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TED Talk Tuesday: Tom Wujec Build a Tower, Build a Team

The group that consistently fails at the marshmallow task: recent graduates of business school. Business students are trained to find the single right plan and then execute it. The problem with this strategy is that they wait for the last minute to add their marshmallow to the top of the structure and when their plan fails, it is a crisis. The group that consistently succeeds at the marshmallow task: recent graduates of kindergarten. Kindergarten students start with a model and they build successive prototypes of their structure. They always keep their marshmallow on top. They have multiple opportunities to refine their structure until it is working. With each version of the prototype, students are getting instant feedback about what works and what doesn’t and they can adjust accordingly. Kids don’t spend time trying to be CEO of Spaghetti Inc. They aren’t jockeying for power, they are working together creatively and having fun. What stands out to me about the data that Tom Wujec shares, is not that architects and engineers build the best towers (as he says, we would expect that), but that kindergartners are not very far behind. This makes me wonder about what important things we are deprogramming kids to do as we send them through the education system. If the education system was really working, I would expect that adults would be able to construct the best, highest towers. I would expect that those with the most education would build the best towers. But as we see, this isn’t the case. In school we teach students that everything has a correct answer. Sometimes that answer means filling in the “c” on a bubble test, and sometimes it means getting your teacher to nod and say “that’s right”. School has become a game of “guess what the teacher is thinking”.  As a result, we have students who can come up with one correct solution to any problem. In the real world, we often need more than one right solution. Many times we need several solutions and creative thinking applied to the problem. Our most recent example of this is the BP oil spill. I can’t help but wonder what great solutions kindergartners would come up with that adults aren’t even considering because we have been deprogrammed to think that way. What does this mean for schools? It means that we need more opportunities for students to explore multiple solutions to a problem, it means that we offer kids the chance to discuss and stop asking the one answer questions all the time. Sometimes there is one correct answer, but in life that isn’t always the case. Students need to be given the chance to explore both options. (As a side note, it is interesting to me that when the incentive of a prize was offered, not one team had a standing structure. I am working my way through Daniel Pink’s book Drive right now and it mirrors what he says in the book.)

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A must read by Seth Godin: Stop Stealing Dreams #free!

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 01-03-2012

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What it is: Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors and bloggers to read.  He so often has insight that cuts right to the heart of a matter.  What I appreciate about Seth’s writing most, is the way he can say things in a way that people can hear and accept.  Seth has a brand new digital “book” (manifesto) called Stop Stealing Dreams.  I love the dedication that he begins with: “Dedicated to every teacher who cares enough to change the system and to every student brave enough to stand up and speak up.”  The “stand up” stands out to me because that is what we aim to do every single day at Anastasis.  In fact, we chose the name Anastasis because it translates to “stand again” or “resurrection” from Greek.  That is exactly what we aim to do every single day…help kids stand again in their learning.  Now you know where our Twitter hashtag comes from. 🙂

Seth poignantly points out that “Instead of amplifying dreams, school destroys them.”  That is a hard statement for those of us in education. We sign up for this crazy ride to help dreams flourish and yet because of the system of education, end up doing precisely the opposite.  It is hidden.  We don’t set out to do this…truly we don’t.  But consider the way that we push kids through education and tell them what the most important things are for them.  Students get the message loud and clear: check these boxes, take these classes, pass these tests.  Do it so you can get into high school.  Do it so that you can go to college. Do it so that you can get a job.  What message are we really sending?  “You and your dreams are not enough.”

I don’t want to give too much of the manifesto away because I think that it is worth reading for every teacher, administrator and parent.  Seth offers this download for free.  The guy knows how to spread ideas!   The point of the manifesto is not to leave you feeling hopeless over the current situation of education, but asking questions and encouraging us to say “why not?”  Print the book out, read it on a digital device, and share it…share it widely!  The first step to a revolution is spreading the idea and opening door to the possibility.

How to integrate Stop Stealing Dreams into the classroom:  Read Stop Stealing Dreams.  Highlight it, earmark pages, write in the margins, challenge yourself.  Then share it with everyone you know.  I find that it is easy to find teachers who are ready to hear this message and act on it.  It’s been my experience that parents are a little harder to convince.  We are all “experts” on education because we have all been through it.  We have all of these assumptions that we know exactly what it should look like and even assume that the classroom model has been perfected.  This manifesto helps challenge those assumptions and come up with new ideas apart from the assumptions.
@matthewquigely had our Jr. High students download Stop Stealing Dreams today.  Students have assumptions about education too.  I’m excited to hear the kids reflections on the manifesto.  They will have a completely different view, different questions, and come up with their own fantastic ideas about how education can stop stealing dreams.   I would be interested in having the kids come up with a manifesto of their own!
Tips:  When you are finished reading Stop Stealing Dreams, I highly recommend the next books on your reading list be those mentioned in the manifesto.  If you haven’t read them, they are a must!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Stop Stealing Dreams in  your classroom!

Comments (4)

I also just read the manifesto. We need to stand up for all students, inspiring them to pursue interests and make all learning relevant. Compliance at the expense of exploration and engagement is troubling. When our system requires that children achieve before they belong, we have a long way to go for before they realize dreams and form relationships that will matter.

Thanks for sharing such interesting sites and information in your posts! I have been reading your posts and really appreciated the link to this TED Talk and free book download. It’s ready to go on my Kindle. When you post information about specific sites you come across, I’d love for you to include information about which ages or grade level it might be most appropriate for! I look forward to reading more of your future posts!

Hi Carrie, I ALWAYS tag sites with the ages they would be appropriate for. If you look at the categories that each post is tagged with, you will know what ages I think it works for! You can even search iLearn Tech by age with the category search in my sidebar. I hope that helps you find what you are looking for!

Hey Kelly, I’ve been reading the Manifesto too! It’s very thought provoking. I also like how it show that you don’t need to stick to traditional book forms to be able to express yourself online. Hope you are well!!

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