Robot Mom: Educating our Next Generation of Leaders and Innovators
I will start this article by admitting I am not a Robot Mom – but I aim to inspire many.
Last year I was attending a sustainability conference where a wonderful local company Rally Software was presenting about their Agile Innovation methods. They have launched programs teaching businesses as well as college students human-centered design and agile innovation. At the end of the talk, I stood up and asked a simple question, “What about our younger students?” It seems to me that 4 year olds come into this world as agile experts – empathetic, willing to innovate and experiment, fail fast and even break stuff! It seems we spend the first 18 years of their schooling routinely training them out of this faculty only to spend the next decade of their career re-training it back in.
When I stood up and asked this question, Rally CEO Ryan Martin said to me, “Maybe you need to be a Robot Mom?”
Well, I can’t say that I’m really Robot Mom material – being non-technical enough that I can’t seem to figure out how to work the new Comcast DVRs (I miss my TIVO!) But this comment has caused me to dive head first into education advocacy. I’ve been working on the edges of education for more than a decade now – as a researcher and advocate. But this past two years I been working intensively with an Independent School called Mackintosh Academy (Boulder and Littleton) to build their marketing, program and platform. Sometimes you need to incubate outside of the system to start something new. I’ve been neck deep in advancing their mission which is about tapping into the unique genius of every child and seeing each child as a contributor who will serve the world in some way. Important as philosophy, it also makes the tools of agile innovation and design thinking integral to the curriculum.
After all, what do children need to know to be great leaders, innovators, makers and contributors to culture and society? How to be ethical, empathetic, solve problems and ultimately GSD (get shit done)
There are a few key pillars to agile innovation and design thinking that really help kids learn how to bring their gifts to the world. Each core skill can be integrated into a curriculum and classroom practices all day, every day and in many ways.
At Mack we are actively training skills like…
Empathy and the empathetic imagination and the ability to understand what other people might want or need
The ability to ideate and imagine new possibilities and have your ideas heard
The ability to rapidly prototype solutions, try things, fail and learn from feedback
The ability to know what your skills are and what/where you can contribute to a situation – including where to lead and when to follow
And perhaps most importantly, the ability to joyfully take on a meaningful challenge
Aren’t these the skills we all need for anything we do in our adult lives?
But most of all, this type of education is filled with play and delight in discovery – in self, in others, in new ways of doing things – elements that are sorely missing in our educational system today.
I could give you a ton of resources about this – email if you want more. But this great little article can serve as a starting point for our conversation – and a Mind Shift in education (the aptly titled blog it comes from). It asks the question if the Maker Movement can or will infiltrate mainstream classrooms? But Maker is only one form of a movement designed to help kids tap into their innate skills and abilities. It introduces them to a different way of working, thinking, knowing, doing and building vs. our traditional “one right answer” classrooms. It’s an education that teaches kids to see possibilities and to learn how to make them real.
Now isn’t that the only kind of education worth having? From one Robot Mom to another.