The most important space of invention is the one between the ears. The brain grew in size and developed more complex, networked structures over millions of years/
Inventing involves making connections—between neurons, among diverse disciplines, with peers, with physical objects and the natural world, and with other inventors around the world, including Zog. Learning by doing and observation.
With increasing brain size, observation and association, early humans made new neural connections, creating inventions to solve problems and adapt to changing conditions.
The origin of stone tools, the expansion of the brain, and the complexity of social life that we see with the emergence of humansmay be a response not to just the dry savanna or the cold Ice Age but to the wide and dramatic variability of climate over time.
A part of the adaptability of our species as it has evolved is ourability to diversify our options. We have different cultures. We're characterized by cultural diversity in a way that no previous early human had been. This may be our ultimate key to success—keeping our options open.
Stephen Jay Gould wrote that we live “in a society driven, often unconsciously, to impose a uniform mediocrity upon a former richness of excellences.” We have imposed such uniformity on our schools and our world. This may not help us in a time when we really need to keep our options open!
With confined spaces and subjects, traditional classrooms box learners in, physically and intellectually. The standard tools of evaluation, reward and competition all restrict choice and creativity. No drawing outside the lines in this class!
Siloed and standardized disciplines, single “correct” answers, emphasis on one type of success and avoiding failure—this is designed to reduce the ability to think creatively and adaptively.
A few weeks ago someone on NPR noted the urgent need for someone to create the next billion-dollar invention. Another approach, I thought, could be to create a billion inventions, starting in K12..
Spaces for K-12 inventors need to be safe, secure, cue-rich, full of choices, connected, and open. They need to provide a level of stimulation for learners to engage both their subject matter- and creativity-relevant skills, combining structured lessons with improvisational activities.
Autobiographical thinking and personal narrative development begins at a young age. Learners need can observe real people demonstrating real situations. This helps them to imagine their own future as an inventor, or maybe a police officer!
Providing a young inventor with the psychological safety they need to let their minds wander, make associations, try a solution and work through failures and develop their inventor identity helps to build “agency”—the self-belief critical to an inventor’s mind. This can happen right here at the Spark Lab!
We need learners to see how their story fits into the large human story of invention dating back millions of years. Developinga sense of themselves as inventors can helpchallengeand restory the often conflicting scripts and roles learners encounter in school.
The pace of invention is dramatically increasing as we share concepts and designs with just a click of the mouse. K-12 learners can talk to a professor in California or a fellow learner in Calcutta. If good ideas come from what’s around—there is a lot more around to work with—thanks to an invention!
With our ability to communicate, to use our big brains to make associations and analogies, and our access to ideas and information, we have a magical power to turn our imaginations into reality. Zog and his ilk were likely not the first, and we not the last, to invent the future.