There have been a number of occasions that I have wondered whether or not my previous experience was more of a hinderance than an asset. As a school administrator, I question how capable I am of thinking outside of the traditional learning experiences that I have had. Gaining an outside perspective from individuals who have had success veering from a more “traditional” path is important to gain perspective on the varying paths that are open to our students.
Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to Ben Uyeda, the Creative Director of Homemade Modern and the co-founder of Zero Energy Design. The Homemade Modern YouTube Channel has over 350,000 subscribers and over 5-million views for Ben’s amazing do-it-yourself projects. The video below is one which shows Ben making a concrete stool with a bag of concrete, a bucket, and three dowels. The design was something that Ben created after a friend told him that he could not make a quality stool that would be cheaper than something that could be bought at IKEA.
After listening to Ben speak to a group of high school students, I could not help wondering about the number of opportunities our students are being given to push their thinking. The following are a few of the highlights from Ben’s visit with our high school students:
Being young and inexperienced is a competitive advantage." I am not sure I have ever hear a teacher tell a student that his or her inexperience could be an asset.
Sometimes it pays to be impatient." Ben recounted the fact that in architecture, people generally have to work for someone for 1o years before they can start a business. He and a few of his classmates at Cornell decided that their free time would only dwindle after college, so they started planning in college. They started designing solar homes They got their start leading Cornell University's 2005 Solar Decathlon team in a competition, sponsored by the US Department of Energy, to design and build an 800 square-foot off-grid solar home. "Build skills even if you do not know what you want to do with them. Skills are universal. Don't focus on specific knowledge." "Most people look directly ahead of them and do what they are told. Make sure when you are not doing what you are told that you are doing something useful." In looking at the work that some of our students had made using small pieces of cardboard, Ben encouraged them to "Make as many mistakes as quickly as possible..."
There are growing examples of innovative thinkers like Ben who have charted a different course for themselves to succes. We need to ensure that our students have access to career pathways that include these nontraditional routes. Their success following the tradtional route seems to ensure less and less, particularly if it has an overemphasis on specific knowldege and a minimal focus on skills.
Many of the themes of Ben’s talk with our students can be seen in the TEDx Talk below that he have a little over a year ago.
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