Education|March 2, 2009 10:15 pm

Ten Tips for Education

IDEO created ten tips for creating a 21st C classroom experience. Here are three I’m glad they highlighted:

1. Pull, don’t push.
Create an environment that raises a lot of questions from each of your students, and help them translate that into insight and understanding. Educa­tion is too often seen as the transmission of knowledge. Real learning happens when the student feels the need to reconcile a question he or she is facing—and can’t help but seek out an answer.

[Chris - And how will students determine what kind of questions are worth facing? I would even broaden out this out to wondering how adults are choosing what kind of questions to reconcile in their life. I'm glad the list contains #9]

3. Stop calling them “soft” skills.
Talents such as creativity, collaboration, communication, empathy, and adaptability are not just nice to have; they’re the core capabilities of a 21st-century global economy facing complex challenges.

[Chris - I remember making this exact same point to a group of young entrepreneurs from Junior Achievement. Soft skills are not only hard but necessary. However, I would add that what is lacking in this world is not the concrete pieces of technology, nor even the traditional "soft" skills (although they should be emphasized more), but it's our conduct and caring to apply our skills wisely that is needed.]

9. Incubate the future.
What if our K–12 schools took on the big challenges that we’re facing today? Allow children to see their role in creating this world by studying and creating for topics like global warming, transportation, waste management, health care, poverty, and even education. It’s not about finding the right answer. It’s about being in a place where we learn ambition, involvement, responsibility, not to mention science, math, and literature.

[Chris - Yes, yes, yes! It amazes me that I could have gotten through elementary, junior high, and high school and not once visited the local water treatment centre or come face to face with the marginalized in the community. I had to rely on volunteering during the summer months for that.]

[Chris - And here is one tip that I think is misleading.]

8. Be an anthropologist, not an archaeologist.
An archaeologist seeks to understand the past by investigating its relics and digging for the truth of what was. An anthropologist studies people to understand their values, needs, and desires. If you want to design new solutions for the future, you have to understand what people care about and design for that. Don’t dig for the answer—connect.

[Chris - I get the spirit of this statement in designing for the living, breathing culture of today, but it misses the importance of the past. Social systems are more complex than technological systems. Humanity can't be understood without having a strong grounding in how they came to be. For instance, look at what we have unearthed and uncovered on Easter Island, and the lessons we can learn there about how people deal with environmental crises. We in fact need to be both an anthropologist AND and archaeologist.]

[Chris - Do you have any other tips for the 21st century classroom?]

Tags: ,
  • Share this post:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg


  • Ok… I think I am out of the loop. I know that we found those statue things on Easter Island (no disrespect intended), but I am unsure on the significance in relation to the point.

    Can you debrief me?

    – Lindsey

  • I think another subject that is missed in our current K-12 education system is financial. We all need money to live and we would all love to be rich but no one wants to talk about the hows or what to dos until we actually start making money. I think we all need to be financially literate so that we do not need to depend on governments to support us when we are older.

  • Lindsey,

    It’s only recently they’ve been able to piece together what happened on Easter Island.

    The island use to be a tropical paradise. They were able to determine this by analyzing pollen samples in rock cores.

    The islanders had built these statues called the Moai to honour their ancestors, but this led eventually to rivalries that resulted in ever larger statues and the formation of statue cults.

    Unfortunately, building these statues required ever increasing amounts of wood and stone… more than the island could handle. They knew that resources were becoming scarce, but instead of conserving them, the statue cults claimed that the ancestors would return to save them. So they kept cutting until every tree was cut.

    Eventually the land became acidic and they had to eat all the animals there including the birds, dogs, rodents. Eventually it was war and then a total collapse of the civilization. Now all that’s left are the Moai (ingeniously built by the way).

    It’s just one of history’s lessons!

  • Wow! The power of “groupthink” is unbelievable!

    Thank you for the great explanation!

Leave a Reply