Making Stuff: A History

Thanks to Carolyn Foote (@technolibrary on twitter) for pointing me to this thoughtful and thought-provoking post from English teacher, Katie Sauvain and embedded on The Digital Down Low .

There is so much to see and consume on the internet, that I too find myself creating less than I should–not exercising the mental muscles that I should. And I’m an adult! My students, who are immersed in this culture from such an early age, will fight this on a completely different level. Is this an even more creatively stultifying situation than my TV generation had, where a few content providers dominated the creative landscape? Ironically, it may be, due to the sheer amount of creation that is going on and easily accessible to our kids.

How does the library help? How do I assure that our library is a creation hub for our school culture? Much thinking to do this summer…and then action.

Having trouble getting the Voicethread to embed, so here’s the link:


Sir Ken Robinson on The Element

I discovered Sir Ken Robinson through my PLN a couple of year ago, and he is one of the people that I most love listening to and learning from. What a mind he has. I would love to hear him at a conference one of these days. He’s very eloquent and always makes me think differently about the world.

The video below supports his latest book, The Element, and in it, Robinson explores what element it is that elevates us to greatness. He contends that those who have a passion for our job are the more successful and fulfilled. Our task as educators is to connect our kids to their passions and engage them through those passions. Sounds a lot like a differentiated modern classroom to me–a goal/dream for many of us.

Another Post About Creativity…

I’ve been way out of the loop with my blog/professional reading for the last few weeks. End of school just always slams me, and then I got to go on a wonderful vacation, so it’s literally been a couple of months since I’ve really read what is showing up in my google reader! I can’t wait to begin looking through and thinking about what recently happened at NECC.

Anyway, this morning (since I’m still a bit jet-lagged), I got up early and began reading David Warlick’s blog–he always gets me thinking! He has a turn of phrase that so often provides a clarity that I just can’t express as well myself.
In his response to Clarence Fisher’s post, (
America, You’ve Got Trouble ), David considers how both Canadian and American classrooms can effectively incorporate the changes that are necessary to our students tomorrow.
He says:

The problem, in my opinion, began when we started to consider and to treat our students as our future workforce. When it became our industries that were at stake, rather than democracy, then we had no choice but to mechanize education, to turn it into an assembly line, where we install math, and install reading, and install science, and then measure each product at the end to make sure that they all meet the standards — that they all know the same things and think the same ways.

The sad part is that this theme of class as future work force is just about too firmly entrenched to turn around in the short months and years we have, before it’s too late. I’m finding myself promoting the creative arts skills for the sake of the economy, rather than a richer life for our children. But even within that story, I think that we can retool our classrooms in a way that does help our children inside and outside their work experiences.

Standards–and minimum standards, at that–are being used on a massive scale in our schools to ensure just that–learning at the lowest acceptable level by the greatest number of children. We put great time and effort into ensuring that minimum competencies are met by all (or most). Admittedly, we do talk professionally about “extending the learning” of all students, especially those who we know will pass the test in the end, but is that enough? It seems artificial & prescriptive to me…a bit disingenuous, in fact…to allow “extension,” but primarily for the students who have already met the minimum. Is it enough that all our students know the “same things and think the same ways?” That is scary to me…and sad.

More and more, I find myself out of sync with the general practice in my profession–at least locally. Shouldn’t we challenge all our kids to think creatively? Not just with the goal of better standardized test scores in mind! Honoring our students’ creativity and fostering its development is what will make a difference in their adult lives–both economically and personally. Is there room for that when minimum standards consume our practice? What is the answer?

Sir Ken Robinson: More on Creativity

We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children. And the only way we’ll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are, and seeing our children for the hope they are. Our task is to educate our whole being so they can face this future.
Sir Ken Robinson
October 2006, Edutopia magazine
A new video, from April 2008, posted at Edutopia. (16 min)
Are you meeting the creative needs of the students in your school? Are most of our schools?

A Look at NCLB

At the suggestion of Dr. Teri Lesesne and Dr. Mary Ann Bell, two of my favorite professors from grad school, I read two articles–yet two more articles, I should say–that question the efficacy of mandates made by No Child Left Behind. Great food for thought as we ponder changes in our schools.

From Jordan Sonnenblick’s Killing Me Softly: No Child Left Behind

Our arts programs are gutted, our shop courses are gone, foreign languages are a distant memory. What’s left are double math classes; mandatory after-school drill sessions; the joyless, sweaty drudgery of summer school. Our kids come to us needing more of everything that is joyous about the life of the mind. They need nature walks, field trips, poetry, recess…What they’re getting is workbooks.

Study: Reading Program Doesn’t Boost Comprehension
In this recent AP article, reporter Nancy Zuckerbrod visits the Department of Education’s own study of NCLB’s Reading First program–a study finding “no difference in comprehension scores between students who participated in Reading First and those who did not.” Food for thought. These are two articles that are definitely worthy reading for school librarians and, in fact anyone with an interest in American public schools.

If we are truly making “data driven decisions” in schools today, what of these findings? It seems that we have encountered more problems than solutions with NCLB. What now?

Who among the legislators is listening and asking the real, tough, expensive questions? Can we afford to change course after the billions of dollars that have gone into NCLB changes in schools? I think of Daniel Pink’s insistence that, to thrive in the 21st century global economy, the United States must find a way to encourage ingenuity, design, creativity in our workforce. These are exactly the qualities that we discourage in our students today with NCLB, in my opinion. Can we really afford not to change course? Leave me a comment and tell me what you think…

Flat Classroom 2007 Keynote

Wow! Dean Shareski’s keynote for this year’s Flat Classroom Project (Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsey) is just a great discussion of the elements of design & things to think about as students (anyone) create their projects. The FCP is utilizing Daniel Pink‘s A Whole New Mind as part of their framework this year, and Shareski uses these elements as talking points in his keynote.

I shared the video with my high school daughter (our artist in residence), because I thought it so spoke to her, her strengths and interests.

Here it is–wow!

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