Apr 232014

Let’s not kill creativity. From Creativity and Consciousness:

“In 1968, George Land gave 1,600 5-year-olds a creativity test used by NASA to select innovative engineers and scientists. He then re-tested the same children at ages 10 and 15. The test results were staggering! 98% at age 5 registered genius level creativity, 30% at 10 year and 12% at 15 years of age. The same test given to 280,000 adults placed their genius level creativity at only 2% ! In his book ‘Breakpoint and Beyond’, co-authored by Beth Jarman, Land concluded that non-creative behavior is learned”.

The capability to come up with creative solutions to problems at hand makes us and our children thrive in this ever changing world. How can we stem the tide and help our children to keep their genius? I don’t have a study to proof it, but I would venture focusing on multiple choice test with one right answer may have something to do with that loss.

We are to blame too, we have the terrible tendency to treat Lego as three dimensional puzzle pieces. You get the big set and built the Star War Millennium Falcon according to plan. After that you put it on the shelf, or even glue it together. Jen Taylor’s TEDxCC talk is eloquently giving more examples.

What can we do?


Stay away from activities, things and events that have a pre-set outcome, that force you to go down exactly one “right” path.

If you get one of these big lego sets, throw away the plan and create your own death star.

Make up your own games. One framework for that was pointed out to me recently by the amazing Peter Kaminski. It is a game called 1000 Blank White Cards where you literally use a stack of white index cards and create your own game including the rules. It is encouraged to create more cards while playing the game and even change these rules if you like.

What are your open game ideas?

Aug 222013

In this presentation I focused on what you can do, even if your school is not an alive school yet.

Treat going to school like an actor treats his day job. Full focus while there and put enough effort in it to be good, but not one moment more. When you are out of school you come alive and work on becoming you, finding your reason for being.

Working on a voice over under for these slides, as the video taping wasn’t working properly.

I can’t think of a more fertile ground to share these ideas than SXSWedu conference next spring. This is why I put my hat into the ring and suggested a session: 5 Ideas To Bring Our Schools Into the 21st Century

Please vote for me, so I can share these ideas and develop them further with the education experts attending the conference.

PanelPicker Vote



Jun 152013

Marin County Fair 2013 Schools Rule GraphicStanley Kubrik once said:

I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation. Fear of getting failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc. Interest can produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to a firecracker. [Highlights mine]

Idea two of my vision for the 21st century school: let children decide which problems they want to tackle enables the nuclear explosion of learning.

On the 6th of July I will present an updated version of the 5 Ideas To Bring Our Schools Into the 21st Century TEDx talk.

It is going to happen at the Marin Fair in San Rafael. Schools Rule Marin is organizing a Kids Talks series all days. My session is going to happen on Saturday 6th of July at 5pm PST. [map]

What I find frustrating with TED talks is, that there is zero interaction. They are geared towards awing the audience: Look at my brilliant idea it’s sparkly. Watching the presenter you hold your breath, give applause and wait for the next speaker’s rocket to go up into the sky.

For me the most interesting stuff is happening in the interaction. In the “have you thought about this” questions that bring the whole topic forward.

 My goal for this session is to do exactly that, engage with you passionate kids, teachers, parents, …

I will introduce the 5 ideas within 15 minutes encourage interruptions that bring the ideas forward and then open up the microphones for additional input and conversation. Can’t wait.

We will tape it, and are in dialog with the organizers to see whether we can webcast it too. Please join the conversation.

Jun 032012

So cool the replay of my TEDx talk is out: 5 Ideas to bring our schools into the 21st century.

If you want more background to these ideas check out the Cliff Notes and the slides to the talk. They slides in the video are bit stretched. If you want to help out, make this vision come true and create the framework in your local school, please fill out this form or send us an mark@aliveschools.org.

Once these ideas are implemented at your school, I am convinced, that there will be many hugs from happy children to be had.

May 252012

Massie is Savannah's oldest School

The video of my TEDx Creative Coast talk is not yet released, but I thought I quickly summarize the 5 ideas. Someone even said that it is just one big idea and you can view it like that:

Envision a world where every child in every classroom is fully engaged in solving real world problems of their choosing and sharing their ideas, progress and solution with the whole world for the benefit of all.

For me it is easier to remember via the 5 points:

  1. Let children solve real world problems. They learn skills that they can use in most every job.
  2. Let the children decide which problem they want to tackle. Excellent skills to have: Coming up with ideas, convincing your fellow students to focus the rest of the year on that one problem and focusing on the solution for the rest of the school year. [I can’t wait to find out what they will do.]
  3. Share the problem, proposed solution as well as the whole process on the web with the world Wikipedia style. We live in a networked world, let’s use that opportunity to the fullest. Track progress weekly for a great review at the end of the year and for others to learn from everyones else’s progress.
  4. Big hand-over of the solution via a presentation in front of students, teachers, parents, … Great skill to have to be able to present your ideas and solution in front of a larger audience.
  5. Project Fridays: Every Google employees is allowed to focus 20% of their time on a project of their choosing. Let’s do the same with our children in school. 20% is the equivalent to one school day a week. Let’s do it on Friday. It would be a major change and make a real difference, but still if we put our minds behind it, we can implement it in our schools by the fall.

These 5 ideas form a framework to really energize our schools. Every school can adjust any of these to their local needs and capabilities. Central is to trust in our kids ability to come up with interesting problems and solutions for them to focus on. As they have not been given that chance before, they may need some nudging at the beginning, but after that I am convinced they will awake to their own ability and drive the whole process with all their might.

Will let you know right away once the recording is available. In the meantime join the Alive School movement . In addition you can check out the slides I used: