An idea can never be good. Neither can it be bad.

By its very nature, an idea is only potential. Until, and only if, it becomes manifest can it be critiqued.

But how does an idea become manifest?

First it must become words. Be it an utterance, the dance of a pencil across paper or an ostinato of taps on a keyboard, an idea is at once shared and recorded. It can begin to take shape. Bre Pettis’ Cult of Done manifesto puts it so beautifully with step 12, “If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.”

But how does this ghost take corporeal form? How does it start to reach its true potential? That’s right, with action. Your action.

So, what have we been doing in schools in regards to ideas? Let me tell you, we haven’t been encouraging students to hoist them to their true potential. For the most part, we like our students to write. Usually about our ideas or someone else’s. Sometimes about their own. We like our students to take their ideas and turn them into ghosts.

And that is how they stay.

It is for this reason that I am so attracted to two related and intertwined movements in modern education: the maker movement and authentic learning.

The maker movement encourages students to get their hands dirty. Sometimes literally. If you have an idea, you don’t spend too long on the thinking or the ghosting. You get to the making. This is where the action is. You make a lot of prototypes. It’s very tactile. It’s concrete. Tangible. Make it first. Use it. Think. Then make it better. Rinse and repeat.

Authentic learning starts with what’s real. Its roots are always there. Even if you stray into the land of ideas and sharing and recording them it’s just not authentic until you’ve done something real with it – real change.

I love ideas. Possibly more than anything else, I love watching them rise from the spring of limitlessness. But I’ve only learnt in the last year or so that I have to catch them and share them before they disappear again. For me, depression is the sense that I cannot help them become more. Freedom comes when I’m creating and changing.

As Winston Churchill once said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” If you’re not taking action, you can never fail forward to success.

Are our students spending their days learning how to turn ideas into reality? Are they actually practising this most important of skills?

Or are our schools filled with the silence of a million ghosts; ideas that never had the chance to be more?

About The Author

Primary Technologies Teacher

Rob McTaggart teaches Technologies from K-6 in Newcastle, Australia. He is co-founder of the Digital Sparks regional student technology design challenge & expo. Rob is a Google for Education Certified Innovator who loves to help students to engage and create with the world using technology. He developed the RAPID Design framework to support students and teachers in these aims. Rob is a moderator for #aussieED and plays a logistics role for the team, managing the website and various channels. He is an ambassador and teacher trainer for Code Club Australia and runs a local Code Club for his students. His main gig is teaching 550 amazing kids every week which makes him a very lucky teacher!

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2 Responses

  1. Brian Host

    These are great thoughts Rob. I want my students to be in a place where they are creating and changing, where enthusiasm and excitement for learning flows from them, turning their ideas into reality.

  2. Rob McTaggart

    Thanks, Brian!
    That’s a great thought and a place I hope to be with my students as well. You’ve just summed up the end goal perfectly!


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