Ayah Bdeir at TED: Building blocks that blink, beep and teach
How does approaching a complex problem with the mind of a child elicit fresh, creative, accessible new things? Ayah Bdeir, an artist/engineer looked at Legos and was inspired to consider transistors in a new way. I have often told my students that art is a unique expression of a universal idea. This broadens the concept of art significantly. If we want to inspire creative thinking, we must be willing to encourage and celebrate differentness and its contribution to the creative process. Diversity, a buzzword for racial and gender integration, takes on powerful meaning in the world of art and education. Diversity is a necessity for artists. But children who are different often feel at odds with a system that rewards sameness. I look at a classroom full of middle school kids and I sometimes wonder if teaching them how to work to a standard is one way to let them off the hook. Kids do the minimum required rather than push for greater understanding, deeper knowledge, and personal best skill development. Once a student recognizes the objectives of the academic game, he or she is free to play at any level. If good grades are the goal, many savvy learners do what is required to get to the goal, but no more. For those not interested in the game, playing at academics is boring, annoying, or off the radar. For those who have been trained to believe their grades have some connection to an individual’s character quality, the game of school can produce paralyzing anxiety.
How do we, as educators, provide the assessments kids want without attaching them to a child’s self-worth? This non-judgmental assessment feature is no fantasy. Children who play video games live in a world of action assessment. When a character dies on a video screen as a result of a lack of skill or knowledge, there is rarely a response like some I have seen in school when children do poorly on tests. The gamer’s reaction to a lack of skill is to get better at the game whether through repetition, research, or online cheats (don’t be fooled by the name; cheats have their own learning curve). When the expectations for schoolwork reach beyond skill building and touch the sensitive nerves around a student’s developing sense of self, there is room for reassessment of our assessment tools.
Rather than push for homogeny, we could reward new ways of thinking. The weird girl who thinks differently will be included at lunch because the school’s environment embraces and rewards her contributions. The weird boy who daydreams will be lured into conversations to mine his mind for unique ideas that cause an upward spiral of abstract thought in the classroom. We have a role to play as teachers in creating an environment where divergence is no longer frowned upon but encouraged. In fact, we now know it is this divergent thinking that creates great ideas such as Legos and littleBits. It’s about time we stop rewarding imitation. Let’s celebrate the weird kids and give everyone permission to reveal his or her diversity.
Image via Wikipedia
Having gone through the college admission process two times now, I can say I have learned a few things. This article has so much good advice, I wish I had read it a little earlier. Tufts, Tulane and now Oklahoma State University notwithstanding, most colleges are not yet on board with the super creative admission materials (a la Legally Blond) but we are headed that way. I predict the college admission process will be completely transformed in less than a decade.
The financial aid section is especially useful. A friend of mine gave me the best advice ever: “Whatever they offer, go back and ask for more. There is a little black box under someone’s desk and it’s full of money for your kid. If the financial aid counselor tells you there is no such box, ask that person to look again.” Using this strategy, my oldest went from $0 to full ride. It doesn’t always go that way but like Winston Churchill famously intoned, “Never, never, never, never give up.”
Don’t Blow Your Kid’s Chances of College Admission – Forbes.
My husband found an interesting blog post on the idea of the teacher-led school model. The idea of a greater presence in the classroom for decision-makers is one which piques my interest. I am fortunate to work in an educational community where everybody’s involved in student life. It’s a bit like living in a small town. Mrs. Crabtree tells your Sunday School teacher what she saw and the milkman noticed something too and we’re all talking to your mom. But I digress… Enjoy the post:
A Fledgling Teacher-Led School Trend.
Barnett Berry Video
I gather that some people have had trouble with the embedded video so I am instead making it a link to the Edutoipia site where you can view his video as well as other resources related to education reform. Thanks for letting me know!
5 minute Barnett Berry video
Barnett Berry is the president and CEO of the advocacy organization Center for Teaching Quality. In the preceding video he clarifies for all of us just who is going to reform our current system and outlines ways in which that can be done. He bases his ideas on what he calls the Four Emergent Realities:
The Four Emergent Realities include:
1. A new learning ecology that provides a “24-7, just-in-time” learning environment with specific assessment tools.
2. Having teachers trained and working both in and out of Cyberspace.
3. Teachers working as teams with a structure to support differentiated teaching careers over time.
4. Teacher-preneurs (we used to refer to these progressive educators as mentors) who teach but are also allowed time, space, geography (connecting in person or online) and reward to spread expertise in and out of Cyberspace.
I think Barnett may be onto something.
After a summer vacation-inspired hiatus, I am back in the saddle to begin Monday-Wednesday-Friday blogging again on the subject of creativity and education. I attended a “creativity summit” a week ago for my city where Robert Sternberg, one of my favorite educators, was the keynote speaker. I invited two of my kids to come and listen and express their opinions in the group discussion portion of the day. The purpose of the event was not stated in any of the literature I received. This, otherwise, was an interesting and edifying event. Apparently, creativity is not as easily discussed as it is… experienced. The best part of the day for my kids was a break out session where they found a creative way to answer a prompt concerning education and creativity. During the lecture portion of the day, speaker after speakertook to the stage and talked about their various projects. Some were more on point than others. I could have listened to Sternberg talk all day. He is funny and interesting and has a lot to say about education and the creative life. The flow of the discussion meandered from outdoor architectural spaces to multicultural representation to how we compare with the other metropolis in our state and who in the country is ahead of us (creatively speaking). One of the most interesting speakers was architect Shawn Michael Schaefer. According to the literature he is the Director of the University of Oklahoma Urban Design Studio and a faculty member of the College of Architecture. The loose discussion was interesting but at the same time it felt a little disjointed. I later learned this summit is only a starting point for more and deeper discussions. If the support at this particular meeting is an indicator, this could be the beginning of a very exciting creative period in my city.
Cover via Amazon
I remember the videos on TV in the 70’s under the title Grammar Rock. I really loved these videos. Grammar seemed like a fun concept when I was a kid. Lately, though, we seem to have lost some of our enthusiasm for excellent grammar. Back when Grammar Rock was playing on Saturday morning television I had a junior high teacher named Mrs. Wallace. She taught me how to diagram a sentence. It was a game to figure out where prepositional phrases fit and what could be done to repair a dangling participle. I believe this activity is now limited to college linguistics classes.
Since the 70’s I have been a grammar champion. I know the difference between lie and lay (thanks to my Aunt Gwen) as well as how to use objective and nominative pronouns. A few years ago, my eldest daughter asked for a book titled Eats, Shoots & Leaves, a hilarious take on the misuse and correct use of English grammar. We referred to her as the Grammar Nazi all through high school though she was not allowed to use the moniker online as it contained the dreaded ‘n’ word. She corrected spirit signs in the hallways of her school with a little red Sharpie. She later took to calling herself the Grammar Bandit. Very few people knew who was defacing their grammatically impotent signs but still she found satisfaction in the act. It’s not a crime to break the rules. It’s limiting, though, if you don’t even know what the rules are. My other daughter is a writer who knows the rules and chooses to break them regularly.
It seems to me there are more and more journalists and other types of writers graduating without a solid foundation for their writing. Grammar is important for linguistic continuity and as the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) point out in a position statement on the teaching of grammar in American schools, “knowing about grammar helps us understand what makes sentences and paragraphs clear and interesting and precise.”
I thought playing the grammar game in junior high was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed diagramming sentences and I work hard not to end a sentence a preposition with. This is, sadly, something many radio and TV journalists have forgotten. Many times, I hear them say things such as, “where the economy is headed to” or “here’s where we’re at” and I cringe. I know the preposition they are adding is superfluous but, clearly, it seems necessary in an age where words seem cheap. But words are not cheap. It’s how we use them that cheapens them.