The aim of education

What is the aim of education?

  • To be prepared for the future.
  • To expand awareness.
  • To learn from the past.
  • To instil resilience to persevere.
  • To think for oneself.
  • To understand oneself and become that which you want to be, need to be and can be.

And finally, education is a life long journey. If you stop learning, you stop living.

Credit: Photo by Elliott Wade

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Into The Wind

21832626-0-documentary-uk-websiA long overdue post from me, but I’ve been inspired by two “world schooler” families, who travel the world as a family, learn together as they experience new cultures and experience. Incredibly creative, they find their passions and run towards them…hard.

You will be inspired by their lifestyle, and they’ve made a film, called “Into the Wind” to share why, what and how they live:

Set against the backdrop of the contemporary status quo, this film explores the transformational life choices a growing number of families are embracing. Where the world is both teacher and provider, families shed cultural expectations, challenge preconceptions of money and success, examine what it means to be educated and redefine the concept of community and home.

On an ongoing journey of learning and discovery, travel is a way of life, a way of interacting with the world and connecting with its people. So old in its origins, Into the Wind could be the modern answer to what we’re all seeking.

Sign up now to sneak a preview of the film’s trailer at intothewindfilm.com.

Personalize Education to Discover True Passion

Education doesn’t need to be reformed – it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.

Ken RobinsonThe Element

8 Competencies Schools Should Teach Now

creativeschoolsBack to Sir Ken Robinson again. In his book, Creative Schools, he outlines eight core competencies that schools should facilitate if they are really going to help students succeed in their lives:

  1. Curiosity – the ability to ask questions and explore how the world works
  2. Creativity – the ability to generate new ideas and to apply them in practice
  3. Criticism – the ability to analyse information and ideas and to form reasoned arguments and judgments
  4. Communication – the ability to express thoughts and feelings clearly and confidently in a range of media and forms
  5. Collaboration – the ability to work constructively with others
  6. Compassion – the ability to emphasise with others and to act accordingly
  7. Composure – the ability to connect with inner life and feeling and develop a sense of personal harmony and balance
  8. Citizenship – the ability to engage constructively with society and to participate in the processes that sustain it

It’s a great list, and completely challenging if you have children that are in education sytems…

Ken Robinson Defines Creativity

Sir KenSir Ken Robinson gives his take on creativity:

‘It’s sometimes said that creativity cannot be defined: Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.

There are various myths about creativity. One is that only special people are creative, another is that creativity is only about the arts, a third is the creativity cannot be taught and a fourth is that it’s all to do with uninhibited “self-expression.” None of these is true. Creativity draws from many powers that we all have by virtue of being human. Creativity is possible in all areas of human life, in science, the arts, mathematics, technology, cuisine, teaching, politics, business, you name it. And like many human capacities, our creative powers can be cultivated and refined. Doing that involves an increasing mastery of skills, knowledge and ideas.

Creativity is about fresh thinking. It doesn’t have to be new to the whole of humanity – though that’s always a bonus – but certainly to the person whose work it is. Creativity also involves making critical judgements about whether what you’re working on is any good, be it a theorem, a design, or a poem. Creative work often passes through typical phases. Sometimes what you end up with is not what you had in mind when you started. It’s a dynamic process that often involves making new connections, crossing disciplines and using metaphors and analogies.

Being creative is not just about having off-the-wall ideas and letting your imagination run free. It may involve all of that, but it also involves refining, testing, and focusing what you’re doing. It’s about original thinking on the part of the individual, and it’s also about judging critically whether the work in process is taking the right shape and is worthwhile, at least for the person producing it.

Creativity is not the opposite of discipline and control. On the contrary, creativity in any field may involve deep factual knowledge and high levels of practical skill. Cultivating creativity in one of the most interesting challenges for any teacher. It involves understanding the real dynamics of creative work.

Creativity is not a linear process, in which you have to learn all the necessary skills before you get started. It is true that creative work in any field involves a growing mastery of skills and concepts. It is not true that they have to be mastered before the creative work can begin. Focusing on skills in isolation can kill interest in any discipline. Many people have been put off mathematics for life by endless rote tasks that did nothing to inspire them with the beauty of numbers. Many spent years grudgingly practicing scales for music examinations only to abandon the instrument once they’ve made the grade.

The real drive of creativity is an appetite for discovery and a passion for the work itself. When students are motivated to learn, they naturally acquire the skills they need to get the work done. Their mastery of them grows as their creative ambitions expand. You’ll find evidence of this process in great teaching in every discipline from football to chemistry.’

(Excerpt taken from Sir Ken Robinson’s book Creative Schools; pages 118-120)

Why Do 6 Year Olds Need Spelling Tests?

spellingIs it me? Spelling tests for 6 year olds? Really?

I get the need to spell correctly, but what is the aim of being able to spell? Surely it is to be able to communicate and converse in a written form. However, what is the point of being able to spell correctly if the creative sentence cannot be crafted and created?

The written word has such power to express the emotional state of mankind. Most repressive regimes start by burning books and rounding up those that think and write creatively; it’s not helpful to their aims and desires for power to have people who can able to question and communicate this to others.

I’m aware that I am biased here, but my child is at the stage where writing has such a fascination. She is always writing notes and cards to everyone. It’s an act of love and the misspelt words add to the magic. If we corrected her spelling instead of appreciating the act and the thought, we would dishearten her and the notes would stop. This is not the desired outcome!

I do not like poor spelling, believe me, I spot the typos, but spelling tests for six year olds? Come on! In my opinion, it’s such a crass way to measure education performance of children. Get them to write a story and see how they can communicate and express themselves.

We must teach people (not just children) creative writing, teach them how to spin a yarn, how to express feelings and build confidence, and only then correct the words so they understand how to make what they do even better.

So what if my child cannot spell yet, that will come. I am just loving that right now she loves writing, and I don’t want anything to kill it.

Rant over…

The Wisdom of Johnny Ball

As a child, I grew up inspired and intrigued by Johnny Ball‘s enthusiasm for maths and science, but now, as a parent, I understand his passion.

I spotted an interview with the man himself in a local magazine. He was asked, “How do you feel about how science and maths are taught in schools?” His strong response demonstrates that the passion is still there, but is enfused with some great advice and wisdom:

The people who construct the curriculum are bereft of any sensibility. They don’t realise the damage they’re doing, and all the testing, testing, testing doesn’t help. The maths curriculum is all numeracy now. A century ago everybody was taught Euclid and understood how maths worked. Maths is almost like a detective story, not a boring topic! We’ve lost that completely. Geometry, for example, is a way of visualising the world. If you teach geometry along with art then you’ll get artists who are much more accomplished. We need kids who are inspired to become scientists and technologists – improving our lives.

Art and science should not and must not be separated. They both help to boost learning by bringing a different perspective and adaptability.

Go Johnny!

Orbiting Hairballs

“Orbiting the Giant Hairball” was written by Gordon MacKenzie in 1996 and charts his 30 year journey in Hallmark Cards, where he moved from a humble cartoonist to a self-styled corporate holy man with the title of Creative Paradox.

I am quoting from Gordon’s book as he tells his experience of when he went into schools, where he demonstrated how he sculpted in steel. He would spend a whole day at the school taking each grade for 50 minutes. I pick up the story where he introduces himself to the students:

“Hi! My name is Gordon McKenzie and, among other things, I am an artist. I’ll bet there are other artists here, too. There have to be with all the beautiful pictures and designs you have hanging in your classrooms and up and down the halls. I couldn’t help but notice them when I first got here this morning.

“Beautiful pictures. They made me feel wonderful! Very energized. So many bright colours and cool shapes. I felt more at home when I saw them because they made me realize there are other artists here, beside me. I’m curious. How many artists are there in the room? Would you please raise your hands?”

The pattern of responses never varied.

First grade:
En mass the children leapt from their chairs, arms waving wildly, eager hands trying to reach the ceiling. Every child was an artist.
Second grade:
About half the kids raised their hands, shoulder high, no higher. The raised hands were still.
Third grade:
At best, 10 kids out of 30 would raise a hand. Tentatively. Self-consciously.

And so on up through the grades. The higher the grade, the fewer children raised their hands. By time I reached sixth grade, no more than one or two did so and then only ever-so-slightly – guardedly – their eyes glancing from side to side uneasily, betraying a fear of being identified by the group as a “closet artist.”

I would describe to the sixth graders the different responses I had received from the other grade levels. Then I’d say:
“I’m afraid there’s something something sinister at work here. I think what’s happening is that you are being tricked out of one of the greatest gifts every one of us receives at birth. That is the gift of being an artist, a creative genius.”

The point now is: Every school I visited was participating in the suppression of creative genius.

Is this happening in every school? We are discouraging creativity at an early age with our desires to climb the league tables. What are the casualties? How do we protect the young geniuses from our well-meaning education?

More in the next part of my journey…

The Journey Begins

What are the skills that the future generation needs? Is it specific knowledge, or is it an ability to flex and adapt, in other words, be creative. The jobs we are currently training our children for will not exist by the time they finish school. Knowledge is going out of date faster than we can teach it.creativity

I want to start exploring how we build an environment of creativity, not just in the workplace, but in all situations. What does it mean to be creative? How do we begin to tap into what makes us as humans unique on this planet? Why do so many of us say we are not creative? Why do we not value creativity more highly?

I have been inspired by Sir Ken Robinson, and his desire to see educators embrace the need to change and adapt their teaching. I have young children, and I want my kids to be creative and unique, I’m not looking for rocket scientists, but I want them to be different thinkers. I believe I want them to challenge how I think, but I may need to be careful what I wish for!

In this blog, I will be delving into why creativity is so vital for our future, and share examples that I have read or observed that have shaped my thinking. I do not have all the answers, so I am on a journey of exploring creativity; looking at how that affects me and what I need to do differently as a result of what I learn.

Feel free to join me on this journey – I could use the company…