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Sir Kenneth Robinson blogathon

January 25, 2011

Sir Kenneth Robinson is one of my heroes and his TED videos are some of the most popular that have been produced for that site.    I love his book, The Element, which looks at alternative ways of learning against the background of a traditional education system that wants to focus on just a few way of teaching.   Is the problem with the learners, asks Sir Kenneth, or is it with those imagine themselves teachers but then either have a failure of imagination or lack the willingness to look at alternatives?

At the Joe Bower blog, “for the love of learning,”  Joe Bower wants to prepare for Sir Kenneth’s upcoming visit to Red Deer College in Winnipeg by creating something of a blogathon.    The intent of Bower’s “blog [is] to uproot some of the most deeply rooted myths that continue to distract people from a love for learning” so Sir Kenneth’s work is completely in congruence.

I thought, then, that I would participate a bit, to support Bower and Sir Kenneth’s visit (I’m very excited about his upcoming book).    Bower suggest these “Prompts to spark your thinking:”

What elements of Sir Ken Robinson’s work inspires you?

Part of what I really appreciate about Sir Ken is that he has fun, that he doesn’t get angry, targeting or blaming – he just puts out alternative choices that makes more sense, which is to be open to other ways and to think critically about what we are doing instead of merely sticking to our roles.    In the history of education for folks with disabilities, this is in the tradition of “try another way” – Marc Gold’s groundbreaking concept that the teacher might be responsible for figuring out alternative ways of learning, not least of which was that learning should be useful and interesting.

What role should creativity play in education?

Often, by the time we meet people, they are done wit school and yet do not know what they might need to know.    That no one is held accountable for this is one issue, but the larger one is thinking creatively about how to use interactions in the community to teach people.    I am thinking about a young person with a disability I knew who told me that their resource teacher had agreed with them that “math is not my thing” and that they no longer needed to do math in classs.   Instead, they would be delivering newspapers.   They were quite thrilled.   “So first we need to sort the newspapers into bundles of ten, and then wrap them up in an elastic.   Once we have ten bundles – that’s 100 – we can put them into a bag…”    It was a great example of using something meaningful to teach something that would be useful in other situations.

In what ways does school need to change?

I might be a bit prejudiced here – while watching all the videos for the “it gets better” campaign, in which gay and lesbian people and their allies spoke through youtube videos to high school students who might be thinking of suicide, and those students spoke back in the comments, I was struck by wondering who exactly those schools are working for?   And why are there no clearer alternatives that kids can easily slide into?    It might be time to rethink the idea of inclusion…  could it be that the opportunity for leadership for those of us who care about young people with disabilities is just to say “enough, this isn’t working for anyone – let’s find an alternative.”

How can school broaden its definition of achievement?

Schools that want to broaden their definition of achievements just need to focus on things beyond academics and sports; the “special ed” classroom is still too often a dismal little place in the basement hung with art work dedicated to the seasons…   how long would it take to spend with those kids looking at what they are doing, making sure they are doing something worthwhile, and then figuring out how to reinforce it?

How can school do a better job of encouraging all children to find their passion?

I think there doesn’t seem to be much honest feedback for teachers – and the conversation about feedback goes to these systemic change possibilities – could they be reimbursed according to their skill level?    I still see all kinds of collegiality issues, teachers not wanting to step on other teacher’s toes; teachers who aren’t very good continuing on in place because no one calls them on it.

What needs to happen so that school is something to be enjoyed rather than simply endured?

There’s a thought in research Down Syndrome that those kids aren’t really ready to learn until they graduate, because only then can they focus on something other than the peer interactions and peer pressure that they are (no more or less than the general students perhaps) obsessed by until graduation.    Often they’ll graduate illiterate and innumerate and then be able to go on in a more relaxed “adult” environment to pick up those skills.   I wonder what would happen if those kids were facilitated and supported to play an active role in leadership of the schools – if they were asked how to change the culture of schools, and what to focus on?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jamil Ahmed permalink
    July 30, 2011 11:21 pm

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