Bridget McNamer and Julie Ryan joined over 500 participants at the International Baccalaureate Africa/Europe/Middle East Conference in The Hague, October 26th. Both found the conference well organized, the sessions listed worthwhile, and the keynote speakers terrific.
A highlight of the conference, for Bridget and Julie, was the keynote given by Tony Wagner, Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute and author of several books, the third entitled, Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era (2015). Tony began his career as a high school teacher and K-8 principal, before becoming a university professor in teacher education and a distinguished leader in education.
Tony, whose interest lies in innovators and what elements have shaped them, says that there is no relationship between the knowledge learned in a B.A. program and the skills needed to work in high tech. Google, in addition to the big five accounting companies, is no longer feeding solely from Ivy League schools. The trend is to hire students and put them through a summer boot camp to see how they solve problems.
The longer kids are in school, the less curious they become. A number of young people in their twenties already known as creative problem solvers (in many domains) told Tony during interviews that they had become innovators in spite of their education, not because of it. When the innovators could name one or two inspirational teachers, Tony interviewed those teachers, outliers in their settings.
From observing schools and universities known for creativity, Tony saw that the teaching in those schools was completely consistent. Teachers designed units around big problems. They played the role as coach while students, working in teams, worked to solve them. Students were intrinsically motivated because they found the projects relevant. The teachers shared a philosophy: Learn from your mistakes; in a world of innovation, you have to fail to succeed, so “fail early, fail often.”
Tony thinks the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program grading system involves too much unnecessary pressure. He recommends grading be as simple as “credit” or “no credit” and that the IB Personal Project be given more value by the organization. Why? Employers want to know about risks candidates have taken and what skills they have. Tony gave examples of high school programs, such as High Tech High in San Diego and Mid-Pacific High in Honolulu, where the Reggio Emilia approach in the lower levels was pushed up into secondary schools. Tony wonders to what extent IB can collaborate with universities to create a different way to look at students. Currently, a group of leading U.S. independent schools have joined a consortium based on mastery; Yale and University of Chicago, among others, are also participating. International schools could join at http://www.mastery.org,or, perhaps, they could start their own consortium.
Tony’s recommendations to parents and teachers: encourage your kids to spend more time outside; support kids no matter their interests, and encourage them to make a difference, make the world a better place. Finally, encourage them to play.
For this eye opening keynote and the engaging sessions listed in the program, Bridget and Julie,found the IB Global Conference extremely worthwhile. At the Search Associates table, they enjoyed conversing with a steady stream of candidates, potential candidates, and reps from member schools. Our Search Associates take pleasure in attending great conferences such as IB Global to support the best in education: you and your students!