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We attended ISTE 2013 this year and came away filled with ideas and excited about a bright future of technology in education. One of the most inspirational takeaways was from the keynote speech by Steven Johnson, “Where Good Ideas Come From”.

Kevin talked about the evolution of ideas. Contrary to popular belief, the best ideas aren’t a light bulb going off, they take time to mature and develop. He defined this as the “slow hunch”, the source of true creativity. Furthermore, ideas are usually not single and solitary, but are built on a network of other ideas. Within this incubator of ideas, connections and collaboration become more and more important, both for development and implementation.

This keynote really struck a note with us. This was a concept that not only applied to educators, but to students as well. The problem with light-bulb moments is that since the ideas don’t have time to develop, they’re gone as soon as they arrive. By creating an incubation of ideas, the ideas have an opportunity to mature, to grow, and you start to think about the logistics of what it would take to implement. You start collaborating with others, planning, and are more likely to take the idea from concept to completion.

Increasingly, students today work in groups and teams on projects and other activities.  This is a collaborative generation that requires tools that make it easy for them to work together. As evidenced at ISTE, more and more education institutions are using collaboration technologies and social media tools to engage students in course content in new ways that resonate with this generation.

At ISTE, we also saw a big focus on gamification and technology with simulations that showed students what it would be like to do different jobs. One example was a game that simulated how to build a cathedral. Through the simulation, you soon realized that it required multidisciplinary thinking, planning, and collaboration. You needed to gather the proper materials, find industrialists to back the project, taxes to fund the project and customers to attract. By harnessing the power of imagination, students are able to take an idea (building a cathedral) and understand what is necessary to see it through to completion.

Educators can help guide students to start to incubate their own ideas, by both equipping them for real-world situations, and providing the technology and tools to enable their “slow hunch” and light-bulb moments take flight.

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4 Comments.


  1. It was a great talk, but the speaker’s name is Steven Johnson, not Kevin Johnson.
    http://www.npr.org/2012/06/08/154457665/is-the-eureka-moment-a-myth

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  2. Exactly the best ideas can fade away without the proper tools to start planning.

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  3. Great post, fully agree.

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  4. Steven Johnson “Where Good Ideas Come From” is great ! It really makes you understand how the idea generation process until implementation usually works.

    I also work with students in groups and teams on projects to expose them to exactly that reality. The more collaboration and working together as real teams, the better the success rate. I believe that this skills is the key skill to be taught in education = collaboration.

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