Woz: Ask for new answers

To encourage innovative thinking, schools should let students work on semester-long projects, said Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in a speech, reports Computerworld.

“A really innovative person is known for something that usually took an awful lot of thinking, maybe even over years, and a lot of development in a laboratory putting it together and getting it to work. And it’s new and it’s different. And it’s not something you read about in a book,” he said.

“In school, intelligence is a measurement,” he continued. “If you have the same answer as everyone else in math or science, you’re intelligent.”

In English class, students write essays that express their own ideas, Wozniak said. (He may be overestimating the creativity of  assigned essays.)  Computer science students also should seek “different answers than what I’ve known in the past or what I’ve read or heard,” he said.

Technology development projects reward innovators with a feeling of personal pride of accomplishing something no one else has done before, and “that’s the sort of thing that inspires you to believe in yourself as an inventor type, not just an engineer who knows the equation.”

“The value of these big projects is you learn diligence, lot of repetition. A lot of hard work results in something that’s your own. Your own. You built it. You have personal pride,” he said. “Personal pride is the strongest motivating force there is.”

Wozniak taught computer science for years in the public schools his children attended in Los Gatos, a wealthy suburb of San Jose.

As an example of what Wozniak is talking about, I highly recommend Neal Bascomb’s The New Cool, subtitled “A Visionary Teacher, his FIRST Robotics Team and the Ultimate Battle of Smarts.”

About Joanne


  1. I love the idea, but unfortunately we’re telling kids they can go to the moon when they have trouble crossing the street.

    Any sort of advanced thinking, planning, building, etc requires a thorough command of the basics. Kids can build a fort out of couch cushions because they understand what pillows are. Kids can build with legos because they understand the blocks and how they go together. And kids can write songs of the genres they listen to because they are familiar with them.

    In order for any sort of computer science project like that to get off the ground, the kids need to have a thorough command of the basic mathematics and principles which form the structure. All too few kids have that.

    Woz is trying to take kids from the ground floor to the top floor. He doesn’t realize the problem, however – the kids he’s looking for are still in the basement.

  2. Stacy in NJ says:

    Another problem is motivation. Tell kids they need to complete a semester long project and it just becomes another thing they gotta do. While some my have an interest they want to investigate others will simply go through the motions because it’s required. Forced innovation seems like an oxymoron to me.

  3. Richard Nieporent says:

    If Steve Wozniak is anything like the way he portrays himself in his book iWoz, you probably would want to think twice before taking any advice from him. The best I could say about him is that he is unconventional. A more accurate assessment of him is that he is weird, childish, vindictive and irresponsible. However, he is a brilliant engineer. If you don’t believe me, just read his book. In it, he constantly states how much smart he is than everyone else. I am not sure that someone like that makes a good teacher.

  4. Also with a group project of 4 to 6 people, here is how it usually works.

    One person winds up doing 60-70% of the project.

    Two to Four persons wind up doing the remaining 25 to 35 percent

    and the remaining person usually does 5 percent (or less), or nothing at all.

    Woz has a great idea, but this will only work for truly motivated students (and as we all were in public schools at one time in our lives, students will take the path of least resistance when faced with an assignment/project to be completed).


  5. Richard, I read iWoz and came away with a different opinion.

    I found him rather humble.

    Also, I find his thoughts on education insightful and inspirational.

    I absolutely love his writings on education.

  6. Richard Nieporent says:

    Robert, all I can say is that your definition of humble is different from mine. How many times can he say that he was able to develop hardware or solve problems because he was smarter than everyone else before you get the idea that humility is not one of his strong points? If fact if you just look at the complete title of his book: “iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It”, it is obvious that he is not humble.

  7. Richard, you must have a point because you are not the first person who I’ve heard say the same thing.

    Why I don’t see it, I don’t know.

    His claims about what he did don’t seem to me to be exaggerations.

    And throughout his book, he gives a lot of credit to others like teachers and friendly neighbors. In the book he says their generosity had a profound influence on his life.

    To go a step farther I’d say that if I had five books to assign to aspiring teachers they’d be:

    1. Hooked on Books
    2. Teaching as a Subversive Activity
    3. The Way it’s Spozed to Be
    4. Joanne’s book, whatever it’s called.
    5. iWoz

    Though I confess, one of the reasons I like Wozniak so much is that his ideas on education seem to be like my own–not exactly the best of reasons to admire someone.

    But he is an inspiration to me. Every time I hear him speak or read what he has to say about education, I feel energized and I have higher hopes for this wonderful profession.

  8. Mike Curtis says:

    Semester long projects are usually approached and completed the weekend before they are due. Teachers/Professors usually grade the results hours before the grades are due to Administration.

    The folks who worked hard get an A-. The folks who procrastinated get a D-. Somewhere in between, lies the point of diminishing returns.

    The C students rule the world.