Extraordinarily Efficient or Challengingly Innovative

I recently toured the Science Behind Pixar exhibit. There you can see Pixar’s design thinking process on full display. Walking around each part of the exhibit, I realized the teamwork and thoughtful planning that went behind each frame, each hair, and each movement of a character.

My curiosity behind their process and vision was certainly peaked, so as soon as I returned home I started researching. One specific article really stood out to me, “Staying One Step ahead at Pixar.” I believe many points made by the president of Pixar, Ed Catmull, directly relate to how we should be teaching.

With technology, we know that if we don’t change the technology from film to film, we can become extraordinarily efficient because everybody knows how to use it. But we also know we’ll become out-of-date if we do that. So we introduce new technology. Sometimes it’s a small risk and sometimes it’s a complete replacement of the underlying infrastructure—a huge risk…. but our people embrace it because it’s for the good of the studio, even though they know it will cause them some trouble.

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Pixar avoids using a recipe/blueprint to consistently produce good movies. Instead, each movie they work on they propose a challenge for themselves- a new problem to solve with technological enhancements they create ( from Sully’s hair in Monster Inc to their new character Hank in Finding Dory). This challenge echoes one my favorite quotes “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.” from Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. This is exactly the motto Pixar lives by which keeps them current and innovative to a vast audience.

Looking at the year ahead…

As teachers, I know our time is precious, so it is tempting to reproduce a good lesson multiple times, but is this creating the best experiences for our learners? When we design our lessons, let’s not make the 90’s Disney formula mistake (musical with five to seven songs and a funny sidekick: Set. Repeat.)

Instead we should be taking points from Pixar and pushing ourselves and our students to take on challenges to solve new problems and create the unknown! Our learners are evolving and coming into school as digital natives. We must evolve as their teachers, role models and guides. This doesn’t mean simply using the latest technology tool in our classroom but providing new experiences, viewpoints and worlds with the help of technology. As August begins and you continue planning for the new school year, ask yourself would I rather be extraordinarily efficient or challengingly innovative?

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