I’ve had a tab in my browser open for a week or so now that I’ve just now gotten around to investigating. It is an emerging project built around the TED Talks series of online videos. Many of us have spent time watching TED Talks and I know we pass them around via delicious and Twitter, but they are worthy to revisit within the context of teaching. This morning I went over and watched the Sir Ken Robinson, Do Schools Kill Creativity video once again (for about the 50th time) and noticed that people are starting to build out greater depth. Each page now is an active wiki space that continues to grow. For example, on the Robinson page there are questions for discussion from the talk, links to activities, and several other videos (not from TED) embedded on the page. An excellent example of community driven content development.
While Ken’s video is outstanding, there is one particular video that struck me as being so right on when I watched this morning. It is a relatively short video featuring Alvin Toffler’s perspective on education. Clearly a man of great thought and rich contextual experiences; I was amazed how much I learned in the six and a half minutes he was speaking. I encourage you to watch it.
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. From, Rethinking the Future
I’ve come to think that we really do need to rethink our emphasis on the focus on the “industrial discipline” in our schools that Mr. Toffler discusses in the above video. That while learning how to sit and be may have been important during the turn of the century to create a society willing to participate in the industrial explosion happening within the US, times have changed. We talk of the rise of the creative culture on a global basis and that phenomenon has fundamentally changed the needs of the workplace. What I want in my schools is what I strive for in my work place — freedom to think, explore, and invent. I don’t particularly care about the rules and I certainly don’t want my children to be taught how to line up, stay in that line, and don’t march any way but the way you’re told. Just as I am not interested in a static and uncreative work environment, I hope for a new emphasis on these ideals for all ages.
I titled this post Worksheet Nation becasue I am seeing something happening across various levels of learning and participation that I mentioned this the other day … I want to revisit it once again in a slightly different light so bear with me and please feel free to chime in.
Let me start by saying the color is gone from our refrigerator at home. What that means is that instead of my first grader coming home with original artifacts she’s created, she instead brings home black and white worksheets from a state/district purchased curriculum book. Everything is photocopied and handed out to be completed in pencil. Very little of it is built around the notion of being creative in the learning process. That’s the first grade.
In higher education we spend a great deal of time asking students to read from textbooks that they purchase from a publishing company — no too unlike the curriculum books my daughter sees in grade school. Increasingly I see students then being sent online to take tests electronically as evidence of learning. That looks a hell of a lot like worksheets to me. This, like the example above is a generalization and I fully hope you realize that I do see a tremendous amount of interesting and creative things happening, but the above scenario is far more common.
At work, many of us are asked to document our progress by tracking time, filling out project summaries, or any other number of reporting tools. At 36 I feel like I am still filling out worksheets. Even in a progressive age working in what should be one of the most creative industries on the planet, education, I am filling out worksheets. That string from K-20 to the workplace is troubling.
We are educating people out of their creative capacities … we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Sir Ken Robinson.
What to do? I think one thing to consider is that much of what is getting me down is centered on the need for formal assessment. I don’t disagree with assessment in general, but I think it is time to rethink how and when we do it. I’m not sure filling out worksheets every day is preparing any of us for the fact that time moves in only one direction — forward. The fact of the matter is that the World is changing at a rate that is terribly exciting and our teaching and learning environments seem to want to ignore this fact. I am left wondering how the change happens … at least I am now starting to see that there are some very smart people searching for answers. Can we break through?