Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sir Ken Robinson, Changing Educational Paradigms & Experts

Getting back to the YouTube video by RSA Animate on Changing Educational Paradigms that I mentioned in yesterday's post...  [You Should REALLY Watch This]  RSA Animate has animated a talk given by Sir Ken Robinson on today's efforts to reform the public educational system.  The video is fascinating as you watch the artist draw as Sir Ken Robinson is speaking.  The animation is very clever and really illustrates the points that Sir Ken Robinson is making.  It made me think about my own views of the goals of public education, the roles standardized testing plays and medicating children for ADHD. 

While doing so, I rediscovered something that I have always known, but have pretty much ignored.  Introspection is important.  (Gasp, choke!  I know of one friend in particular who is probably actually screaming "Alleluia! She has seen the light." as she reads that part.)  We all need to take a look at things that matter to us and our families.  We need to confront our assumptions and beliefs.  I am not saying that we need to change them, but rather just examine them from time to time and make sure that they still hold true for us personally.

I have previously been guilty of inertia.  I never bothered much to re-examine things.  Socrates would be most disappointed in me regarding my "unexamined life." (I don't even want to contemplate that I might have something in common with Paris Hilton-- it is just too frightening!)

In today's world there is an expert out there on each and every topic imaginable.  The mere fact that someone is labeled as an "expert" should not cause us to take their opinion, adopt it and discard our own.  Experts offer us an opportunity to look at things in a new light or in a way we may not have previously considered.  They give us a chance to reexamine our own views and possibly reconfirm them through thought and contemplation rather than mere inertia.

However, being addicted to expert opinions can be problematic.  Adopting the "THEY said" attitude endangers us of delegating our own thoughts and opinions to the "experts."  Without ever examining the credentials of the mysterious "THEY," do we inadvertently also absolve ourselves of the responsibility of thinking for ourselves?  "They said this..." or "They said that..." The infamous "THEY" who says coffee is good for you one day and bad the next.  (See, I knew that my "no introspection" could come in handy.  I have always stuck with my six cups of coffee a day, rode the wave and now it is practically healthy for me.)

Homeschooling will be an adventure into the unknown for us.  Inertia will not work for me any longer.  I will need to question my own views as I respond to the curiosity of my children.  Who knows what I will find?

Don't forget to question your own views, especially on something as important as educating your children.  Don't be complacent or let inertia carry you along.  Rest assured, if you think even a little bit about education today it wasn't because of a "They said" (or even a "she said").  There is no way I could ever be possibly construed as an "expert" by myself or anyone else!  I hope you watch the video link above.  Not because I recommend it, but rather because you are curious.  I hope it makes you think something-- good, bad or indifferent.  I'd like to think (pun intended) that I am not the only one jumping off the inertia truck and giving introspection a try.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Finding Creativity

I have never been one to peruse YouTube.  I know that there are some really funny videos, cute animals and great educational stuff on it, but it has never been my thing.  The times that people have emailed me links to certain videos, they almost always make me laugh.  I have often wondered about some of the people who post these videos.  What would possess some of these Darwin Award Winners to post videos of themselves throwing rocks at a hornets nest.   Did they really think it would turn out well?

However, as a homeschooling family I will need to peruse the educational materials available on YouTube.  I know that there will be great resources, I will just need to take the time to find them.  Walla!  I have found a funny, intriguing video that makes me think. [Animation of talk by Sir Ken Robinson] (I know, I know--Introspection makes me shudder. I covered that in my last post.)  Sir Ken Robinson is the PHD guru of creativity.  He travels all over the world speaking to governments and Fortune 500 companies about creativity, education and innovation.  [Who he is & his qualifications.] He talks about the roles and importance of intelligence (of which I have always, not so humbly, considered myself to be) and creativity (of which I have never considered myself to be). Intelligence and creativity are not separate and distinct but integrally linked and essential. (Not liking the way your talks are headed Sir Ken.  It does not bode well for me.)

One of my greatest fears for becoming a homeschooling family is my lack of creativity.  What parent of a traditionally schooled child has not had their child come home excited about the way they learned a certain topic at school and thought, "I wonder where the teacher got that idea?  I never would have thought of that!"  Great teachers have really creative ideas for conveying lessons to children.  I am going to be the teacher next year.  Eee Gads! The one responsible for coming up with the "great ideas" and it terrifies me.

I have Carol Barnier's book, The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles.  [Link to her book.]  In it she describes a lesson on the Circulatory System in which she used masking tape to create the four chambers of the heart on the floor and had her kids "be the blood."  They moved through the heart chambers, got oxygenated, etc.  What a great idea!  I would have never, ever thought of it in a million years.  Where do people get these ideas?

I will resort to flattery!  In the sense of, "Imitation is the sincerest of flattery." sort of way.  In today's technological world, I will have a plethora of creative ideas at my fingertips.  Gotta love GOOGLE!

I will just have to take the time to find them.  I will usurp the creativity of others.  Must remember to take a deep breath.  All is well (as long as the internet does not go down).  If all else fails, I can always buy Sir Ken Robinson's book [One of his books.] and re-discover my own creativity. Perhaps just merely dusting off my own creativity will help me find some more.  If you have any creative suggestions, I'm certainly open.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ways in Which Apple Co-Founder, Steve Wozniak and I Think Alike

I have never personally been very big on introspection.  I don't spend a lot of time pondering my own thoughts or philosophies.  This can especially be quite irksome to my husband when he would like for me to change a particular behavior or philosophy.  But so be it, he was actually warned before he married me.  Guess that is a "Buyer Beware" lesson that he has to live with on a regular basis.

The whole process of choosing to make a radical shift in our "schooling" process has required me to step out of my comfort zone.  I have had to engage in (gasp inserted here) INTROSPECTION.  I have had to think about education, in general as well as specific terms.  I have had to take a look at the goals of institutions as a whole as well as my own personal goals for my children.  What do I actually want them to learn?  What kind of thinkers do I want them to become?  What do I want to encourage?  How?  This is pretty revolutionary thinking for someone who doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about their own thinking. (Based on that previous sentence, I think you can imagine why I avoid it.  I find introspection irritating, especially those times where you don't like what you find.)

I have discovered a few things in this process.  "Out of the Box" thinkers are what I would like to strive for in my children.  I want them to find novel ways of coming to their own conclusions.  I want them to question and create their own solutions.  I want them to be innovative in their education.  I want actual knowledge to be something they seek and crave for the rest of their lives.  I don't want education to be something administered to them.  I would rather they not treat it as a checklist of facts that is completed so that they can then go and do whatever it is they want to do.

My husband shared an article with me over the weekend written by Lucas Mearian, who heard Steve Wozniak speak at a SNW (Storage Networking World) Conference on April 4th.  ( This is something that I would never have looked at on my own or had any interest in reading without him pointing it out to me.  SNW is not my world to say the least!

Steve Wozniak is the "other Steve" co-founder of Apple.  Not being a "Dancing with the Stars" fan, I would not have known who Wozniak is, if my hubby hadn't told me.  Apparently Wozniak appeared on the show.  (Hmm, may not be the "Out of the Box" tone I am striving for necessarily.)  At least I did know who Steve Jobs was without being told.  This multi-millionaire Steve (as opposed to the billionaire Jobs) is obviously a pretty innovative guy and he and I share some of the same philosophies.  Who would've thought that?

The general gist of the comments summarized in the above article was that schools do not enhance innovative thinking.  Innovative thinking is necessary for technological development.  Innovation does not result in an environment where everyone's goal is to get the same answers.  It is not something you read in a book.  It must be created from within you.

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."
I want my children to see themselves as inventors.  I want them to find new ways to expand on their knowledge and the create from there.  Who knows what they will think up?  Hopefully I can find the ways to give them the tools for them to find their own answers and solutions.  Obviously they will have to learn some basic facts along the way.  2+2 must always =4.  They will need to learn about the Civil War and the Thomas Edisons of the world.  But as we study traditional names like Eli Whitney and why they mattered, I want to throw in some others.  Alice Paul, so my daughter will always fight for what she believes is right... and Steve Wozniak, so that my children will strive for the personal pride that comes from creating something new and meaningful.