Thursday, 26 September 2013

Schooling for Innovation

The other night, my husband and I happened to randomly be watching The Agenda with Steve Paiken on TVO. We have never watched this show before - we are quite unfamiliar with channels here in Ottawa, only being here for 7 weeks. But here we were, channel surfing, and finding ourselves watching this show, whose focus for the evening was looking the challenges facing education at the moment.

The 2nd segment, was an interview of Tony Wagner.
Schooling For Innovation

I have not heard of Tony Wagner before. But his words, very early on in his interview grabbed me.

'Knowledge today is free. It's like air. It's like water. It's become a commodity. There is no competitive advantage today to knowing more than the person next to you. The world doesn't care what you know. The world cares what you can DO with what you know.'

Which essentially is the basis for everything we have been looking at this semester. We no longer teach in an education system where the teacher is holder of the information and the students are our empty vessels. As teachers, we know that this shift has happened and we have been struggling to adapt our practices to meet this shift.  Much of the research and discussion that we have read about this semester, has been about:

  • how we can go about teaching our students that finding the information is important, 
  • but more important is how you use that information to problem solve, to learn, to create, to contribute, to present, to be a successful member of society beyond school.
  • how we educate in an information age within the current framework of industrial age education design.
Tony Wagner continues to discuss that because content knowledge is changing constantly, our job as educators is to teach the students the skill and the will (the motivation) to learn continuously. He talks about teaching our students from the perspective of a three legged stool.
1. the content knowledge
2. the skill to use that content knowledge and acquire new content knowledge
3. the will, the motivation to ask good questions, the curiosity, the persistence, the tenacity. It's important that our students today learn the right questions to ask.

So engaged with what Wagner had to say, I looked at his website : and looked at some of his articles that he has written and talks he has given such as this one:
Tony Wagner - Skillshare Presentation where he discusses how the culture of schooling is radically at odds with the culture of innovation and how we need to reinvent our schools to be places where:

  • innovation and problem solving are more important that individual achievement; 
  • we cross curriculum boundaries instead of focusing on a culture of specialization;
  • we celebrate failure - understanding that innovation and creation arise from taking risks and learning from failure; 
  • learning is about collaboration and creation
  • our students learn to me intrinsically motivated
  • we as educators have a different vision for education for the 21st century. 
Sadly though, there was little acknowledgement of the work educational academics are doing in looking at this issue - particularly the work that IS happening in so many schools across North America, Europe and Australia with inquiry based learning such as Guided Inquiry and the BIG6. Perhaps this is because Wagner is trying to educate the bureaucracy that our education systems should not be based on an industrial age model, where preparation for the world beyond school is based on standardised testing. 

What I did get from listening to Wagner, was a sense of purpose - that we teacher librarians have a very important role to play to educating not only our students, but our colleagues and school communities about how we can go about teaching our students to be innovative and creative and motivated persons for successful futures in our society.


Skillshare (Wagner, T.), (2012, April, 20). Tony Wagner: Creating Innovators (Video file) retrieved from:

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