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Essence of ‘idea spaces’, ‘innovation labs’: Message for fresh students entering colleges/universities

BY: Anis Haffar
Tema International School Class of 2022
Tema International School Class of 2022

I never considered with any seriousness the expression, “Man proposes, God disposes” till last Saturday when I mounted the dais to deliver the charge for the graduating class of Tema International School, as chairman of the board of governors.

I had prepared the charge to support the theme, “Embracing Change: Be The Change” for the graduating International Baccalaureate (IB) class of 2022. Just as I broached the beginning of my introduction with the first word “Ayekoo”, my voice froze! I was at the tail end of a cold and had recorded the charge on my phone and played it back twice for practice.

Never in my adult life had I encountered such embarrassment. Be that as it may, I struggled through to the end upset that a message I had planned for was hardly delivered with the weight it deserved.

For today’s column I thought it worthwhile to share the charge with the nation’s graduating classes about to enter the various colleges and universities. The charge proceeded as follows (with a few edits):

Be The Change

“To begin with, you’ve earned your diplomas; and that is great. They’d open doors for you. So will your degrees from the colleges and universities you’ve chosen to attend. But to have bigger doors open for you, remember that diplomas and degrees are merely potentials. The real accomplishments are as follows, and pay attention:

“In our time, the challenge was to read questions and answer them with the expected responses, for degrees and certificates. Today, the challenge is your ability to produce a product that will add value to another person’s life.

“Today, the challenge is the ability to provide a service that would make another person’s life easier. Today, the challenge is the skills to develop solutions to societal problems. Today’s challenges tend to have unexpected solutions; and that is why they are not common answers to examination questions. The IB Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) was designed to help you to begin that process.

“As you enter your colleges or universities, make it a priority to check out their science labs; check out their computer labs; check out their technology spaces.

That’s where 21st century education is advancing.

“Top colleges have built what’s called “Idea Spaces” or “Innovation Labs” to help you grow and actualise your own ideas. Exploring your potential with focus on applicable skills will create not only richer rewards but a meaningful life for me.

“Make lifelong learning a habit. Learning never ever stops. Constantly upgrade yourself. Stay current, and useful. Living a life with values is our greater expectation of you.”

Richard Branson

In his book, “Like A Virgin: Secrets They Won’t You at Business School”, Richard Branson noted: “I simply wanted to create something people would enjoy using, have fun doing it …” He added, “Be innovative – create something different … a product, a service, a brand … something that’s going to make a real difference to other people’s lives.”

To prove his point, he said, “Look at the most successful businesses of the past twenty years. Microsoft, Google, Apple and Facebook all shook up the world we live in by doing things that had never been done before and then continually innovating. They are now among the dominant forces.”

Deliverables

As noted in previous columns, educational deliverables are the important things. Simply put, it is in the doing – that is, in the application phase of any educational process - that really inspire people. How can any person ever be truly inspired situated in a chronic prostrate state – that is, sitting down, listening, and copying notes to reproduce for examinations? That is the question that has to be addressed by any curriculum worthy of its purpose.

Seeking solutions through educational systems is the essential thing. But to continue using scarce resources to build more lecture halls, more examination rooms, and more offices while ignoring the workshops, idea spaces, and innovation laboratories that truly support one’s industrious abilities is both shortsighted and negligent.

Learners’ progress is not in the spewing of theories or recitations of abstractions. Student’s own ideas are to be solicited and encouraged to be used for functional purposes, and laboratories and workshops are the places where great possibilities actually happen.

Superior outcomes for students must be the overarching mission. Great challenges require that this new generation is supported by equally alert education leaders and teachers who themselves possess the necessary skills and motivation to lead the youth for the right educational outcomes.

Idea spaces

Extraordinary things happen when young people are given the chance to imagine, create, and innovate. Where students and educators explore ideas, innovation, discovery, entrepreneurship and arts through consistent, ongoing learning experiences, their energies are sustained by eagerness. Inspiration sags when there’s nothing to look forward to. It peaks when we are flushed with feelings of expectation and confidence that a deliverable is attainable.

Innovators belong to the pioneering group of people who make things happen, who search for solutions. They are the people who create the future. For Peter Drucker, innovators tend to ask, “what must I do to be prepared [for] opportunities and above all for change?”

People with such mindsets, he said, “think through the work needed to turn an idea into a product, a business, or a technology.” They tend to “pursue the best ideas or if none is practical, start again.”

The writer is a trainer of teachers, a leadership coach, a motivational speaker and quality education advocate.  E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.