere comes from. Do all students need to have a Tiger Mom sitting on their shoulders? No! What Tony learned in student, teacher, and parent interviews for his book Creating Innovators is that play, passion, and purpose are essential ingredients for helping students to want to put in the time required to achieve or learn something of value. Leveraging your passions and talents to make your world better.
Most parents and educators would agree, at least in theory, that the single most important lesson we can impart to our youth is that they can, through their passions and talents, make their world a better place, in a way they define. Learning how to identify your passions and use them to make an impact doesn’t just emerge from passively sitting through a school day. It requires practice in the real world...."