Wednesday, December 22, 2010


One idea that has stuck with me is when Robinson talked about how the languages we learn affect the way we think. Many times, the variances in language are born out of the environment in which the people live as illustrated by Robinson's example of the many variances of the word "snow" in the Eskimo language, versus the typical two or three in most other languages. Language is central to our experience of being human. The language I speak influence the way I think, the way I see the world, the way I live my life and make decisions.
If different languages spark different pathways of thinking and creating, then can we conclude that children who are exposed to a variety of languages early in life have more creative connections than those who are not?
Language is not static, but dynamic, changing. As our environment changes, as technology evolves, so does the language we develop. How does this effect individual/collective creativity?
As a music educator, language is essential in conveying musical expression. Whether vocal or instrumental, the nuances of the instrument used is guided by a host of linguistic cues from our musical language. Are the things that I focus on in musical expression different than those of an educator in another culture because our languages are different? I'm guessing this is probably true.
There's so much that can be tied to our language and the creativity that flows from it. This would probably make a good thesis topic!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reflection- Out of Our Minds....

This book was a fabulous read for a music teacher! I so often find myself feeling sorry (for myself) and doing too much complaining about grad classes that 'have nothing to do with what I teach'... However, over the past couple of years, I have managed to get over that little issue as I get more and more into 21st century skills, technology integration in the classroom, and continue in my own learning. I found myself saying [amost outloud sometimes] "Yes! That is so true! Why doesn't everyone do that?"

I found most of my interest in the book covered the reasons why... in creativity. As Robinson states, "Why is it essential to promote creativity? Why is it necessary to develop creativity?" I completely agree with the premise that all people possess creative talents and that it doesn't just 'belong' to people who "wear jeans and come in late." Many people just don't know that they do have creative talents or, if they do sense some creativity in themselves, they often do not know how to develop that talent.

Many business leaders have been asked what needs they have in relation to hiring new employees...what do they see as important traits? Businesses are reporting that employees are not able to communicate well, can't work in teams, and they can't think creatively. Our current education system doesn't allow for creativity to be included in 'core' academics. University degrees aren't designed to make people creative. "I bought a bus and it sank."

Robinson discusses that people who don't show academic ability in school are often branded as less able. But, also that some of the most brilliant and successful people in all walks of life--failed in education. "I know teachers, professors, business people, musicians, writers, artists, architects, etc., who failed at school. Many succeeded only after they'd recovered from their education. What about all of those who didn't? A major reason for this waste of ability in education is academicism: the preoccupation with developing certain sorts of academic ability to the exclusion of others, and its confusion with general intelligence. This preoccupation has led to an incalculable waste of human talent and resources."

The 'problem' with that companies want to promote creativity but they're not really sure what it is or who really has it. I found it interesting that Robinson also believes that politicians feel that too much creativity in education is the reason our standards have fallen in the first place. He also states that "creativity is not a separate part of the brain that lights up only in certain people. Creativity is possible in science, technology, business, management, music, in any activity that engages human intelligence. Different people have different creative strengths according to the pattern of their intelligences. Real creativity comes from finding the right medium (being in your element). When people find their medium, they discover their real creative strengths and come into their own. Genuine creativity is not only a matter of letting go but of holding on."

It seems to be a big circle of creativity issues. People in education want to pursue a tougher agenda but feel the pressures of standarized testing from politicians, etc. Politicians say that the pressure they feel comes from businesses... There is common ground, though. Governments put large amounts of money into education and parents hope that education will help their children to find work and become successful. Businesses want people who are literate, who can analyze information, who can come up with ideas of their own, who can communicate clearly with others, who can implement ideas, and who can work well with other people. The businesses want education to fill all these roles and teach these skills to young people. Educators want to provide a balanced education but feel pressured from other, outside, influences. Parents also want education to develop their children's best abilities and help them to be successful and happy.

Education should help each of us find our 'medium', our 'element', so that we can realize our own potentials and develop our creative talents.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Reflection Post for Out of Our Minds

Ken Robinson has several themes running through his book.  A main theme from the subtitle is learning to be creative.  Throughout his book, Robinson indicates that schools are not focusing in the right areas to promote the creativity that will be necessary for our students to be productive leaders in the business world of tomorrow. 
Robinson states that our present education system is “dominated by a narrow view of academic education that overlooks the greater part of young people’s intellectual capacities”.  He goes on to say that “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.”
When I started teaching in 1968, there did not seem to be a lot of direction for what to teach at each level.  I have to admit that it is helpful to have more direction and organized plans for courses of study at each level.  However, I often feel that we have pushed the planning around specific standards too far.  I often feel limited in planning for my students when I know they will need a particular topic that is not written into the standards.  On the other hand when students are not working up-to-speed in a particular area, it is necessary to go back and pick up standards from a lower level.  Since we are required to include our standards in our lesson plans, I am often stretching a concept a lot to make it appear to fit.  I do not enjoy being placed in a position of either stretching the concept of the standard or doing my students a disservice by not providing them with topics they will need.
At the yearly math/science conference in Huron, there is often a panel of university instructors brought together to help the high school teachers understand what our students need to be successful at the university level.  When I have attended these sessions, the university professors have unanimously been very dissatisfied with our high school standards.  They do not feel that the students coming out of our high schools today are as well prepared as they were before so much stress was placed on teaching to the standards.
I agree with Robinson that our stress on teaching so that our students will do well on an academic test is seriously limiting what we could and should be doing for our students.  As Robinson says, “The dominant 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.”
Robinson argues that our preoccupation with a very limited scope of academics is short-changing many of our students.  Granted, reading, math, and science are important, but so is the ability to communicate effectively in a variety of ways.  The fine arts have been relegated to a poor second-class field in many schools, disservicing many of our young people with wonderful talents in these areas.  If our students of the future are to function well in society, classes such as sociology, psychology, and other areas of the social studies are important.  We are so busy trying to force all of our students into very specific molds, that we are preventing them from developing their own talents and creative powers.
As Robinson says, “Our ideas can enslave or liberate us.”  We need less enslaving and more liberating.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chapter 6 Summary - You Are Not Alone

This chapter summarizes the differences in culture, intelligence, and what these two things have to do with creativity. Robinson is quick to point out that although creativity is often thought of as a personal trait it is not. Creativity stems from culture and grows in different ways according to popular culture of the time.

In order to first understand how culture effects creativity you must first define culture. This chapter gives two definitions. The first is being "cultured" or what society has come to know as a preferred consumer of the fine arts. However for this chapter Robinson uses the second definition of culture which is "..the shared values and patterns of behaviour that characterise different social groups and communities." (pg. 168)

It is true that most people belong to more than one culture group. Each of these groups also has its own values and ways of doing things. These are the ways that a group or culture express their identity and these are the culture groups that bring about creative change.

Robinson goes on to state that the knowledge that we have does not only come from ourselves but rather from others. Those around us effect the way we think and effect the way we create ideas. Because of this network of knowledge much of our knowledge of the world is dependent upon others. For example, I know much about art and can share that knowledge with others. Other teachers in our school are good at teaching other subjects, however when we work together only then does the school become great. Students will need the knowledge from all teachers in the future and therefore each teacher is dependent upon the other to make sure that students leave high school with the skills they need to prosper in the future.

It is with this growth of human knowledge that we are becoming more of a specialist society. This is something that Robinson warns us about. As the rise of the specialist occurs, we no longer have in sight the larger picture and how all this knowledge and creativity connect to each other. We must remember how to engage together our own specialities in order to preserve our different cultures.

This leads to creativity and culture. Robinson states that "We stand on the shoulders of others to see further." (pg. 171) This means that in order for us to be creative we often first must use the creative genius of others to propel us on our own creative path.

Culture drives what is creative in society. When Shakespeare was writing he wrote poetry and plays not novels. It was not until the printing press was created that novels became popular. This is not to say that Shakespeare did not think about writing novels however technology did not allow for these to be mass produced therefore the technology of the time powered what was creative. Robinson gives another example of photography. Prior to photography painting was the main way to capture the present and was thought of as truly an art form, however once photography was invented it became a new way to capture the present. Still the fist photographers mimicked the way oil painting was done. It was the culture of this time that drove this form of creativity. It was not until later that photography was deemed its own art form and a new culture was born.

Culture has also brought together two forms of knowledge that for many years have remained separate. Those are the Sciences and the Arts. Robinson uses the example of two individuals who created a fashion collection titled "Primitive Streak". This show combined the knowledge of a scientist and that of a fashion designer. This show can be seen at this website I recommend visiting it. It is quite fascinating.

Robinson goes on to summarize that culture is ever changing and driving our creative habits accordingly. As time changes new ideas are coming and going. Some ideas even repeat themselves such as feminism. Creativity and culture change is not just a logical process. New ideas take hold when they strike an interest and develop a mood in society. "They appeal to the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, the ghost in the social system, or what Raymond Williams has called the 'stucture of feeling' of a time." (pg 178)

To summarize this chapter one only has to look at the title. "You Are Not Alone" It is the perfect summary. Creativity comes of a network of knowledge and is based upon cultural preferences of the time. These preferences do not always happen quickly. It may take time the road may be rocky. It is with these great changes that we as creative members of society base our creative thoughts and actions, working together, out of our minds.