Adora Svitak: What Adults Can Learn From Kids

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I am impressed by the keynote given by Adora Svitak at TED 2010 on adults’ need for more childish thinking, creativity and optimism in their lives.  Adora Svitak, a child prodigy, is only 12 years old.  She is a prolific short story writer and blogger since age seven.  She speaks around the United States to adults and children as an advocate for literacy.

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About Steve Yuen

I am a Professor Emeritus of Instructional Technology and Design at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States.
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8 Responses to Adora Svitak: What Adults Can Learn From Kids

  1. Wow! Thank you for sharing this brief keynote speech. It is amazing to me the intellectual ability of this child! Adora poses a very strong and relative point in society. I believe the intellectual stigma placed on children is oftentimes interpreted by students as a lack of confidence or belief in them. Especially as K-12 teachers, we need to be more open-minded, confident, and energetic about ideas and other interpretations from our students. As a teacher, I believe education is most definitely a two-way street. I am not afraid to learn from my students, and they are very much aware of that. It is important to consider their suggestions and ideas, especially when designing instruction. I strive to always take into account the interests and ultimate goals of my students, as I believe it helps lead to effective and enthusiastic learning experiences. By catering more to the needs and interests of our students, and taking into consideration their opinions and ideas, I believe they will feel encouraged to excel and exceed expectations.

  2. jennstyron says:

    Hi Dr. Yuen,

    This is truly one of the best keynotes I have heard in a while. Wow! I can’t believe Adora is only 12. She really has some great points and is extremely interesting and inspirational to listen to. The three points that stick out to me are 1) student centered learning, 2) the switch in mentality from nothing is possible to anything is possible, and 3) the repeated pattern of those in control fearful of losing control thus creating restrictions in hopes of maintaining control.

    I am extremely impressed with Adora’s ability to understand that children have amazing ideas that can be beneficial for not only the future of tomorrow but also for today’s challenges. Students should be provided the ability to not only learn from the teacher but also to teach. I believe I learn a lot from my peers within class as well as my instructor however, I know this type of learning it not favored by all faculty and teachers. By providing students the ability to not only learn but also teach we allow them to be the authors of their own learning and provide leadership and growth opportunities that aren’t necessarily available in lecture based courses.

    Second, the switch in mentality from nothing is possible to anything is possible is of great need, especially in our day and age. While this statement is a bit dramatic, I constantly hear more reasons why we can’t do things than I do ideas about how we can solve challenges and improve student learning. One of my most favorite sayings comes from Walt Disney, who himself I truly believe was a child at heart. “If you an dream it, you can do it.” I believe, like Adora states, as we get older we think of the limitations and the realities that will prohibit projects and/or ideas while children still have that “utopia” that allows them to dream big. If half of our population changed their mindset to this mentality I cannot imagine potential possibilities that would come from this movement…

    Lastly, the repeated pattern of those in control fearful of losing control thus creating restrictions in hopes of maintaining control is SO critical. One can see this type of mentality everyday in opinions of faculty, institutions, and even government. I am always amazed to see the effects that power can have on individuals and wish that many people could see that not only does this fear of losing control impact us as individuals, it restricts us as a global population. Also, my Uncle once told me for every restriction that is placed within society that is one less freedom that we, as Americans, are given. I never thought of that until his conversation with me but as our government controls and restricts us, the freedoms of yesterday continue to slip away.

    Awesome post! I plan on sending this link to many people and look forward to following Adora!

  3. chrismarkmba says:

    As I listened to Adora Svitak I could hardly believe she is only 12 years old. Her keynote speech at TED 2010 was incredible. Her speech was entertaining, creative and insightful. I have often wondered what happens to us when we grow up and why we lose that creative spark and the feeling that every day holds newness and wonder. I think that as adults we get wrapped up in the everyday problems of life and lose this innocent perspective and as she pointed out the kids of today will become the adults of tomorrow and start the cycle all over again. I loved her point about kids designing glass pieces and how much more creativity they bring due to having no limits or boundaries. As adults we can think of a hundred reasons why something will not work rather to think beyond limits and do the seemingly impossible. I agree that adults and in particular teachers can learn so much from children. To them everything is new and exciting and they have such a great positive perspective. I try to follow this in my classes as I found out when I started teaching 3 years ago, I do not know everything. I find that each day a student surprises me with a new take on an idea or a question that I had not considered. I believe that learning is a life-long process and one can learn from many sources and many people. I also admired her attitude as I feel if you have the right attitude you can do anything. She exudes a positive, confident attitude that is inspiring. I don’t think we have heard the last from Adora, I think she will continue being childish and advocating for others to act in childish ways.

  4. Jacquelyn Johnston says:

    Adora’s keynote speech is outstanding and I am so glad that you shared it. I have since put it on the Ning social networking site for our school, in hopes that teachers will view it. I showed this video to my sixth graders and they were very impressed. Adora is a good model to use for encouraging them to think big, to dream, to write, and to pursue their goals. One thing that Adora’s speech gives examples of, is using creative thinking skills in teaching and learning. In many cases, students are not taught creative thinking skills and even worse not given opportunities to engage in creative thinking learning activities that exhibit some of their enhanced abilities. Limits are place because we are so busy following set objectives, that often students like Adora are not given the space to thrive. I think the Web 2.0 tools provide educators with opportunities for all students, but especially those like Adora who have great potential to learn and are reaching for the stars. Adora is obviously motivated thanks to her environment. What about the student that has these capabilities and for whatever reason is not motivated? There are many students out there with great learning potential, but are not motivated and/or do not know how to capture their potential. It is our responsibility as educators to listen, encourage, and provide appropriate learning activities so that they do not grow up to be bright adults that can’t work or contribute in meaningful ways. We want them to be the best that they can be. It is not always easy being a gifted child.

  5. Roslyn Warren says:

    Absolutely outstanding! My mouth is still open by her large vocabulary and sense of humor. The ideas that Adora has are so relevant to the issues that are faced in education today and even years ago. The older adults today that were younger adults yesterday have it a little backwards, in my opinion. It seems as though these Baby Boomers had to fight so hard and speak out and lead that they are not use to the possibility of letting their sucessors (the young adults and children) learn to lead. Instead, there role is to follow. I think it has been a handicap! Leading for so long that you don’t empower future members to lead.

    One of the points that Adora mentions is how adults can learn to dream as children dream. Now certainly there are “adult issues” that cloud our dreams at times, but this is a great message to give to those who have weighed themselves down with fear and pessimism. I often wish that I had written down the dreams and stories that I created when I was a child because we lose “it” as we grow older. The creative energy…our drive is often motivated with greed and lacks the innocence that makes dreams come true. We trample others to get to the top instead of keeping the hope that when we work hard we will be rewarded. Great speech Adora! Reminds me of my parents! We need more of those parents today…

  6. Although I have the psychological preparation of knowing that keynote speakers in TED have something that amazes people, this 12-year girl still surpassed my expectation. Her knowledgeable way of speaking and her insight was revealed to the audience through every word spoken and every joke she made.
    Thinking about the difference between children and adults does not have a high frequency of happening among my cerebral activities. Because just as Adora stated, children grow up to become adults. It seems that the society has some potential rule to convert us after we become adults. The way of thinking and see the world economically, politically, and culturally has specific standards to be defined as rational or mature. Children’s purity, imagination, simplicity, innovativeness and creativeness are something that adults do not have, or maybe they had it, but not any more. This is the topic we need to ponder upon.
    A Chinese philosopher developed a theory called the “Thick Black Theory”, which later became a discipline. People study for it in order to become sophisticated, lubricious, and untraceable so they can become more successful in situations such as political activities. This is a good example that child-like thinking is fading away, and now I understand why some people may self-righteously think they know the rule of the world. Child-like thinking is a gift, and a philosophy. Let us, as educators, not only stop expunging such gift within many children, but to excavate it and have them become utilized.

  7. 奕嬛 says:

    不敢置信這個落落大方站在眾人面前演講的女孩子,年僅12歲!以小孩子的角度直接明白地點出關鍵,提出幾個重要的論點,來為我們”大人”分析,釐清了我們原本自以為的想法,顯露出現代小孩子想法的成熟度已經不可同日而語了,甚至比我們這些”大人”還厲害;比如說,一開始小女孩將”戰爭”這個事件,從大人與小孩的處理/解決方式去做比較,顯而易見的是,後者的做法更具明智。我們大人是否該徹底地去做一番檢討呢?不是只會一味的糾正、指責小孩子的錯誤,有時錯誤是我們大人間接所造成的,不是嗎?
    要鼓勵小孩喜歡dream,要欣賞小孩喜歡share,因為”You must lead an ear today, because we are the leaders of tomorrow.”,小女孩說得真的很好,每位小孩子都是未來的主人翁,大人的固有思維真的需要大改造-保有孩子的純真&創意,融入孩子的世界,把事情看得更清楚,世界將會變得不一樣。

  8. 奕嬛 says:

    不敢置信這個落落大方站在眾人面前演講的女孩子,年僅12歲!以小孩子的角度直接明白地點出關鍵,提出幾個重要的論點,來為我們”大人”分析,釐清了我們原本自以為的想法,顯露出現代小孩子想法的成熟度已經不可同日而語了,甚至比我們這些”大人”還厲害;比如說,一開始小女孩將”戰爭”這個事件,從大人與小孩的處理/解決方式去做比較,顯而易見的是,後者的做法更具明智。我們大人是否該徹底地去做一番檢討呢?不是只會一味的糾正、指責小孩子的錯誤,有時錯誤是我們大人間接所造成的,不是嗎?
    要鼓勵小孩喜歡dream,要欣賞小孩喜歡share,因為”You must lead an ear today, because we are the leaders of tomorrow.”,小女孩說得真的很好,每位小孩子都是未來的主人翁,大人的固有思維真的需要大改造-保有孩子的純真&創意,融入孩子的世界,把事情看得更清楚,世界將會變得不一樣。

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