Imagination and Thinking Skills

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I have been surprised with the response that my NECC reflection received. I have to say I wasn’t expecting to receive such supportive comments.

I just keep thinking:

Where do we go from here?

While in the airport on my way to Richmond, Virginia to visit my grandfather who I haven’t seen in 9 years I stopped by the magazine stand in what has become a type of airport tradition. I don’t receive any English magazines in China so while I’m home in the summer I grab every PC World, PC Magazine, etc I can get my hands on. One thing about flying internationally I get a chance to get different versions. I have PC World Australia (Picked it up in Singapore), PC World U.K. (Picked it up in South Africa) and have purchased both June and July of the U.S.A. version. I take them all back and read them over and over again for the coming year.

While in the Dullas airport I was looking at different magazines when I came across Business 2.0. I’d never heard of this magazine before and the 2.0 reference had me wondering. So I grabbed it real quick and gave it a glance through. The cover story was titled: “The 50 People Who Matter Now” with a picture of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. So I bought the magazine thinking to myself. This should be interesting.

I read the magazine on the plane and found it very interesting on who they picked to be the #1 Influential player in the business world in the coming years. That person…YOU

The Consumer as Creator

Why you matter: They’ve long said the customer is always right. But they never really meant it. Now they have no choice. You-or rather, the collaborative intelligence of tens of millions of people, the networked you-continually create and filter new forms of content, anointing the useful, the relevant, and the amusing and rejecting the rest. You do it on websites like Amazon, Flickr, and YouTube, via podcasts and SMS polling, and on millions of self-published blogs. In every case, you’ve become an integral part of the action as a member of the aggregated, interactive, self-organizing, auto-entertaining audience. But the You Revolution goes well beyond user-generated content. Companies as diverse as Delta Air Lines and T-Mobile are turning to you to create their ad slogans. Procter & Gamble and Lego are incorporating your ideas into new products. You constructed open-source and are its customer and its caretaker. None of this should be a surprise, since it was you-your crazy passions and hobbies and obsessions-that built out the Web in the first place. And some-where out there, you’re building Web 3.0. We don’t yet know what that is, but one thing’s for sure: It will matter.

WOW, is all I could say when I read this. My favorite part:

“In every case, you’ve become an integral part of the action as a member of the aggregated, interactive, self-organizing, auto-entertaining audience.”

Who are they talking about when they write this? What age group are they describing? I can’t help but think it’s not my age group (I turn 30 in a week…more on that later!). Besides the handful of us who read blogs, know what RSS is, etc. They are describing our students. Students who entertain themselves with YouTube, Myspace, Flickr, and the rest of the social web tools.

A business magazine names web users as the #1 most influential players in the business world. In education who would we name as the #1 player?


I would hope the answer would be students, and if it’s students who are the #1 players in education how do we teach them to be the #1 influential business player? One thing that keeps coming back to me is something that Will Richardson said in his NECC presentation. It was something like:

We need to be imaginative in the way we use these tools.

And we need to allow our students to be imaginative. Not teach them to be ALLOW them to be. We need to cultivate the imaginative side of our students. We are no longer a country that produces things…we are a country who imagines things. We imagine it and we ship the supplies to places like China and they produce it. Whether you agree with this or not, it’s the way things are.

Here’s a story for you from China:

When we moved from Saudi Arabia to Shanghai last summer we shipped a container of house wares with two other families that were moving there as well. The container cost us about $1,500. Not bad for a 40 foot container on a ship. One of the teachers from our school who left this year was looking to ship things from Shanghai to Saudi Arabia were they just took new jobs. The cost of a 40 foot container…$5,000. WHY?

Answer: Containers coming into China are mostly empty; containers leaving China are always full!

Part of what the new social web allows us to do is be imaginative. We get to be producers of radio shows (podcasts) and directors of movies (Check YouTube) we get to design software like Linux, OpenOffice, and Writely. We imagine a better way to build something, and idea that can make life easier for all of us, or can improve our lives all together.

The skills needed in this new society are different. They are skills of thinkers.

Flickr Picture: http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=57992401&size=s

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Sheryl Winstead Reply

    This is so powerful! Thanks for sharing your insight!

  2. Hi Jeff,

    Although I’m not sitting in China reading magazines I’ve collected on my travels. I have learned the importance of educators keeping up on industry publications. I do a fair amount of traveling and always include the airport book store in my rounds as I kill time waiting for a flight. And, in all my work with school administrators I always recommend that they make an effort to include this kind of reading. Business 2.0 is one of my favorite publications to share. In fact, I actually subscribed to it and haven’t been disappointed yet. Yes, they have a Web site, but it makes for good reading on a flight. It’s good to hear another educator has found it useful!

  3. Jeff:
    Great thoughts! I guess my biggest aha moment while reading your post is that this doesn’t come as any surprise. You’ve just very nicely put it into words. After all, we can customize just about anything. Shoes, picture frames, jeans. The current generation is growing up in a world in which they are able to make choices and really find what they like and what fits them. I think our student feel so disinfranchized by education because they are so used to being able to express themselves. In some education systems, this is not possible as we still have a tendency to clump all groups together. I just saw a fantastic video from a place called “Raising Small Wonders” It is called “Animal School” (http://www.raisingsmallsouls.com/wp-content/themes/179/aschool.html) and if you haven’t seen it, I think it really shows how are students are diverse and that we need to let them show us what they can do and show us themselves when we attempt to customize our teaching.

    Again, thank you for your insights!

  4. Business 2.0 has actually been around a little while and is an EXCELLENT magazine that I enjoyed reading prolifically as a businesswoman and less frequently, but still with interest, as an educator.

    Be careful when attaching an age to those who use new technology, I am nearing 38 and I guess as I stare down my nose at 40, I would hate to be stereotyped as a non-techie. I’ve always joked with my students that I’ll be the most prolific blogger in the nursing home one day! (though hopefully I’m a long way from that!)

    This is an excellent point and one that is turning business on its ear. One reason Microsoft is struggling is their inability to determine how their business should migrate to another profit model in a world of consumer created content. I think Amazon and Ebay were the first to really understand and tap into the power of consumer created content as the backbone of a good online presence.

    I think we will again see a multiplicity of “new” tools, and then a culling out as many of them don’t make it. I just hope that the loss of consumer created data that ultimately will occur will not deter creators from creating.

    Just imagine, what if your whole blog dissapeared without warning overnight? This will be an interesting thing to watch and I hope that educators can begin to channel a flow of student-created content to educate more effectively.

    As always, a great post!

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