Posts Tagged ‘learning theory’

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Sir Ken Robinson Says Schools Kill Creativity

April 16, 2009

Have you met TED? If you think I am talking about a person, TED is actually an annual conference of ideas founded in 1984 to unite leading thinkers and doers from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design. Speakers are invited to share their most salient thoughts in only 18 minutes.

The collection of impressive presentations is nothing short of infectious. And I mean that quite literally: during the February 2009 TED conference in Long Beach, CA Bill Gates released a jar of mosquitoes to emphasize his belief that people in developed countries are not concerned enough with malaria, which continues to plague the developing world.

Antics aside, the events provide a passport to ideas that inspire action. They are the proverbial “things that make you go ‘hmm!'” Fortunately, for those not part of the limited audience able to see such an event in person, TED has made videos of each presenters talk available online.

Sir Ken Robinson speaks about creativity and education at the February 2006 TED Talk.One talk of particular relevance to my personal and professional  interests was given by Sir Ken Robinson at the February 2006 conference in Monterey, CA.

Robinson — who earned a PhD from the University of London for research into drama and theatre in education — is a noted British creativity expert who challenges the way we educate ourselves.

Recognizing that all formal education is unequally focused on what amounts to linear, quantitative subjects, Robinson proposes a radical re-imagining of our school system that more effectively cultivates creativity and acknowledges multiple types of intelligence.

I can relate to this as I’ve always been one to “think different” (as the famous Apple advertising slogan once encouraged us to do). Specifically, I test poorly on standardized tests: my brain just isn’t wired that way. This is a significant concern as I draw closer to applying for PhD programs.

I need to find an effective and, given my present circumstance, outrageously affordable way to elevate my GRE scores to ensure my application is viewed competitively by admissions committees. (Perhaps at a later date I will discuss my thoughts on the highly questionable financial stranglehold ETS — Educational Testing Service — has on the high education process).

I personally enjoyed the video a great deal — it reminded me of my teaching philosophy which is anchored in the idea of generative learning. The “tipping point” that motivated me to post this blog was that shortly after watching it I logged into my WordPress.com account and read that the system now supports embedding TED videos.  Serendipity!

I couldn’t resist the urge to share this video. Although the talk occurred more than three years ago the ideas seem timeless and more relevant than ever. My two favorite lines from Robinson’s talk are:

“We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it.”

“Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

Truer words were never spoken!  Additionally, I also found these comments particularly insightful — especially since they reflect my views on education and seem to validate my desire for an interdisciplinary doctoral program:

“We know three things about intelligence:

One, it’s diverse, we think about the world in all the ways we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement.

Secondly, intelligence is dynamic. If you look at the interactions of a human brain, as we heard yesterday from a number of presentations, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The brain isn’t divided into compartments. In fact, creativity, which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value, more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things…

And the third thing about intelligence is, it’s distinct.”

And so, without further adeiu, here is Sir Ken Robinson (you can also watch it on the TED website and follow along with an interactive transcript):

Hopefully you found this talk as encouraging as I did. You can also read a transcript of Robinson’s entire talk. Additionally, earlier this year Robinson published a new book, “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything,” which presents a deep look at human creativity and education.

I invite you to explore some of the videos on the TED website or to visit the organization’s “TEDTalks” YouTube channel. I don’t think 18 minutes of your day could be better spent!

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What Does a Scotsman Wear Under His Kilt? Don’t Ask Wikipedia!

July 12, 2008

If you’ve ever been curious what a Scotsman wears under his kilt, don’t as Wikipedia!

According to a June 21, 2008 Scotsman article by Martyn McLaughlin the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC)contends that Wikipedia and similar online research sources were to blame for Scotland’s falling exam pass rates.

Excerpts of the original article follows:

Wikipedia and other online research sources were yesterday blamed for Scotland’s falling exam pass rates. The Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) said pupils are turning to websites and Internet resources that contain inaccurate or deliberately misleading information before passing it off as their own work.

The group singled out online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which allows entries to be logged or updated by anyone and is not verified by researchers, as the main source of information.

Eleanor Coner, the SPTC’s information officer, said: “Children are very IT-savvy, but they are rubbish at researching. The sad fact is most children these days use libraries for computers, not the books. We accept that as a sign of the times, but schools must teach pupils not to believe everything they read.

“It’s dangerous when the Internet is littered with opinion and inaccurate information which could be taken as fact.”

Alan Johnson, the UK Education Secretary, was lambasted earlier this year for suggesting the website could be a positive educational tool for children.

He described the Internet as “an incredible force for good in education”, singling out Wikipedia for praise.

A disclaimer on Wikipedia states “it is important to note that fledgling, or less well monitored, articles may be susceptible to vandalism and insertion of false information.”

Boasting over two million articles, Wikipedia is used by about 6 per cent of Internet users, significantly more than the traffic to more authorised sites, such as those of newspapers. Its articles are mainly edited by a team of volunteers.

Wikipedia was really a trailblazer in the current trend of virtual communities of practice, an area of my academic research interests. However, I know full well that whatever I read might not be accurate.

I once heard it said that Wikipedia is a great place to start your research, but a bad place to end it. I feel that is an accurate assessment. I personally enjoy exploring Wikipedia and often find I end up on a page I never imagined I would find.

As an adjunct instructor, I go to great lengths to explain why Wikipedia is not an ideal source for research information — precisely for the reasons mentioned above.  I explain that they can begin their research at Wikipedia — as it is usually one of the top five pages to appear following a Google search — but I tell them to follow the links to the resources cited on the page itself.

However, I am admittedly a bit of a hypocrite as I frequently link to Wikipedia pages in this blog due to the ease with which pages relevant to my topics can be found. Without question, Wikipedia pages are a great clearinghouse of information — a true crossroads of knowledge — and for that reason alone the site is a useful tool.

But, its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness — one that will forever exist so long as the site remains as it is now.

Carrot-TopI recently demonstrated how easy it is to change a page on Wikipedia to one of my English classes by changing the Wikipedia page for comedian Carrot Top to indicate that he had died unexpectedly on that date.

I was even able to change to biographical information in the box that appears in the upper-right-hand corner of the page.

In fairness to Wikipedia, one of their editors discovered the false entry and deleted it within seven minutes.

Still, seven minutes is plenty of time for someone researching comedians to have found the page and added a citation to their paper that Carrot Top had indeed died.

So I really can see both sides of this issue — though as an educator I make sure my students understand the pros and cons of Wikipedia. Just like the students mentioned in the Scotsman article, I am likely to conduct my research virtually instead of physically in a library.

It is hard to not do so with resources such as ProQuest making almost anything you need available at the click of a few keys.

The main issue is to teach students how to properly conduct research and to ensure they understand why certain sources are more credible that others. Sometimes this can be difficult to communicate, especially when it comes to controversial topics for which there might not be a great deal of mainstream research materials available.

Clearly technology offers education an immesurable advantage, but the key is to learn to control it without letting it control us.

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