Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ask Sir Ken Robinson anything -- and he answers @ TED

TED asked for questions for Sir Ken Robinson and then shared his answers.  It is a marvelous dialogue and very typical Ken Robinson. 

Don’t you just love listening to him? Don’t you wish he had been your teacher in grade school? OR at least Ken Robinson had taught your teacher before she became your teacher in grade school, high school, or college?

Everyone really needs to read the entire dialogue, but I will share a few things (It turned into more than a few) I gleaned from it. revised_taxonomy 2

(Please note that the underlines (or color emphasis) are all mine, not Sir Ken Robinson’s.)

While you read my summary and highlights below, think about Bloom’s Taxonomy

1) HOW can we OVERHAUL public education and nurture creativity?

“creativity isn't a specific activity;”

“There are skills of creative thinking that can be taught.”

He says, in education, in relation to the lack of creativity, there are 3 areas that need to be considered: 1) curriculum, 2) pedagogy (teaching), and 3) assessment.

2) Today there is overspecialization and compartmentalization of subjects in school; there needs to be more balance and inter-relatedness for creativity to thrive. We should not lose sight of the larger picture.

“So this capacity for imagination, to me, is absolutely at the heart of this whole argument…Creativity is putting your imagination to work and it's produced the most extraordinary results in human is really the foundation of human culture…it's generated multiple ways of looking at the world, multiple ways of seeing it, multiple ways of thinking about it.”

3) What is a good method of assessment?

“I think it's seeing connections rather than differences which is the heart, I believe, of human progress.”

“…an assessment is always two things. It has a description implied and a comparison.”

“I think the problem with most standardized tests or graded tests or lettered sort of assessments is that they're often very heavy on comparison and very light on description.”

“…And it's really what people can do, and what they're interested in, and what they're capable of that is of most importance in education.”

“So, if assessment is textured and finely-grained, and is supportive and diagnostic, I'm all for it. If it's coarse and simplistic and judgmental and uninformative, then it seems to me always to be negative and have the wrong sort of effects in education.”

4) Where is the place for technology in education?

Technology is important in its own place.

“…I really do think that we have not yet properly begun to exploit the real benefits and potential of information technology in education. My big interest is in how you personalize education and how you customize it, rather than how you standardize it and make it irrelevant to local needs. And one of the ways we do it, I'm sure, is by making much more imaginative and creative use of information technology.

But  technology alone will not educate the whole person.

“There are things that you can only really learn by being in the room with people. There are things you can only really learn by getting up and doing them. Not simulating them, but by being outdoors and doing it. By being in your body. By exercising your feelings and recognizing you are not just intellectual and chemalogical* animals. We are sentient, feeling beings who need social contact.”

5) There are “so many individual teachers and librarians out there who GET IT, who want to help their students stop "playing school" and start having authentic learning experiences. How do they build critical mass to change our bureaucratic, cookie-cutter approach to educating children?” & 6) How do I personally help make the change?

Ken Robinson answers: “The real place to focus, initially, is on the work you do yourself. I'm always keen to say this: Education doesn't happen in the committee rooms of Washington, or London, or Paris or Berlin. It doesn't happen in government buildings. It happens in the minds of students and learners. It happens in the classroom.”


“looking at what you can do in your sphere.”

7) What do you think about online/distance learning?

“there's a massive potential that we haven't yet fully tapped into. …we now have the ability to put the best thinking, materials, pedagogy, resources in front of everybody. … a massive opportunity to -- not to replace what they do, not to replace their own teachers and curriculum, but to enrich and enhance it.

8) What do you think of the Summerhill School in the UK?

This school sound to me like it is based on the Montessori philosophy of education, but in an older age group of children.

“They're based on the principle that students, if they're given freedom and responsibility, will rise to it. It won't dissolve into anarchy. It will resolve into something much more productive than people think. The kids have much more moral judgment, much more self-determination, much more responsibility than people would believe, when they're given the opportunity to exercise them.”

“the only way you get schools to improve is by personalizing to these children, these parents, this community, this place.”

9) Another question was from a teacher about what can I concretely do right now? Of the 3 components to education mentioned above, Sir Ken Robinson says Pedagogy is the most important.

“If you want to promote creativity, you need, firstly, to stimulate kids minds with puzzles and questions which will intrigue them.”

"teaching creatively": teachers finding interesting ways into material. Presenting unusual points of entry or interesting angles or perspectives, and enjoying the process of finding them.

"teaching for creativity": creating conditions in classrooms where kids are encouraged to think creatively and imaginatively. Giving them stimulating things to work on. Ideas that will open their mind up. Information they've never encountered. Puzzles that will intrigue them. So you might think of that as stimulating the imagination, setting problems.

- asking open questions

“One task [of} being creative is to hypothesize and think of possibilities and look at alternatives ideas -- to speculate. To be imaginative. But an equally important part for every creative process is to act critically on the ideas you're coming up with. To evaluate them. That's why I define creativity, in the TEDTalk, as the process of having original ideas that have value. You have to figure out which ideas are good and bad. Which work and which don't. Which are worthwhile and which ones are not. Then, of course, it raises the old question of whose criteria you're using and whose values you're operating, and that's a part of the conversation. Being creative isn't just about blowing off new ideas. It's about critical judgment, as well....”

“…group work. An awful lot of creative work doesn't happen individually. It happens with people interacting with other people. The most powerful engines of creative thinking are groups. And the reason that's true is because a great group models the human mind: it's diverse, it's dynamic, it's distinctive. So, knowing how to form groups, how to get groups to work, how long to leave them doing it, is a core skill of good teachers.”

“So I think its three things: it's stimulating imagination, it's telling them problems with open questions, and knowing how to organize groups. And I think in there are the answers to things we can all start doing tomorrow.“

10) How do I get into my “element”, referring to Ken Robinson’s new book The Element?

Ken Robinson says, “…look outwardly… try things …Expose yourself to possibilities. See what begins to chime with you. My point about being in the element is some people make a living doing it, ... it's about finding your own personal element. And the more people are able to do that, the more enriched their lives become, and the more enriched the lives are of those people who are in contact with them.

It's something that we all should do, and something that we all can do.”

If any of you are still here reading after this VERY LONG POST, What do you think?

How does Sir Ken Robinson energize you and your classroom teaching?

AND, are you in your ELEMENT?

I think great teachers are in their ELEMENT.

What do you think?

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