“My parents supported me wholeheartedly with my creative endeavors. They were my champions.” Ahmet Zappa – USA

With today’s opening of Disney’s new live-action film The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Ahmet Zappa can add yet another accomplishment to his already eclectic CV. Zappa, the film’s writer and son of the late rock musician/composer Frank Zappa, has done just about everything in his quest for creative fulfillment. From acting on TV sitcoms and in films, to hosting a game show, to performing and recording music with older brother Dweezil, to writing a children’s book (2006’s The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless), he’s explored many career paths and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, he recently added “President of Wham-O Toys” to his list of titles. So it might surprise you to learn that Zappa’s formal education ended in the 8th grade, when his famously unconventional father encouraged him to “graduate himself” and pursue his own
education.

As Zappa reflects on his self-directed education today, he has some regrets about not completing a traditional education, but understands that unique learning challenges took him down a different path. “My parents supported me wholeheartedly with my creative endeavors. They were my champions,”Zappa says, “I had dyslexia, but my parents recognized what my interests were (and gave me experiences to support them).”  These experiences included extensive travel and “lots of strange people, cool people” visiting his house.

Now, inspired by his unusual educational background, his wife and his 18-month old daughter, Zappa continues to create work about and for children and parents, including his new film. I had the pleasure of speaking with Ahmet recently, when we had a wide-ranging talk covering technology’s role in learning, crowd-sourced digital reference books and the 4th grade teacher who supported and inspired him. I hope you’ll enjoy the conversation as much as I did.

Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?

I’d like to think that the books, film, and toys I make will inspire people.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

In my line of work, technology enables me to think up new stories and tell them in different ways.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

To encourage critical thinking and practice patience, support, and mentorship. And most importantly, a lack of censorship in ideas.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

Create a safe place for people to express themselves and share ideas freely.

For more on The Odd life of Timothy Green: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9B17BAAA638B7862&feature=plcp

About Ahmet Zappa

Birthplace: Los Angeles,California
Current residence: Los Angeles, California
Education: Dropped out in 8th grade.
Website I check every day: Gizmodo.
Person who inspires me most: My daughter Halo.
Favorite childhood memory: My Superman costume my mother made for me.
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Italy. Pleasure.
When was the last time you laughed? Why? This morning. My daughter is cheeky. Stringing sentences together that are adorable and funny.
Favorite book: Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus and Jose Aruego. It made me feel like I had a chance.
Favorite music: Rock.
Your favoritequote or motto: Everything happens for a reason.

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