Creating Innovators: Tech Expo 2015

Last week’s Tech Expo at the Edith Macy Center in Briarcliff Manor once again proved to be an excellent opportunity to think outside of the box and to consider “what’s possible” as we move further into the 21st century. This year I had the pleasure of being accompanied by @DobbsSciRes, @PrincipalMoose, and @TeranceHuyter and, as always, I left feeling both refreshed and inspired. In addition to the many breakout sessions, the program featured an opening keynote by Dr. Tony Wagner as well as presentations by renowned thought leaders Jaime Casap and Alec Couros. The “theme” of creating students who are motivated problem solvers was present among all three speakers and each called for change and innovation to what remains a traditional and “old” educational system. There was lots of tweeting going on throughout the day (#lhrictli) and I’ve compiled a list of  twenty “tweetable” highlights that came my way. You’ll quickly notice that each prompts further thought, discussion, and in some instances debate. All are a 140 characters or less, so feel free to tweet away…

  1. The world no longer cares about what Ss know. The world cares about what Ss can DO with what they know.
  2. There was a time when teachers had “the corner” on information. That has changed today.
  3. The innovation of a creative problem solver is an innovation capability that can be developed, not born.
  4. We are born curious. Most kindergartners ask questions and think of themselves of artists.
  5. By age 12, most Ss are are just looking for the right answers to the questions. Curiosity is all but destroyed.
  6. In every case, the teacher who makes the greatest difference is the outlier–those who teach differently from his/her peers.
  7. Innovation always happens at the boundaries of academic disciplines, not within them.
  8. There is NO innovation without trial and error.
  9. The only failure that should happen in schools is the failure to show up…the failure to not try.
  10. Every student needs three things when they leave school: content knowledge, survival skills, and the most importantly the WILL to succeed.
  11. If you are intrinsically motivated, you will be able to learn and develop the skills needed to be successful throughout life.
  12. Developing the capability of grit is best learned when someone is intrinsically motivated. Not when they have “tiger moms” riding them.
  13. Google allows time for “play” called” Google time” which leads to tremendous amounts of innovation. Do schools?
  14. Employers don’t trust transcripts anymore. They provide nothing but evidence of seat time.
  15. In 2020, we are going to need about 1.4 million people for jobs in computer science, and we are only on track to graduate 400k.
  16. Challenge students with questions like “What problem do you want to solve?”
  17. Iteration is both success and failure. Google Apps updates over 200 times a year!
  18. We need digital leaders who add to the internet (blogging, etc.) and not just consume the internet.
  19. Schools that focus on iteration and innovation support the world that we now live in.
  20. Technology is not the silver bullet. It supports education. Teachers and education are the silver bullet.

Biggest Takeaway…

Computer Science and Coding: Perhaps the greatest takeaway from this year’s conference is the necessity of providing far more opportunities for students to acquire experience in computer science and coding at the high school level. @jcasap noted that in 2020, our nation will need about 1.4 million people for jobs in computer science. At this point, we are only on track to graduate 400k. For high schools that are guided by mission statements that include words such as “21st century learners” and “global citizenship” (which is pretty much all of them these days), there is an  urgency to immediately provide all students with these necessary skills since we are fast approaching a world where they will be considered “basic” and “the norm.” A robust computer science program must of course be introduced much earlier than high school and we are seeing more and more schools with programs that have students coding as early as first grade. In Dobbs Ferry we are beginning to lay the foundation for what we hope will be a leading K-12 computer science program in a few years time. In doing so, we are preparing to launch in this direction next year by participating in The Hour of Code and by investigating online computer science options that move beyond the brick and mortar of our school. Ultimately, we are looking at a comprehensive “in-house” program that spans all of our buildings. There are many challenges that all schools face, including staffing and resources, and the shift requires that school leaders employ the types of  21st century survival skills that we are seeking to develop in the students that we graduate. Iteration? For sure. Lots of it is in store. Are we up to the challenge? Stay tuned…

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