Things Have Changed

Things Have Changed – Get Over It

Bob Dylan sang “Things Have Changed” and the Eagles sang “Get Over It.” Both are true when it comes to learning, education, and what knowledge and skills are needed to be future ready.

The theme of Tony Wagner’s twitter presentation, on June 5, 2021, was promoting a different vision of what school could be to help students to be future ready. Vriti Sara hosted a workshop using Twitter Space – on the future of education, what is need for students’ long-term success, and how we prepare young people for life after high school.

Two resources I strongly recommend are:
1. Most Likely to Succeed – Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith
2. What School Could Be – Ted Dintersmith – Schools in every state that are being successful with engaging students.
Both have movies in addition to the books. WhatSchoolCanBe.Org

Early in Tony’s presentation he asked the question, ‘are students’ innovation ready?’ As I have said in earlier posts, knowledge is important AND insufficient. Content knowledge is still needed but will not be enough to solve some of our problems now and in the future. The question being asked in some of the most innovative companies like Google, Pixar, Menlo, etc. is, ‘what can you do or what can you contribute with the knowledge you have?’ It’s Not What You Know – It’s What You Can Do with What You Know?

Next Tony showed a youtube video called ‘The Future of Work – Will Our Children Be Prepared. I suggest you watch it.

This prompts a few questions for me:
• How do we prepare students to work in these innovative industries?
• How do we prepare ourselves, as learning guides (educators), to prepare students for this kind of world and work?
• How do we help parents, business, and government to know the world has changed and will need some additional and different skills?

Degrees and certifications may be important for a basic understanding. We still need to learn some content, e.g. speaking Spanish, sentence structure, and basic math concepts. Learners and innovators will depend on collaborative skills using diverse perspectives to solve future problems. Richard Sheridan, Menlo Innovations, says the first attribute we look for in potential team members is, “do they play well with other?”

Lazlo Bock (2015) wrote “Work Rules.” As the former HR director for Google, he used to hire mostly people with degrees from prestigious universities. That process wasn’t working as well as Google wanted. His team was trying to predict who would be good employees. GPAs and SAT scores were not providing predictability. They found they needed innovators who were creative problem solvers.

When Tony Wagner interviewed many of the best performers, the results pointed to teachers who were more than content specialists. Those teachers turned out to be outliers, who make learning come alive, and know ways to feed the students curiosity.

Tony found five essential qualities:
1. Focused on teamwork, not individual
2. Silos mean compartmentalize education. Teachers synthesized and integrated content from many sources
3. Culture of the class was not compliance and submission. The focus was on innovation, taking responsible risks, and focused on questions
4. The “F” Word – NOT failure. How about “feedback” or “feedforward?” In the traditional school, the more mistakes, the lower you are on the bell curve. Innovations come from trial and error and adjustments. IDEO wants people to fail early. Fail fast, early, and forward. Tony suggested only three grades: “A”, “B”, Incomplete. A diploma could be a certificate of mastery. Think of pilots, plumber, and technical experts.
5. Motivations – most classrooms are based on extrinsic rewards. Intrinsic motivation is best for knowledge work. Work must be worth doing. See Pink, Deci, Harlow, Herzberg for more on motivation and knowledge workers.

Here are some patterns of parents and teachers who help create the best learners and innovators in students and their kids.
1. Play – Fun, trial & error, make-up games. I suggest improv as good training
2. Passion – What gets you up in the morning? What are you committed to?
3. Purpose – What do you want? How will you contribute to a better world?

Here are some of Tony’s suggestions:
• Spark the learning of curiosity.
• Ask kids to keep a question journal.
• Learning is about asking the right questions.
• What is the question that most interests them?
• Share what they learn at the end of the term.
• Make time for dinner conversations.

We have empathy for parents. The world is more competitive and complex than when we, as parents, grew up. Best grades, best schools were a priority, but the world doesn’t work that way anymore. Parents, educators, and the communities are confused about why, what, and how we educate our young people. Here’s an idea, include students in the process.

Tony reminded me of a book I read twenty years ago. Deborah Meier (1995) titled The Power of Their Ideas. In New York City, Deborah redesigned a school called Central Park East in Harlem. Read it. In some ways the book is more timely now, than when she wrote it. Meier was way ahead of what the future would be and was igniting the learning for many kids, colleagues, and community.

Igniting learning, (notice I didn’t say education), is why I have been a fan of Tony Wagner since I read How Schools Change. Other writings by Tony I would highly recommend are Global Achievement Gap, Creating Innovators, and countless articles by him including Redefining Rigor. Tony’s latest book, Learning by Heart (2020) is a history of his own learning journey. It parallels many of our students and me.

One suggestion I would have for parents is, at the dinner table, have parents ask their kids to teach them about what it is like to go to school these days. It has changed a great deal since we went to school. Please tell us so we can learn from you? Find out what they think.

Bottom Line: the train has left the station. Will we, like Ron Edmonds said in 1979, have the courage to make the commitment to make learning happen for everyone? Edmonds (1979) wrote, “We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.”

Our kids deserve the best we can offer. Tony Wagner offers some exciting ways to look at the future. I close with one of my favorite quotes by General Eric Shinseki (paraphrased), “If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less.”


Bock, Lazlo. (2015). Work Rules. New York: Twelve

Dintersmith, Ted. (2018). What School Could Be. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press.

Meier, Deborah. (1995). The Power of Their Ideas. Boston: Beacon Press

Wagner, Tony. (2008). The Global Achievement Gap. New York: Basic Books

Wagner, Tony. (2012). Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. New York: Scribner

Wagner, Tony & Dintersmith, Ted. (2015). Most Likely to Succeed.
New York: Scribner

Wagner, Tony. (2020). Learning by Heart. New York: Viking


Shift Happens. If you don't adopt New Rules, drop the "f" in Shift!