“We are born creative and curious,” Zhao noted. “We can either suppress or enhance this.” He pointed to research from George Land showing the decline of creativity as children get older to suggest that our current educational approach is largely achieving the former.

Yet, in an age when routine jobs can be outsourced or automated, it is creativity that will create a thriving new middle class, Zhao argued.

Besides creativity, the skills needed for successful entrepreneurship include confidence, passion, and risk-taking. But Zhao says our testing-heavy approach to instruction isn’t nurturing these skills.

“When you’re punished for wrong answers, it discourages risk taking,” he asserted.

To develop the kinds of skills that truly will matter in the 21st century, students need more autonomy over their education, Zhao argued.

He called for a shift to more “product-oriented learning,” in which students make authentic products that are meaningful to themselves, their communities, or society at large—and technology can facilitate this process, he said.

Produced by ed-tech consultant Alan November and his company, November Learning, the 2013 BLC conference runs through July 26. More information from conference sessions can be found here, and you can follow the discussion about BLC on Twitter at #BLC13.