In·no·va·tion [inəˈvāSH(ə)n/] – a new method, idea, product, etc.
One day, while at Maddux Elementary in Cincinnati, Ohio, I spoke with a young student eager to brainstorm with my technology staff. He built something pretty amazing and wanted us to provide district data storage for him. At Maddux, when parents picked up students at the end of the day, teachers manning the process didn’t have an efficient method for calling students up to cars. Hayden, a 6th grade student, had an idea. Through his knowledge of coding, Hayden developed an app using Android Studio, PHP, and a MySQL database. If you aren’t familiar with coding, this means he built what you see on a phone or tablet, referred to as a graphical user interface (GUI) and what you don’t see that stores the data (a database) in addition to all of the functions moving objects from the phone/tablet into a database. Hayden’s passion landed him at Code Academy when he was seven years old. No one forced him to learn it, he found the site, enjoyed learning to code and continued working on his craft. Now, he’s putting his talents to use solving a real issue at school.
As adults, we sometimes assume students are still learning and cannot tackle difficult problems because they don’t have enough experience or education to be successful. I’ve been guilty of this thinking myself from time to time. However, learning happens while students make mistakes. Whether or not they ultimately become successful isn’t as important as the process itself. Students like to play games and achieve mastery which is why games fill the app store, and Playstation and XBox exist. Solving real problems feels like playing a game where failing actually helps solve the problem. Successful coding follows the same sequence and both playing games and coding teach resiliency.
Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, asserts that people are motivated by three things: mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Think about Hayden and his app. All three elements were present for him. He tapped into his potential, boldly accepting the challenge to solve an issue for his school. As we look into our schools and classrooms, is the work offering opportunities for mastery, autonomy, and purpose?
I challenge us to think bigger. There are significant problems in cultures much less fortunate than our own rich for studying and problem-solving. Sometimes, it helps to have some resources to get started, so check out the resources below.
- Global Issues
- Search the United Nations site for an overview of global issues.
- Chris Craft started the Prosthetic Kids Hand Challenge where students 3D print prosthetic hands for children in need.
There are many problems within your school and community worth solving too. Look around using a solution-based lens. What isn’t working or could be better? Connect with the local Chamber of Commerce and attend one of the meetings, so businesses can offer issues they are struggling to solve or where they need fresh ideas.
It is amazing what students can accomplish when given a chance, even at a young age. Students view the world differently from adults. Our experiences have the potential to block innovative solutions as we overthink the problem. Students willingly offer up multiple solutions, and some of them just might work!