“Original Thinkers” is a fascinating TED Talk by Adam Grant, author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. “The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most – because they are the ones who try the most,” according to Grant. Using the story of his own failure to invest in a new company that would later become incredibly successful, Adam Grant describes the misconceptions we have about original thinkers, how procrastination can lead to great ideas, and even how the web browsers we use can reveal the inherent creativity in our personalities.
I discovered “Original Thinkers” when I was browsing through the “TED Collections” section of the Mensa for Kids website. This page includes 21 links to TED Talk videos and excellent discussion questions and extensions for each one. I highly recommend you take a look at these fascinating options, as I am sure you will find something that will be of interest to you and your students. As always, preview the videos before showing them to your class. (“Original Thinkers” does have the word, “crap” in it – which may or may not be inappropriate for your particular audience.) . I will be adding this to my Inspirational Videos for Kids Pinterest Board, where you can also find many great video resources.
@VideoAmy, curator of Edutopia’s “5-Minute Film Festival,” always finds the best education videos. If you don’t follow her on Twitter, you should!
The other day VideoAmy tweeted about this recent TEDWomen 2015 talk by Linda Cliatt-Wayman about how to fix a broken school. Linda’s passion for children is so clear throughout her presentation. It’s appalling to see the conditions she faced when first appointed as principal at low-income schools, like:
Doors that made the school look like a prison
and dumpster loads of outdated textbooks, furniture, and equipment.
With her leadership, Strawberry Mansions improved test scores and, more importantly, relationships with students. Now, this is the culture of the school.
“People are clapping along, people are singing every word to some of the things that have lyrics to them, and there was just a celebratory spirit. And it really got me – it succeeded beyond my wildest dreams and really got me thinking about maybe one of the elements we’re missing in the live performing arts is this feeling of investment on the part of the audience. Certainly, you know, “Dancing With The Stars,” “The Voice,” “American Idol” – all those have already thought that the way to keep people interested is to give them a voice.”
The way to keep people interested is to give them a voice. Exactly. This is what Genius Hour is all about. Even if the teacher does not feel comfortable in surrendering a fifth of the curriculum to the students, that feeling of “investment” Lockhart mentions can still be achieved by offering more choices.
In a separate interview on TED Radio Hour, Guy Raz spoke with Charles Hazelwood, a conductor who has worked with orchestras around the world. The theme of the show was “Trust and Consequences.” Hazelwood has done a TED talk on “Trusting the Ensemble.” During his TED talk, Hazelwood quoted a fellow conductor, Sir Colin Davis, who once advised him, “Conducting, Charles, is like holding a small bird in your hand. If you hold it too tightly, you crush it. If you hold it too loosely, it flies away.”
I feel that Genius Hour works this way as well. By giving our students the opportunity to pursue their own interests, we loosen our hold on the small bird. But we must continue to guide them because allowing them complete freedom before they are ready can have disastrous consequences.
Hazelwood ended his interview with Guy Raz with a piece of advice that truly resonated with me as a teacher.
I am fortunate to have a great network of parents who forward me articles and other links that they know will interest me. Yesterday, a dad forwarded this fabulous post from the TED blog. It includes the video of Jane Andraka’s TEDx talk. If that name sounds a bit familiar, but you can’t quite place it, Mrs. Andraka is the mother of two successful young men. One of them is Jack Andraka, a teenager who developed an early-detection test for pancreatic cancer. The other son, Luke, won an international science fair and the MIT Think Award.
Mrs. Andraka speaks about how she helped her sons find their passions, and the responsibility that all parents have to do so. In the Q&A included in the blog post, she says the following,
Ultimately, Mrs. Andraka’s message is to help your children develop a growth mindset and to learn how to make themselves truly happy. The only point that I somewhat disagree with her on is that this job falls squarely on the shoulder of the parents. Of course, I believe that parents must work hard to advocate for their children and guide them. But I also think that schools need to be partners in this process. That may seem contradictory since schools seem to encourage the “hoop-jumper” mentality. But I am hoping that future education reforms will change that. It should really be our goal to teach every child to “make your own self remarkable.”
I saw a link on my Twitter feed the other day to a post done by Eric Sheninger called, “Students Yearn for Creativity, Not Tests.” It’s from March of this year, and I can’t believe I missed it back then. However, that’s the great thing about Twitter – the treasures come around more than once.
Featured in the post are a few videos created by students based on an assignment they were given which involved reading Sir Ken Robinson’s book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative. One of the student videos really resonated with me because of so many other experiences I’ve had in recent weeks that emphasize the value of making mistakes. The video is by Sarah Almeda, and I highly recommend you watch the video, “Let’s Make Some Good Art” and her “afterword” video which appears at the end of the post. Her tribute to the educators who fostered her creativity in the latter one is very inspiring.
This year, I really plan to make it my mission to motivate my students to take more risks and challenge themselves. As Sarah says in her video, though, schools inherently discourage this by punishing mistakes and only rewarding “right answers.” I have a couple of ideas for changing this in my classroom as I continue to teach my students about having a Growth Mindset (check out my Pinterest Board if you would like some more information about this).
This weeks’s TED Radio Hour was all about making mistakes. And one of the speakers, Margaret Heffernan, mentioned this about schools: “… we do bring children up to imagine that there is a right answer, and that intelligence is about knowing that right answer, and therefore if you get a wrong answer, you’re stupid. So what we do is we teach people not even so much to have a passion for the right answer, but have great talent for second-guessing what everybody wants the answer to be.” As Sarah Almeda draws in her video, this is the inevitable outcome in schools that foster this type of thinking:
Even James Dyson, in an interview with Science Friday, said the following: “In life, you don’t have the right answers available all the time. You have to work them out. So I would actually mark children by the number of mistakes they make because they’ve experienced failure and learned from it. Whereas the brilliant child who gets it right the first time because they remembered the answer isn’t necessarily the one who is going to change the world or succeed in life.” (I’m assuming he meant that students who make more mistakes would get higher grades as opposed to the current system.)
How can we change our current system? We need to create a learning environment that encourages taking risks in thinking and finding the value in mistakes. As teachers, it will help for us to admit our own mistakes and to tell how they changed us. And, though there are times that only one right answer is acceptable, we should also give our students plenty of opportunities to engage in thinking that is open-ended.
I have a small idea germinating about a tangible way to show this in the classroom that I may share later this week…
I found this video through Kuriositas, an awesome resource, but it is also available through TED-Ed. As we spend today, Memorial Day, in the United States, honoring our own fallen heroes, I thought this video might resonate with you as it does with me. Freedom is a treasure, and I am so thankful for the heroes who accepted the challenge to claim it for us.