How to build the thinkers of tomorrow

Tracy Clark combines digital and analog activities to create powerful learning experiences in schools.

How do you spark potential in someone else? How do you bring out the best in everyone? What would society be like if this were the norm?

Educators wrestle with these questions every day. With such lofty aspirations, you’d think that innovation within the education space would dazzle, not fizzle.

While technological progress and business innovation have been steady, advancements in education remain flat in comparison with other countries with comparable economic power. As venture capitalist Danny Crichton wrote in a 2015 article for TechCrunch:

Few areas have been as hopeful—and as disappointing—as innovation in education.

And there may be good reason for that. For decades, most schools were influenced by business and economic outcomes. Ford’s car assembly lines inspired a one-size-fits-all approach to education. Everyone generally got the same curriculum, the same tests, and the same results: a high school diploma from a generic factory school.

The commoditization of education lowered standards over time. But while education standards led to mediocre rankings, a passionate group of educators and teachers bucked the system and began to think about learning in a different way—which led to new ways to teach.

Nonstop learning

Some educators realized that making things better was their responsibility—or more students would suffer as a consequence. As the Internet exploded and knowledge spread, they shared best practices and even borrowed ideas from other industries.

The new ed-tech learning environment: mixing analog with digital tools

Tracy Clark exemplifies this new hybrid mind. She spent a year devouring books like The Lean StartupGood to GreatRework, and Crossing the Chasm. Sound like an educator’s reading list to you? Here’s Tracy:

Book by book, article by article, conversation by conversation, even tweet by tweet… my perceptions were challenged, my thinking deepened, and my understanding cultivated on a variety of topics.

Educators are natural problem-solvers, but many times it’s easier to stay in your industry comfort zone. After finishing Jim Collins’ latest book, Great By Choice, she reflected:

I was still searching for an easy button, a shortcut, a secret. Well, here’s the secret–there is no secret. Things that are worthwhile take a while.

Part of taking the long road means educators must be models for their students. That means telling the truth. It means vulnerability. And it meant Tracy would have to take more risks to get the results she wanted to see.

Tracy would have to think in a different way. But more importantly, she would have to be different. Her mindset was more critical than ever.

As educators, it’s vital to show students we are still learning—and that we don’t know all the answers.

She continues:

As leaders, it’s paramount to not pretend like we have it all together and to reach out when we need support and guidance ourselves.

If the leader in the room is curious and still growing, would students accept their own ignorance and become more curious too?

This laid the perfect groundwork for her new venture.

Building Thinkers

Tracy started Building Thinkers to improve classroom dynamics and increase a student’s ability to think for themselves. Her goal was simple:

Build thinkers who are engaged, self-directed, and creative.

This means more than implementing interactive curriculum. It’s about organizing and training teachers and educators, researching and developing forward-thinking ideas, and sharing learning tools with other educators on a regular basis.

One of those tools is Typeform. Using a mix of analog and digital activities keeps learning fresh and novel, without overwhelming the senses. Tracy adds:

We use Typeform with students to track progress through a series of activities.
Students receive instructions and input responses through typeform

How does it work? Learners go to different stations and participate with hands-on activities. Then they input their reflections and responses in a typeform. The idea of pairing physical and digital activities makes learning interactive.

You can check out her typeform here.

Engaging students through activities and projects gives them a more personalized learning experience—making it much more meaningful.

We’ve created unique and flexible opportunities for feedback, and I appreciate the user experience.

There’s that word again: experience. And it’s important to note:

The learning experience of every student shapes the collective world we live in.

And to get the most out of their education, a teacher must help a student see what they’re capable of.

If schools in the past were rigid and sought to stuff knowledge into learners, the school of the future is more dynamic, fluid, and will bring the best out of everyone. Imagine a school where students think for themselves, are self-directed, and act from personal purpose.

Tracy says it best:

Our world needs more creatives than cogs. Do we want well-behaved students or world-changing citizens?

That question sparks its own debate. But here’s something to think about going forward. How could you combine physical and digital learning experiences? How will you help people see their potential?

If you need a flexible tool to work with, see how Tracy made her typeform here.

Enjoy making learning experiential. Take care 😎

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