April 11, 2013

“Passion – the Difference Maker” – from Jen Carey

Jen Carey is LIVE blogging for us from the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. You can also find these posts on her site – indianajen.com.

“Follow my lead. Let’s go somewhere that matters – not just somewhere that glitters.” – Angela Maiers

Please note: the slides and audio for Angela’s talks are available on her website. Angela Maiers is an experienced and passionate educator. She is a celebrated author and keynote speaker. She just kicked off the iPad Summit with her keynote address. Angela’s excitement is palpable in the large conference room. In spite of some technical difficulties (a staple at all talks on technology), she pushes through and begins chatting about the role of passion within education. You can see Angela speak about passion at the TEDxDesMoines event, recorded here.

“Passion is not an event, it’s an emotion,” Angela states. She argues that we often view passion as a luxury. Rather, we should recognize that we all have passion inherently – as educators that work at our craft, travel for learning, and recognize in our students.

“Nothing great in the world can be or has ever been accomplished without passion.” A single person that hides their passion, drive, and discipline actually harms the community. We need passion to drive us forward as a society. We need to protect our own passion as well as cultivate the passion of our students.

Looking at the American educational system, the rules are written by people who don’t “get it.” Educators and those that work directly with children do. That’s why we’re here today. Angela tells the story of attending a summit of three hours addressing the need to create innovative students. Out of 8,677 Tweets, not a single mention was made of cultivating passion. Instead, the focus was on accountability, standards, and rigorous assessment. Three concepts that make teachers around the world cringe. Creativity and innovation… risk taking – these were all neglected. Without passion, education cannot be an innovative industry.

Compare this mentality with a collection of individuals at SXSW. While the event is famous for its music and film festivals, the core element of South by Southwest is that it’s a collection of tech innovators. A core element of this festival is a focus on innovative and emerging technologies. She pointed out that in this element alone, the word “passion” was mentioned thousands of times.

Angela highlights that passion is necessary in education, and that, interestingly, iPad has fostered and encouraged an element of passion within the world of education. In other words, “Passion Matters”!

The conversations about education often focus on data. This is in part where some of the disconnect happens. We want our students to be ready to be global citizens, and yet data-driven education does not fuel passion or innovative success. Passion is not quantitative it’s emotional. We need to make these conversations part of the culture. For many students, school is a “soul sucker.” It penalizes risk taking and discourages passion. We have a passion gap in this country, not a technology or achievement gap. Students need to be driven to do work that matters. If you can secure the heart, then you can get everything that the mind is capable of achieving. As Angela reinforces, schools today kill students’ passion as we remove the focus from passion and work that matters to instead look at testing and data-driven assessment.

“Where would the world be without teachers who had a passion for their science and craft and loved it right in front of us!” – Mr. Rogers

Passionate individuals can and do change the world. Angela argues that the geniuses who have contributed to society throughout the history of the world have discussed the painful and gut wrenching nature of the innovative process. It is physical and emotional pain to push through for what matters. Passion is not about something you “like” to do or are good at doing. Rather, passion is getting in touch with what you must do and what you will be called to do as a contributing citizen of the world. Without it, we become complacent and apathetic.  Passion is drive and discipline. It requires commitment at an incredibly deep level. This is what we need to cultivate in our classrooms. In order to do that, we need to surround our students with passion driven people: leaders, teachers, and other students. Witnessing someone driven by passion is inspiring.

“Secure the heart or you don’t have a shot at their brains or business” – Angela Maiers

After we meet basic needs, the brain focuses on our social interactions with the world around us: knowing that we are valued and mattered. Per Malcolm Gladwell, this happens in seconds. If we do not take H.E.A.R.T. (Honor Expect Act Risk Take action) then we will lose them. We need to ensure that we recognize others’ value. Any level of genius that you recognize in others you must excavate and get out of them. Everyone has an element of genius. Great educators understand how to get this out of individuals.

In order to live up to our genius, we need to act, to take courage, and to demonstrate a willingness to take risk. We can foster that willingness by surrounding ourselves with passionate people. A passionate individual influences the world around them. For example, Zappos specifically recruits passionate individuals for their company. Passion allows you to be who you are, not what you do.

“You are a genius and the world needs your contribution.”

As educators, we need to stop focusing on what children consume and instead focus on what they contribute. The 21st century demands that we contribute. There is more contributed in a single second on the web than there is in a year via traditional media. Pumping out content is easy, but making it meaningful and ensuring that others care about it is challenging. The web is inherently passion driven, people share what they care about. Looking at Google and Yahoo trending, we can view what captures the hearts of the public.

In terms of iPad, it allows students to act on their passions wherever and whenever they need. It allows them to contribute to the world, acting on their passion. As students, they can act on a “to be” list rather than a “to do” list. Your “to do list” should be a “get to do” list. Passion driven people are never “done” with their to do list. Our work is not about getting there, but about becoming more successful and impactful.

If you do not know how to take a chance or a risk, then the 21st century will be a dangerous place for you. In fact, safe is risky – playing it safe does not solve problems. To get past “safe” and encourage kids to risk, we set “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (B.H.A.G.). If you want to know if it matters, then it should scare you. Big goals are terrifying. Without them, genius will not show up. You must live and learn as though you are capable of solving the world’s biggest problems.

In order to get students to take action, ask them “What breaks your heart about the world?” Then… act on that. Passion drives young people to do amazing things. Technology allows individuals to reach farther and have a broader impact. It expects students to contribute and participate in the world.

Angela highlights that her heartbreak is that the genius of kids and teachers is not valued by the world. As such, she had the individuals at TopCoder build a site, Choose2matter, an organization that celebrates the genius of students and teachers. It launches this week and its focus is to recognize the genius of ALL students and children.