087 | Education Through Innovation | Don Wettrick

087 | Education Through Innovation | Don Wettrick

Don Wettrick, CEO and co-founder of StartEdUp Innovation program, and a current high school teach, talks about the cultivating innovation and creativity in the classroom, harnessing a learner’s internal motivation, and giving students opportunities to solve problems they’re passionate about.

What you'll hear from Don Wettrick:

  • Why and how did Don create an Innovation course at his school, and ultimately the StartEdUp Innovation program?
  • What was challenging about getting his students involved during the early stages, when it was just extra time during his class?
  • When do students lose their curiosity or learning?
  • How much does a reward really motivate students?
  • What would the process look like to develop and nurture internally motivated learners through elementary school?
  • What’s the difference between creativity and imagination?
  • How can a parent help their child be more innovative outside of school?
  • What does Don recommend as a good consumption v. production ratio?
  • How does changing consumption habits – how much, and what – impact the way Don’s students and own children think?
  • How does building community within a cohort of “creators” impact a student’s relationship?
  • Does participation in Don’s high school class impact his students other grades?
  • How do mastery, autonomy and purpose mix together best?
  • What does it look like to be in Don’s Innovation Class?
    • 6-7 weeks of class
      • Basics of innovation
      • How to think creatively
      • Building a professional social media presence
    • Remainder of class is “open source learning”
    • Volunteer with struggling non-profits, to see problems close up
    • Statewide student “Pitch” competition
    • Helping struggling local businesses
  • What sort of projects have his students build?
  • What story do you tell yourself, about yourself?
  • Is there a difference between improvement and new opportunity?
  • How would Don hope to integrate innovation development into schools in his 10-year dream?
  • Contact: @DonWettrick on Twitter
  • What did Don’s father mean when he told him to “Pay himself first”?
  • Why does Don think it’s important to fail?

Listen to Brad and Jonathan's thoughts about this episode here.


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5 thoughts on “087 | Education Through Innovation | Don Wettrick”

  1. Great episode as usual. I am not the creative type and would find myself drowning and frustrated in creativity classes and group projects. I actually liked normal teaching methods as long as the teacher was putting the facts in the context of some thoughtful question to be answered. Of course I ended up working the long career, in lower to middle management, attending the meetings, putting up with the auditors, etc. Still, I reject the ‘we are just trying to teach students how to think’ philosophy in that you have to have material to think with. So some level of facts and skills are required to be learned along the way. That said, high school was clearly a babysitting exercise. My son graduated at the top of his HS class (he was that one), took all the AP classes, etc. Now that he is past college and is in the work force he says he would throw a lot of stuff out or reorder it so that it makes more sense. He thinks he will home school his kids.

    Bottom line: creativity and entrepreneurship are not for everyone anymore than the traditional path and some people will do fine on the traditional path.

    Thanks as always for challenging us about our self-limiting assumptions!

  2. Wow – I found this episode so engrossing. I am now 28 years old, working a fun, but low-income job, after spending 8 years in post-secondary education, trying to delay entering the work-force until I “figured it out”. I don’t have any desire to use my degrees, and thank god I don’t have any student loans. Most of what I regret is the opportunity cost of the path I have taken, and am trying now to make up for that lost time. I so wish I had Don as a teacher, as I was the Type A personality, always wanting to stand out by being top of the class, but I feel like this shift of mindset would have done wonders. I am now trying to get my side hustle off the ground, and wish that I had the head-start that these students have. This is such important work, passing on these FI and creative-thinking concepts to the younger generation. And there are enough actionable tips here to plaster my wall with sticky notes, in an effort to flex my own creativity muscles. Oh the things I wish I knew 10-15 years ago!! Thanks guys for bringing Don on the show – this interview has some truly priceless content.

  3. Awesome podcast guys. If you are looking for more information for this rabbit hole I highly suggest looking into John Taylor Gatto. Agree with his views or not, he was a public school teacher in NYC for almost 30 years and has great information his experiences within the system and his disagreements regarding how it treats children and hurts families. His largest book was re-released in portion a year or so ago called “The Underground History of Modern Schooling,” but if you’re looking for a quick version that covers most of this I highly suggest reading “Weapons of Mass Instruction.”

    I loved learning all about this subject of personal and self-responsible education about 5 or so years ago as I read and read and pondered my own school life growing up and how much it wasted my time. I say this all the time to people and I have plenty more evidence to back it up but I was required in school to learn a foreign language. I spent 45 minutes per day, 5 days per week, 36 weeks per year and 6 years learning French. That’s roughly 800 hours of my life spent learning something I never used and don’t remember a thing about today at age 32. There’s so many more examples of this, but I think everyone has a story like this if they really think about it.

    There was even a more recent Youtube video in the last few years that blew up (pardon the hair of the guy haha) you might want to play on the podcast to supplement this show later. It’s a good song in my opinion.


    I only regret the fact that I didn’t listen to this podcast until today to get some of this information in to you guys. I love this subject, it’s something I highly passionate about. The only difficulty is learning how to train YOURSELF(me in this case) to give your children a basic foundation and more freedom to learn something they wish. It’s been years of un-training myself in the manners of schooling.

    I’m glad to hear there’s a person on the inside trying to make a change though. Go Don! John Taylor Gatto was eventually booted out but he did all he could from within the system too… so more power to you!

  4. Guys – when I saw the title of this episode, I almost skipped it. Thankfully though, I didn’t. So many of your guests are great, but hearing Don’s story and learning about the great things he is doing to serve today’s young people was really inspiring. I’ll definitely be spending some time to learn more about him, his methods, and how I can possibly get involved to help some of the kids in my own community. Thanks for sharing this incredible story!

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