Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chapter 2: The Septic Focus

Septic - this is a term that we generally associate with Poison! Harmful! Infected! Germy! So, I get my mental rubber gloves on, and proceed to explore the chapter.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this chapter. From my vantage point as a music educator, I would read points that Robinson was making and say "Yes! Yes!" (good thing I was home alone!)
This chapter explores "academic ability" and our present-day obsession with it in our educational communities. What IS academic ability? How does it impact my view of myself? Our students' view of themselves? Higher education? Corporate needs? Is this view really relevant now in our constantly-changing world of technology and innovation? Is academic ability the most important "thing" to measure in a child?
"The relationships between education and the world we actually live in are being stretched to breaking point. They need now to be entirely rethought. this process should begin by reframing the abilities we all have, and reassessing the skills and aptitude that are now most needed for personal fulfillment and for economic success." (P. 93)
Robinson begins the chapter by reviewing the tried and true measures of intelligence - IQ testing and academic ability. TV shows such as Mastermind and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire were created on the premise that intelligence can be measured by a person's capacity to remember and recall factual information such as names, dates etc. This is prepositional knowledge. Another form of measuring intelligence is illustrated by the testing used by Mensa - Logico-deductive reasoning or in other words logical analysis...working out the principles of a sequence and how it will progress.
There is a general belief that each of us is born with a fixed intellectual capacity, and that that capacity can be measured with a pencil/paper type of testing. Not only that, but the results of this testing is a predictor of performance later in life. IQ testing has been the foundation for the selection of different styles and levels of education and has been referred to in conclusions made association IQ scores with racial and ethnic differences. As powerful as these tests have been in determining our childrens' futures, "there is no general agreement on exactly what IQ tests measure, nor on how whatever it is they do measure relates to general intelligence." (p. 63)
As our world society has evolved, so have our paradigms that we operate in. The most notable shift occurred at the time of the Renaissance. It was at this time that two main themes emerged - individual experience and the power of reason. I really enjoyed reading about Descartes and his quest for understanding. In the end, he concluded that really, all that he knew for sure was that he was thinking about the problems! "I think, therefore I am". The hallmark of a paradigm, according to Robinson, is the approach to science change a paradigm is to replace one tradition with another.
Robinson spends some time outlining the history of the British educational system, which influenced of course the rest of Europe as well as our own system here in the US. Some of the history was familiar to me (grammar schools, the influence of the Church), but a lot was not. I learned about the beginnings of schola publica (public schools) and how their assumed superiority led to the division of the educational system at that time. I'd never heard of the eleven-plus system. Children were divided according to their different abilities and attitudes. What is interesting to me is how that was accomplished! Only a certain percentage of students were expected to pass the test. If a higher number passed, then the passing level was raised so that the actual numbers would remain the same! This test was strictly based on academic ability, centering on verbal and mathematical reasoning.
Has our focus on academic ability been all bad? No, there have been benefits. From that focus we have made extraordinary advances in medicine, industrial technologies, communication and travel, and our understanding of the physical universe. But the price we have paid, according to Robinson, comes in three main areas: the division of the arts and sciences, the division of intellect and emotions, and the narrowing of intelligence.
I found great value for my personal teaching style when Robinson talked about linearity. Building ideas one upon another, moving through a sequence of study, patterns, cause and effect. We hear these terms over and over as educators. Even in my music instruction, a subject area which begs for creativity, I find myself sometimes stuck in this thinking. What about spontaneous discovery?!?! How often do I allow my students to discover for themselves a particular concept? Do I take the time? Do I feel that I need to "get through" a curriculum in a prescribed amount of time?
Academic ability is not the end-all of education. It is only part of our educational challenge. As educators we need to be mindful of the social, communal, personal aspects of our students. We need to "see through the academic illusion to their real abilities, and to how these different elements of human capacity enhance rather than detract from each other." (p. 93)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Summary of Introduction & Chapter 1 – Bursting the Banks – from Out of Our Minds – Learning to be Creative by Ken Robinson

In his introduction, Ken Robinson stresses the importance of creativity, not just in the arts, but for all businesses and organizations if they are to be competitive in the global community.  He states that everyone has creative capabilities, but we often don’t recognize them or make an effort to develop them.
There are strategies that businesses can use to stimulate creativity among its employees, but that is only a short-term fix.  The long-term solution needs to come from our educational system. 
Robinson states, “This is now dominated by a narrow view of academic education that overlooks the greater part of young people’s intellectual capacities…  In the interests of raising standards, schools and universities are increasingly encased in standard testing regimes that inhibit teachers themselves from promoting creative development.  In a profoundly ironic way, many political initiatives to raise standards in education are making matters worse.”
“The Bursting Banks” seems to refer to the explosion of changes in our lives due to the exponentially expanding technology.  Robinson views change as being the normal progression of civilization, but he impresses that changes are now occurring at an incredible rate, and we need to develop new skills to survive and flourish in this new culture.  He does not believe that our strongly academic approach to education is allowing our youth to develop the skills they will need for a globally competitive job market.
Robinson urges schools to spend much more time on basic communication and problem solving skills.  Our students need to be imaginative, innovative, flexible, adaptable, self-confident, and capable of working well in teams.  Schools need to stress vocational relevance and promote transferable skills.
Robinson believes, “ The dominate ideologies of education are now defeating their most urgent purpose: to develop people who can cope with and contribute to the breathless rate of change in the 21st century – people who are flexible, creative and have found their talents.”  He concludes that just trying to strengthen the same academic programs that we have taught for generations will not solve the problem.  We need to develop different, cross-disciplinary approaches to education.

Book Cover

This orchestra appears to be"out of its mind" as they play their instruments.
Maybe they just were not all in the same place.  It helps when we are all on the same page.
I imagine from the title of our book that this illustration is a good match.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book cover

Look what Van Gogh added to his insanity, he must be out of his mind.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mary Ellen's Book Cover

This newest bridge in Sao Paulo, Bridge Octavio Frias de Oliveira, will be the largest curved suspension bridge in the world.  I chose this as the cover for my book “Out of Our Minds – Learning to be Creative” because this appears to be a very creative bridge design, and I imagine a lot of people thought the designers were out of their minds as the bridge started to take shape.  Because they were willing to step out of the box of “normal” bridge design, Sao Paulo is graced with a fantastic, beautiful bridge which will improve the flow of traffic during rush hour.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I chose this image for my book cover because it really made me think if what it depicts would be musically possible. It is possible to do, but would it be aesthetically pleasing and could a robot be creative in conducting an orchestra? The robot as the 'leader' made me think about the lack of skills that are related to 'right brain' activity in some people today. I am really looking forward to this book!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Anne's book cover

I chose this image for our book selection because it's a little crazy and yet invites me to imagine the way my brain works, the information it seeks and stores, and the way in which different sections connect with each other.

Welcome to Literature Circle Five!

Your Super Summarizer schedule is as follows:

Section One--Due October 28, Mary Grayot
Section Two--Due November 4, Anne Lyon
Section Three--Due November 11, Lynn Mason
Section Four--Due November 18, Laura Snow
Section Five--Due December 2, Befekadu (Buff) Tewahade
Section Six--Due December 9, TBA