Book Preview: Innovation in Education

Tony Wagner, Ed. D., Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard delivered his keynote at the recent conference on “Creativity, Play, and the Imagination across Disciplines” at Teachers College, Columbia University. The article that follows is a preview of his forthcoming book.

A recent advertisement for an American airline reads “Who is emerging is not as important as what is emerging.” The same could be said for innovation. In the global knowledge economy, what will innovation look like in the year 2025 and more importantly, how can the education system support innovation for all its citizens? In his forthcoming book, Learning to Innovate, Innovating to Learn, Tony Wagner, Ed.D., who is Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, sets out to do just that with the goal of informing the American education system about a whole new approach to teaching core 21st century skills. In his The Global Achievement Gap, published in 2008, Wagner identified 21st century skills such as curiosity and imagination that will be needed not just for jobs, but also continuous lifelong learning. Dr. Wagner recognizes that these skills cannot be grafted to an existing education culture as an add-on but must be embedded deeply in the education culture in order to develop the capacities of creativity and innovation. Therefore, he approaches his current project by looking at outliers—young, entrepreneurial individuals—who cut short their education paths to initiate successful startup enterprises. In his case studies of young adults, Wagner wants to uncover what factors contributed to their creative ventures and sustained their passion and motivation throughout the process. By talking with these young entrepreneurs and their parents and teachers, he has identified several common factors. Parents who encouraged free play and open exploration were very important. So were teachers who were adept at getting students to work collaboratively and supported hands-on projects with real world applications. Wagner also found that, in addition to parents, there was often a teacher or another supportive adult whose role Visit website:
Tony Wagner’s website:

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