“The person with dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts.” Albert Einstein – Imagination
Do you need knowledge or imagination to have influence in the world?
Some students are dreamers who live comfortably thinking about a world not yet created. Then, there are the ‘down to earth’ students who find comfort in facts. These two groups often clash during group projects when there’s a need for a clear vision of an end goal and a clear, step-by-step plan to get it done.
Join Steve and Dan Fouts for an unforgettable conversation about imagination using the Teach Different 3-Step Method.
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Steve Fouts: 0:07
Hey everybody, Steve and Dan Fouts here. We’re teaching different with Albert Einstein, and we’re picking up on the theme of imagination. Here’s the quote, “The person with dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts.” This quote will resonate with students because they’re going through a lot of changes in the way that they perceive the world, and some have wonderful imaginations. This is what we love about children, right? They think out of the box all the time. But, in school they have a lot of expectations placed on them that confine their thinking to facts, and to make sure that they’re practical in the way that they think about things and connect dots. With this quote, Einstein is giving credence to the idea that you need to stay imaginative in the way that you approach the world; that your imagination can have power and influence.
Dan Fouts: 1:10 – Claim
Yeah, it’s really validating the students in your class who rely on their imagination to solve problems or to enjoy life. It’s saying there’s something about people who dream that gives them an advantage over people who are just interested in the facts.
To move this conversation along I think it’d be really good to have the students talk about a time when they used their imagination and it gave them some sort of advantage. Then watch your dreamers, so to speak, come out to talk about the importance (of imagination). If you have any kids who are artistic, they can talk about their artistic creations as an outgrowth of their imagination. Once students share some of their stories about how they use their imagination, you’ll want to probe a little bit by saying, how does your imagination give you an advantage, or a power, that other people don’t have? I bet a lot of your kids have not been introspective enough with why it is that an imagination is so important. They’re just probably used to being that way, and not really understanding why. This conversation offers the opportunity for self-reflection. Right, Steve?
Steve Fouts: 2:32 – Counterclaim
Exactly! You’re going to have some students point out that you really do need an imagination to do well in school. You might even have a student who’s good at math argue that if they didn’t have an imagination, they wouldn’t be able to solve some of these really hard problems. So the conversation could get really interesting.
Let’s look at some pushback to the quote. There are going to be students in class who aren’t as imaginative, creative, or artistic, but they’re very good with numbers and they like predictability. They’re practical thinkers, and are going to argue against this. They might say that imagination and dreams are fine, but it’s more entertainment. It’s something you do with your spare time, it’s not a serious thing. What’s serious is to think practically, and to have a plan of attack for your life. Know the facts. That’s why school is important. You have to listen to others, and you have to actually train your thinking to conform to other people. Imagination is something for little kids.
Dan Fouts: 3:59
This is your rule follower who finds comfort and security in certainty. They’re going to be thinking about this in a very different way. To bring out those students, you can just say, talk about a time when you knew all the facts, and it gave you some sort of advantage in life. Let’s say you’re taking a test, and since you studied and know all the information you have a huge advantage.
Steve Fouts: 4:29
You could also do a quick thought experiment, and ask the students to think about what would happen if they went into the doctor’s office when they were sick and the doctor said he has a really big imagination for what kind of medical remedy he could give to help with the sickness. They don’t want to rely on the facts or the best practices for what’s worked before. He wants to use his imagination to try out something new. Would you go for that? Would that be something that you would be excited about, or would that make you a little bit nervous?
Dan Fouts: 5:05
Of course not. It would make me very nervous. I think the kids who relied more on their imaginations would listen to that thought experiment and might start questioning their own views about this quote, or at the very least appreciate the diverse viewpoints of people who rely more on facts. This is why I love how this conversation is unfolding because the kids are going to understand each other a lot more and the perspective from which they’re deriving their opinions.
Steve Fouts: 5:41 – Essential Question
Yeah, and this is a way for students to basically get credence for their own beliefs about imagination, the importance of facts, and the benefits of thinking in those two different ways. Here’s an essential question you could ask to get to the heart of this conversation, “Do you need knowledge or imagination to have influence in the world?”
After a question like this, it might be really good to launch into a brief discussion about different career tracks that students could take that might be better suited for people with big imaginations, or people who are more practical thinkers. After a conversation like this, there’s going to be a greater appreciation for different careers. Not so much a right or wrong, but where students hopefully think about what suits them.
Dan Fouts: 6:38
Yeah, that’s an interesting consequence of this discussion. They might be thinking more about careers. You can think of a direct connection to curriculum. In a U.S. History class, you study inventors, and how inventors change the world through the things that they create, which is essentially out of their imagination. Most of the great inventions come from an imagination. Having a conversation like this, then ending with this essential question would be really interesting before a unit on industrialization where you’re going to profile different inventors who’ve changed the world in different ways.
Steve Fouts: 7:27
Now here’s an application I saw in a mathematics classroom with two types of students who approach problem solving in different ways. In math there are a lot of formulas we teach to help students solve problems. Often, the students don’t know how to use the formulas. The formulas are like the facts. They are things you can rely on, they’ve been proven to work. Since students want to approach problems in different ways, maybe a conversation like this would be a good way to get students to understand that using their imagination is a fine way to approach a problem. Others will want to rely on formulas and facts that the teacher is giving. That’s another way to try to solve a problem. They’re both valid.
I imagine out of this conversation, and depending on how you use this in your curriculum, that there may be a very balanced answer to this and a real opportunity for students to appreciate diverse ways of seeing the world.
We hope you enjoyed Albert Einstein this week and this great quote on imagination. Make sure you subscribe to our podcast and sign up for our Conversation Library. We’ll see you soon.
Dan Fouts: 8:54
All right. Take care.