Guest Blogger, Don Tapscott: Encouraging Fresh Thinking from Today's Youth

05/13/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Leading up to the incentive2innovate conference on June 8 + 9 at the United Nations in New York, Peter Diamandis and X PRIZE Foundation will feature guest bloggers that will be presenting at i2i. For more information on the i2i program and for registration, visit

Later this month I will have the pleasure of helping announce the winners of the Grown Up Digital Net Gen Education Challenge. The announcement will be made during a first-of-its-kind online awards show that will bring together hundreds of students, teachers, and educators from around the world.

In the spirit of the X PRIZE, I was part of a group that asked students to make videos that suggested ways to reinvent education for relevance and effectiveness for the 21st century. The person putting forward the best suggestion will be awarded a small scholarship.

To get the project underway, I partnered with the Flat Classroom Project. This wonderful organization was founded in 2006 to connect Julie Lindsay's classroom at the International School in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Vicki Davis' classroom at Westwood Schools in Camilla, Georgia. Today the project brings together more than 1,500 students from 20 countries. They use leading Web 2.0 technologies to connect students in powerful learning environments where students learn, collaborate, and improve their cultural understanding.

The Flat Classroom Project epitomizes the kind of fresh thinking needed in today's education system. We have a crisis in our schools and universities. We know that Facebook, MySpace, and other networks and digital technologies used by the Net Generation are changing our global society. But why are connected students at home suddenly disconnected at school? Schools have not embraced digital technologies as quickly as other institutions, and students are becoming disengaged as a result. Traditional, one-way broadcast models of education are out-dated. In Grown Up Digital, I discussed the need to change the learning experience to create a student-focused, multi-way, customized approach where the students collaborate, are excited, engaged, and improve problem solving. Such an environment gives them the tools to achieve lifelong learning. You could see from the entries to the Educational Challenge that these kids knew exactly what I was talking about.

I look forward to the i2i conference in early June. I will share many of the insights that the kids put forward. I will show how today's youth are flooding into the workplace, marketplace, and every niche of society. They are bringing with them their demographic muscle, media smarts, purchasing power, new models of collaborating and parenting, entrepreneurship, and political power. They have strong values and care deeply about our planet. In many countries, volunteering by young people is at an all-time high. In some countries we can see this civic involvement morphing into political involvement; witness the critical role the Net Generation played in the election of President Barack Obama.

There has never been greater need for the skills and values of today's youth. We're facing unprecedented economic turmoil, and institutions in areas such as business, government and education are experiencing deep transformations. What the world really needs now is a generation of fresh, energized, savvy champions for change, and that's exactly what today's youth are.

Don Tapscott recently led a survey of 11,000 young people around the world. He has written 13 widely read books on the impact of the Internet on society. His 1997 book Growing Up Digital defined the Net Generation and the sequel, Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World, was published in November 2008. Follow Don on twitter: dtapscott