As I have said before in this blog, I attend edtech conferences to be inspired and to steal ideas to take back to my own school. But when I left the keynote that opened this year’s ISTE 2012 Conference, I was scratching my head wondering what was the purpose of what I had just witnessed. I felt embarrassed to be an educator. Did ISTE really just do this to me? Did they sell out? Did they take inspiring me too far?
Let me start with Sir Ken Robinson, I like many other educators, got inspired by his TED talk about how schools are killing creativity. Which was followed up by the YouTube video by RSA Animate about changing educational paradigms. I took notes of these two videos and desperately tried to apply what he was talking about into my own teaching. I even bought his book The Element. But here’s the thing — most of what Sir Ken says is spot on — what I have a problem with is execution. He offers no real solution to what we need to do, just that we need to do it. And I know that he should not have to spoon-feed us to get us where we need to go. But what is the real value of someone who offers criticism with no viable solutions?
His answers for us during the Q&A session after the keynote was to provide individualized instruction – I teach 470 students a week, and I am suppose to connect with each one and have each one on their own path to finding their educational passion? Yeah, right! And another thing, I got so worried about killing students creativity that I have tried to do the right thing. But students without skills cannot do the things that Sir Ken thinks that we beat out of them.
After watching the TED talk I gave 20 fourth graders flip video cameras and an assignment, but I did not kill their creativity — I let them do it how they wanted to. Dreaming that I was doing what Sir Ken wanted me to do, I waited for the students to return with their incredible videos. What I got back was 20 videos of garbage — kids being goofy on camera. Nothing creative, nothing to show me that any of them had a passion for filmmaking.
Sir Ken seems to think that if we just give kids blank pieces of paper and a pencil that they will draw masterpieces, or write amazing poetry, or solve complex math problems. Students without skills cannot do what he thinks they can, unless maybe they’re a savant, or something. My students need the skills that I teach them in order to be creative. You cannot be creative without being taught skills. Leonardo Da Vinci was an apprentice before he became the master, and so must every one of our students.
Enough said about Sir Ken.
Moving on to the other panelists; Shawn Covell of Qualcomm and Mayim Bialik, the actress and scientist. With both of them repeating; “I am sure there are more qualified people in the audience to answer this, but…” enough said. Yes, most of us are more qualified to talk about this subject than the both of you which left me wondering why you were even there. What the heck qualifies a Qualcomm executive and a home-schooling actress to speak on education reform? Covell just bragged about how big Qualcomm was and Bialik kept pushing her new deal with Texas Instruments — so was the keynote suppose to be an ad?
Now who I did like, and who I wished was the keynote, was Marc Prensky. This guy knows what he is talking about and seems to understand education more than just stirring the pot like Sir Ken does. Well done Marc, I wish I could have heard more from you.
ISTE, you need to do better than this keynote. You need to find us the people who are qualified to lead us in education reform that we are desperately looking for. Sir Ken was right about one thing; revolutions never start at the top. So this is me at the bottom, standing up to say to you ISTE that this keynote was not what I needed. I want to feel inspired, not duped or sold to. Find me people who are not trying to sell me a book or a new program from TI.
Now excuse me, but I need to get ready to attend the keynote by Yong Zhao, maybe he will be the inspiration that I am looking for.
- Brad Flickinger, tech teacher, Bethke Elementary
Comments welcomed below…
One of my favorite books is Daniel Pink’s Drive: the Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. And speaking of motivation, I was movitated to read his book after watching the animation of a talk he gave. I must have watched that video three or four times before getting online and ordering his book, and after devoring his book my mind kept thinking, “How can I use these ideas in my classroom?”
One of the real big things that stuck in my mind was the idea of autonomy — or having the freedom to choose how we do something. He explains how this can be one of the biggest reasons why people succeed at a given task. The problem was that when I went back through my lesson plans I didn’t see any autonomy for my students. Every one of them were step-by-step tech projects. So over the summer I started to revamp some of my lessons to include student autonomy.
Take for example my fourth grade U.S. Constitution Podcast project. The original lesson plan was very rigid on how students were suppose to do things. But after my autonomy re-do I had changed a few parts to “student choice.” Students were now free to choose to do their podcast on whatever part of the Constitution they chose rather than being assigned. They then were free to choose their own characters and story line.
I have to admit, it was a little more chaotic to watch them work on this project, and at first they were lost with this new found freedom. “So I can do my podcast on anything I want?” But once they got used to a little “structured” freedom they did way better this year on the project.
If creativity is a 21st Century Skill that we want our students to develop, then how could they possible develop this skill without the freedom to choose for themselves how they do certain parts of a project? So take a chance and add a few elements of autonomy to your lessons, cross your fingers, give a little guidance and advice and then be prepared to be shocked by what your students do.
#edtech #edchat #elemchat
I just uploaded a new episode of Elementary Tech Teacher’s Journal.
Episode Number 41 for the week of September 12, 2011
The World of Guided Discovery
In this week’s show I talk about my frustrations with child so-called creativity and the need for guided discovery.
This week’s episode is sponsored by Atomic Learning.Read More
#edtech #edchat #elemchat
I just uploaded a new episode of The Elementary Tech Teacher’s Journal.
Episode Number 12 for the week of April 4, 2011 (This week’s episode was recorded and edited on an iPad 2 using Garageband.)
“Teaching Tech Skills before Creativity.”
This week’s episode is sponsored by Atomic Learning.
#edtech #edchat #elearning — Recently, I have been inundated with reports and articles calling for more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in our schools. I find these reports very interesting and to be honest, I agree with most of what I have been reading.
I think we all can agree with the statistics that say America is in short supply of locally grown scientists and engineers. It seems that other industrialized countries are spitting them out of their universities at a rate that dwarfs ours. Many fear that this is going to cause a shift in the political power of the world which might cause the United States to lose the number 1 position.
So what are we to do?
That is exactly what my principal and myself talked about a few weeks ago — and now we are coming up with ideas. We want to start offering more STEM projects in our school, even if we need to start a summer day-camp to accomplish this. The one issue we came up with has to do with art. You see, we want to add Art to STEM and make it STEAM instead.
Adding Art to STEM reminds me of people like Leonardo DaVinci, he was not only a great scientist, but also a great artist.
With just as many people saying that we have lost creativity from our schools and those worried about science, technology, engineering and math, we believe that by adding art into the mixture we can make STEM that much better.
Let’s not just teach our student to be great with engineering, but also creative with engineering. Let’s face it, many of the great advances with cool new tech gadgets is because they are so creative and cool and not just functional. Who can argue about the great creativity that goes into today’s smartphones?
So rather than just making a country full of scientists and engineers, let’s make DaVincies. Graduates that use both sides of their brains to solve the complex problems of tomorrow. Because that is what it is going to take to set them apart from their global counterparts.
- Obama Off to Great Start with STEM(edreformer.com)
- Luncheon supports STEM education(charlotte.news14.com)
- Obama Advisers Call for Greater Emphasis on STEM Education(news.sciencemag.org)
- Changing the Equation in STEM Education(whitehouse.gov)