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Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner


Intro Questions
  1. How does the author think America’s economy will become strong again?
  2. What are some specific lessons you use that help students develop creative and critical thinking?

Chapter 1 Questions
  1. Wagner said, “We have to become the country that creates the new and better products, processes, and services that other countries want and need.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why/why not?
  2. Out of all the surveys, studies and statistics listed in Chapter one, which one was most surprising to you? Why?
  3. What are incremental and disruptive innovators?
  4. What does “innovation” in the realm of education mean to you?
  5. According to Tim Brown, characteristics of design thinkers are: optimistic, empathetic, integrative [thinkers], involved in experimentalism and collaborative. What can public schools do to foster and encourage “design thinkers?”

Chapter 2 Questions

1. Kirk Phelps said, “What you study is not that important. Knowing how to find those things you are interested in is way, way more important…” Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not.

2. Lea Phelps, Kirk’s mother, said in a section devoted to how they parented young Kirk, “As a mother, I believe the combination of out-of-doors, unstructured time, where you have to figure out how to entertain your-self without a lot of bought toys, and reading on a regular basis are extremely important to children’s development.” In your opinion, how do you think public schools can try to address/incorporate this into their system?

3. What are the “three p’s” that the author refers to as being fundamental for the development of intrinsic motivation?

4. What are the three fundamental cultural traits, seen in most conventional schools and universities that are radically at odds with the “Culture of Innovation”?

Chapter 3 Questions

  1. Jamien was pressured from both high school and college teachers to go after a well paying STEM career. What are your thoughts about this?
  2. The parents encouraged their children to think about how they were going to “give back.” What can we do as educators to help facilitate students with this?
  3. David Sengeh said “I don’t remember anything I did in any of my classes –except Spanish. The advice I wish I’d been given early on was to not worry about my GPA.” Do you agree with his statement? Why/why not?
  4. Wagner said, “To maintain our standard of living and improve our world, every young person needs to become an innovator.” What do you think about this statement?

Chapter 4 Questions

1. Was there a notable difference in students wanting to improve society based on economic standing? Why do you think that is?

2. “All the pressure from so many tests hurt my creative endeavors….the educational system was never supportive…school was a detriment to his learning.” What do we think about these statements?

3. Why is passion a major factor for Social Innovators?

4. How can we, as teachers, develop and support more Social Innovators?

Chapter 5 Questions

1. At the beginning of the book and throughout chapter 5, Wagner emphasizes the fact that secondary and post-secondary education in America today are failing to prepare students for success in the global workplace. He also expounds on how difficult it is to change the status quo in education. Do you agree that significant, foundational changes must be made in our education system? If so, what are some baby steps we, as individual educators, can take to nurture the creative innovator in our students?

2. Wagner's premise in Chapter 1 is that, generally speaking, those who can create and innovate are the ones who can plan on being in high demand in the future workforce. Do you agree with this theory? How does it make you feel?

3. Wagner's study of Olin College focuses on their foundational belief in free choice (students even choose their own self-created majors) and inter-disciplinary study. Students at the college say they learn better and are better prepared for the workplace by studying engineering in conjunction with the humanities. Does this idea of "renaissance man" resonate with you?

4. Wagner also espouses cross-curricular and collaborative study with individual specialization? How do we balance collaboration and independent work in the classroom so we are able to assess where each student is on the mastery spectrum, while still allowing students to work together and learn from each other?

Chapter 6 Questions

  1. What were some concerns that parents and business leaders expressed about the future employers/employees and the job market in America?
  2. Throughout the book, economic concerns were made clear – that middle class jobs are disappearing; some are done by machines or sent overseas, while the need for innovative thinking will be in higher demand. Wagner said, “There is innovation in this kind of work (working with the elderly, for example) as much as there is in designing the next iPad.” What are your thoughts on this in conjunction with the economic outlook this book has discussed?

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