How Educators Can Help Our Country Move Forward

I am trying to be deeply optimistic in that this election will be the catalyst we need to bring the change so many desperately seek. In leading design thinking workshops for schools and organizations, I can say with 100% confidence that by spending time engaging in meaningful conversations and activities, we can be the change we wish to see, in ourselves and within our students.

This election outcome has highlighted many gaps that exist within our system. The burden of the election outcome rests on the shoulders of many. However, before we can begin to move forward, each of us, as individuals and as members of our respective professions need to examine where we went wrong. As an educator, I believe our outdated educational system failed people. Our inability to prepare people with the skills they needed to live in the future, not the past, failed people. Today we must hold ourselves accountable and ask how we are going to acknowledge the past so that we can begin designing the future we want to see.

Acknowledge the Past. Build the Future

This past summer, I had the opportunity to visit the city of Berlin, for the Apple Distinguished Educators Institute. Having taught U.S. and World history for a decade, I imagined it would be a somber city. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. You can’t walk for more than a few miles, without being reminded of the horrors that took place there. Yet, in each museum, in each timeline and in each exhibit, there is no blame placed on Hitler. There is an acknowledgement of the past, there is an acknowledgment of the role that each individual played in allowing the awful events of Nazi Germany to unfold. As a result of this open acknowledgement, they have been able to build a successful future, but one that never allows them to forget their past.

Today in the United States, a large majority who have experienced unending economic misfortune have forced us to reflect and acknowledge our past. They have forced us to ask, “How did we get here?”

We can’t allow 100 years to pass before we begin to reflect. We need to b e proactive and start asking the right questions now, we need to start listening now. Before we can begin thinking about how to move forward, before we can begin thinking about how to make America great again, “how did we get here” is a question we need to deeply reflect upon and answer.

It is a question we need to answer not just as citizens of the United States, but as global citizens. Hatred, racism and deportation are not solutions. Even if Trump was to come into office, and carry out many of his misguided policies, the economic misfortune of those who elected him will not end.

This is not the time to demonize his supporters, rather it is time to listen, to understand and above all to teach with the needs of the people in our room in mind. It’s time to look beyond apps and devices, and focus on the challenges at hand and work towards creating solutions. It is time for educators to become designers and take a human-centered approach to the challenges we face in education.

We Are Global Citizens First.

We need to take a step back and revisit what it means to be a global citizen. We are global citizens first and citizens of our own countries second. No number of walls and no amount of nationalism will change this. For many this will be a challenging transition and make our roles as educators even more crucial in helping people understand why. One of the best places to begin is with the Global Goals, which outlines the most pressing challenges that need to be addressed by 2030.

If not addressed, we will feel the consequences not locally, but globally. I strongly believe that we can achieve these goals, the challenge we need to address is how might we organize and mobilize talent to create solutions to these problems within our communities? Educational institutions can be the heart and center of the change we so desperately need. We need educators to be the leaders we deserve, leaders who are able to break down silos, drive collaboration and build partnerships. Leaders who help us move forward together, not alone.

The Third Wave

In his recent book, Steve Case, founder of AOL, explains, a new paradigm called the “The Third Wave” of the Internet. The first wave saw AOL and other companies lay the foundation for consumers to connect to the Internet. The second wave saw companies like Google and Facebook build on top of the Internet to create search and social networking capabilities, while apps like Snapchat and Instagram leverage the smartphone revolution. Now, Case argues, we’re entering the Third Wave: a period in which entrepreneurs will vastly transform major “real world” sectors like health, education, transportation, energy, and food — and in the process change the way we live our daily lives. But success in the Third Wave will require a different skill set, and Case outlines the path forward.

Many have shared the skills identified by the World Economic Forum, and it’s time to pay attention. The skill moving up to the top is creativity. This creativity is in how we think and how we design our success in the Third Wave.



As we grew and advanced in the last decade, we left far too many behind, and we cannot afford to do so again. Everyone needs to be able to identify their role in The Third Wave. As educators, it is our responsibility to make sure our students know what that role is.

To begin, Case outlines the importance of teaching the 3 P’s — People, Passion and Perseverance. However, acquiring these skills as individuals, he continues to explain will not be enough. The 3 P’s will go hand in hand with 2 more P’s — policy and partnerships.

Developing the emotional intelligence to work with people, being able to identify your passion and interests and understanding how to persevere when things don’t go as planned are key areas educators and parents need to work side-by-side on to help students be successful.

In a recent talk, Gary Vaynerchuk was asked the following question, “What advice would you give to your daughter who is thinking about college?”

While the topic was marketing and communications, the same can be applied to any subject area. His response was profound and perhaps even laid the foundation for what personalized learning truly means. He said, we need to watch and listen to our kids, so that we can identify what they are interested in and then help them reverse engineer their success. You can listen to the full response here.

Personalized learning isn’t about giving each child a device, it’s about helping each child navigate their path to a fulfilling life. One that allows them to stand on their own two feet, one that allows them to provide for their families, one that allows them to live a life of dignity and respect. Today there are millions who have not been shown this way, as a result, we have people putting their faith in a man who they believe will take them back in time. We all know that is not possible.

The Third Wave will see us move beyond Silicon Valley, and cities like Detroit and Austin are leading the way. The way forward for those who have suffered economic misfortune, does not lie in the building of walls and resurrections of coal mines. It lies in becoming problem solvers and problem finders. It lies in creating innovative solutions to your most pressing problems and understanding how to create partnerships and policies that will strengthen our communities.

While technology has broken down some barriers, it has built others. However, the greatest gift it brings is the ability to talk with others instead of about others. It’s time to start having conversations, it’s time to start listening, it’s time to start healing and it’s time to start designing the kind of world we want to see.