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Educated By Design Blog

5 Reasons Why Educators Who Look Outside Of Education For Inspiration and Innovation Can Thrive

Michael Cohen


In graduate school, I was introduced to some amazing innovators of education. Their approaches to education were so radical, so progressive that in some cases like Piaget and Vygotsky, their work would not gain mainstream popularity till decades later. These constructivist movement educators were who I gravitated to, and their work has significantly influenced my educational practice.

  • Dewey - Early 1900's
  • Piaget - Mid 1900's
  • Vygotsky - Early 1900's
  • Montessori - Early 1900's

Something bothered me these amazing individuals bothered me. Their constructivist learning theory to me was the definifition of forward thinking but it was to put it bluntly, old. I don't mean old like when an 8 year old thinks you're old, I mean like its 2017, and these pioneer approaches to education were trending in the early to mid 1900's. Education today is still tapping into a century old model and the work of the innovators is just shy of year 60. Education needs new innovators in education. Are they on Twitter? Are they blogging? Will we look 20 years from now and see some of the education conference keynote speakers were part of the new education revolution? Education today needs new fuel to power innovation in the classroom and I believe some of that fuel lies outside the pale of the institute of education.

As a designer and entrepreneur turned educator, I cannot help but tap outside of Education. This way, I can take innovation and bring it inside of the classrooms I partner with. So where does an educator go? Google of course, but how do you filter and find the great resources that can inspire you and your students? So here are 5 amazing resources that can inspire you as a teacher, a leader, a mentor, and an advocate for learners.


1. Simon Sinek

This man is amazing. His TED Talk has been viewed 33 million times, and for good reason. His insight into what makes a great leader is not just for admin, although I hope that you are comfortable sharing this video with your administrator. Imagine if school culture made everyone feel safe when they looked to their leaders and superiors for support.

2. Gary Vaynerchuk 

Another amazing innovator for the books. Gary is a forward thinking entreprenuer that lives 10 years in the future. He has a pulse on trends in technology, business, and beyond. His podcast The Gary Vee Audio Experience is a regular listen for me, but the disclaimer is that he curses like a sailor. While this works for sharing with adults, its not someone I can recommend to high school students looking for guidance and inspiration.  

3. Kathy Caprino

Kathy is an amazing writer. Her insights into careers and personal growth are clear, concise, and concrete, which are my three favorite C's. Her article here is proof that she sees the big picture that many of us miss during the day to day. Since school SHOULD be about building relationships and developing interpersonal communication skills, Kathy's work should be a pre-req. for everyone. 

4. Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis is an Art Historian. That makes her awesome in my book right off the bat (cough:: Art School ::cough). She gives an amazing insight into embracing the "near win" which lines up quite nicely with my thoughts and conversations around how we view failure in education. Check out her TED Talk here.

5. Google

When we think of Google in education, we might think of Search or G Suite (Google Apps) for Education. Don't forget that are one of the most innovative companies on the planet and possible in history as well. Between Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet (Google's parent company), these companies grace the list of top 10 wealthiest companies. Their uniqueness is that they are all valued based on ideas rather than products. Think about that while you're reading this article


So where is your source of inspiration, imagination, and innovation in education? In the early 1900's a group of educators looked to make education mainstream, which at the time it certainly wasn't. They saw the world differently and drew from the outside of education to influence the inside. How are we doing this? How are we looking to educational practitioners, researchers, and experts, while still keeping an open mind that the next inspiration might lie beyond the pay of pedagogy and curriculum journals?  

Let me know in the comments.