“When teachers show us learning is a road that never ends, then they actually are ‘chief learners.’ That’s one of the most powerful things that they can do.” – Adora Svitak, USA
When I first met Adora Svitak, she was about seven years old, and considered a prodigy for her writing abilities, which at that time, included authoring her first book Flying Fingers. She was featured on Good Morning America, and began what would be hundreds of speeches at schools and conferences around the world. At 17, Adora has now published three books, is an internationally acclaimed speaker, and an advocate for causes including literacy, youth empowerment, and feminism. In 2010, she delivered the speech “What Adults Can Learn from Kids” at TED. The speech has received over 3.3 million views on TED.com alone, and has been translated into over 40 different languages. When it comes to empowering youth, you can bet Adora has spoken, written or advocated for it.
And while Svitak is still very young, she has already had a long journey. That’s why I was so pleased to be able to sit down with her, and ask her to not only reflect on how far we’ve come in education technology, but also discuss how far we need to go.
“I think that honestly education is still many years behind when we look at how the private sector has implemented technology vs. how classrooms do,” says Svitak. “When I walk into schools and see the big sheets of paper and students buried under their huge backpacks…I’ve been one of those students. I think that oftentimes educators can be resistant to change because they have seen things that have come and gone and not really worked, and I understand that. But I feel that just as learning becomes more adaptive and more open to change, that teachers and students need to be willing to embrace new models of learning that incorporate technology much more.”
One of the main ideas Adora explored in her TED talk was the idea of being “childish” – that the world needs more “childish” thinking to inspire exploration, wild ideas and optimism. In my work, I often see the exploration and true creativity of technology as a hurdle for many teachers, mainly because they are so focused on usage. What does Adora see? “There is often this feeling of obligation instead of ‘what are the creative ways I can use this? Maybe I should ask students how they think we should use this technology in their learning?'” she says.
So with all of these life and work experiences already under her belt, what advice does Adora have for other students? “I’ve talked with parents and educators and oftentimes they do ask, ‘How do we create students like you?'” she says. “But I want students to think about how they can create people like themselves. To me, an incredible perfect model of education wouldn’t be where there are thousands of Adora Svitaks running around. It’s one where there are thousands of students from every single kind of merit – whether it’s in the sciences, arts, cooking, skateboarding. There is so much variety out there, a lot of that variety isn’t tested or it isn’t valued to the same extent that a skill in writing or science and math are. But that doesn’t make them any less valuable. So I would highly encourage people to understand their own diversity and their uniqueness as a strength.”
Thank you, Adora, for bringing your voice and the voice of children and students everywhere to the forefront. I hope you enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Adora Svitak.