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by Mike Ehrhardt
Head of School
Cary Academy

Cary Academy hosted one of the country’s leading voices in educational innovation, Dr. Tony Wagner, on December 15, 2014, for a talk on his most recent book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.

In his presentation and subsequent question and answer session, Dr. Wagner, who is an Expert in Residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab, highlighted the three big elements necessary for schools and parents to create an environment ripe for innovation:

  • Play
  • Passion
  • Purpose

Innovation, Dr. Wagner said, rarely happens from a single lightening bolt of inspiration. Collaboration between individuals and disciplines should be at the core of the work happening in schools — for both teachers and students.

An innovative environment promotes risk taking and the discovery of new connections between ideas. Schools should continue to look for ways to take advantage of students’ intrinsic motivation by giving them some flexibility in their learning and creating a failure-friendly atmosphere. Learning is an iterative process that is sparked when students understand their own abilities and can build upon skills in future work. Wagner’s thinking on the importance of iteration dovetails very nicely with the work of John Hattie on educational achievement that I wrote about earlier this year. Hattie says that one of the biggest factors impacting achievement is when students understand their own learning and give that feedback to their teachers, who can then adjust the next steps in the course.

You can here some of Dr. Wagner’s talk at Cary Academy in this audio link. 

You can hear a nice summary of Dr. Wagner’s presentation from a talk he gave at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, about a month before coming to visit us at Cary Academy.