The Village Green

A gathering place to discuss the implications of technology in education

Innovation Pixar Style

Filed under: 21st-Century,Articles/Videos,Opinion — Matthew Woolums at 1:32 pm on Saturday, May 3, 2008

I love animated movies, and especially those from Pixar. So I was very interested when a note came up in my RSS reader about a Brad Bird interview. In the excerpts of the interview presented by GigaOM, many of them apply well to education and thinking about the classroom in new ways. I see innovation as a good way to describe what I believe about education. Here are a couple of samples.

Lesson Four: Innovation Doesn’t happen in a VacuumThe Quarterly: How do you build and lead a team?Brad Bird: I got everybody in a room. This was different from what the previous guy had done; he had reviewed the work in private, generated notes, and sent them to the person… I said, “Look, this is a young team. As individual animators, we all have different strengths and weaknesses, but if we can interconnect all our strengths, we are collectively the greatest animator on earth. So I want you guys to speak up and drop your drawers. We’re going to look at your scenes in front of everybody. Everyone will get humiliated and encouraged together…

Seems like a great description for setting up group work. It also sounds like a view of assessment that is counter to the current classroom norm. Instead of papers graded in isolation, everyone is grading everyone because the point of the learning is to do the best with the task at hand. Of course that also means we need to rethink the task.

Lesson Six: Dont Try To “Protect your success”The Quarterly: Engagement, morale—what else is critical for stimulating innovative thinking?Brad Bird: The first step in achieving the impossible is believing that the impossible can be achieved. … “You don’t play it safe—you do something that scares you, that’s at the edge of your capabilities, where you might fail. That’s what gets you up in the morning.”

I’ve tried to describe this before and don’t think I’ve done it justice, but too often education is stuck thinking about doing the job the way we’ve already done it instead of trying to make the impossible possible.There are also examples of lessons from the interview that have no easy corollary to the classroom. Lesson Eight is ‘Get Rid of Weak Links’ which refers to removing passive-aggressive people from the team. When we work with students in public education, you can’t just fire a student from your room.Check out the interview excerpts and the whole interview if you have time. Also, think about how focusing on innovation informs the practice of teaching, of how together, you and your students can be the smartest person in the world.

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