On a Wednesday night this spring when Alexis Ohanian presented his talk entitled, Making the World Suck Less, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. The talk was part of the Guest Lecture course in the Design for Social Innovation program lead by Schuyler Brown. Two years of amazing weekly lectures from social innovators working all over the globe had me curious to find what Alexis had to say.
Alexis' most important message of the night came from the title of his book, Without Their Permission. He told us, "You don't need anyone's permission to try." His basic premise: given the level of connectivity that we have in the world today, and the ease of implementation, there has never been a better time to confirm the value of an idea quickly. The subtitle of the book: How the 21st Century Will Be Made Not Managed is a view into where he thinks we are headed.
As a demonstration of his point, he told several inspiring stories of people who just put an idea out there. One was 14-year old Atlanta entrepreneur Maya Penn who started Maya's Ideas Shop on the web. Maya has a tremendous following today. Another story was that of Brandon Stanton who didn't know how to use a camera but took the time (a lot of time by Brandon's own account) to practice and learn his craft, posting all along the way. Brandon is now the creator of the highly successful website and book Humans of New York.
Alexis was speaking from a business perspective but his idea of just try it resonated with me. Especially when I think about getting students to take risks in their learning. "Without permission" got me thinking about the words we use when we present lessons. If we say a lesson is an experiment we give students permission to circle around ideas, maybe even come up short! It's a different mindset than looking for the right answer. In inquiry-base learning if I start with a "wondering" students can begin to dig around, open up and explore. Who knows what we will discover and it's really great if it leads to more questions.