Why This Blog? Why Now? Why This title?

I am no longer blogging under duress. This part remains true: I had a blog once and I lost the password...and then, I gave up. I really am not a giver-upper, but there is a point of diminishing returns to anything that takes energy, passion, and vision and yet, doesn't work out. So, off I go again, wish me luck! AND knock on wood I have had luck. And it is sort of fun.

P.S. Why this title? I read this phrase today 6/16, don't remember where. I liked it. I'm using it. I might change it. It may or may not have relationship to the content.

Monday, September 3, 2012

I Just Read Another Book---Creating Innovators The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, by Tony Wagner

First of all...my only 'Duh why didn't I think of that?'  moment came when I noticed the QR codes in 'tag' format embedded in the book...what a great idea...elementary teachers whose kids write text for an audience...are you listening...it is easy to do?!

One thing that stuck with me through the whole book:
Play, passion, and purpose are what humans need to engage in in order to create and innovate, period. That of couse begs the existence of time and opportunity and the KIND of structure that allow for the big three.

One push back I have: The all pervasive, and not just in this book, but in all that we do in "preparing kids", focus on getting the good job. There is a tension in me between getting a good job and developing the human. That is not to say that the good job doesn't involve satisfaction, and a focus on making the world a better place, but why do we all ways ask businesses what they look for and then strive to educate for that. OK, that said, the idea of creating places for play, passion, and purpose sound fabulous as does the list of qualities that business looks for:

Critical thinkers and problem solvers
Ability to collaborate across networks and cultures
Ability to lead by influence by

  • engaging people
  • asking the right questions
Agility and adaptation
Initiative and entrepreneurialism

Effective oral and written communication
  • communicate with voice
  • communicate with persuasion ( I would add communicate with passion)
Ability to access and analyze information
Curiosity and imagination

Several great quotes about teaching and learning from the book Creating Innovators:The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, by Tony Wagner:

"Our education system is charged with an essentially conserving task--preserving and transfering our knowledge captial to the next generation..."cultural literacy."...Knowledge is essential in order to innovate. You need foundational information to be able to discern what can and must be improved upon or changed".--Tony Wagner

"Increasingly in the 21st century what you know is far less important than what you can do with what you know."--Tony Wagner

"I believe our job is to look for the threads, plant the seeds, and provide them [students] with the tools and structures for purposefulness. Someone who has purpose or a reason can endure a lot."--Scott Rosenburg

"Today it's not what you know, it's having the right questions. I see three stages in the evolution of learning: the first is the memorization-based, multiple-choice approach, which is still widely prevalent: then there's project-based learning where the problem is already determined: finaly, there's design base-learning where you have to define the problem. That way of learning is part of every class here. We are trying to teach students how to frame problems versus repeat the answers."--Rick Miller, Olin College

"I don't even think about 'failure'. It's not a word we use. Instead, we talk about 'iteration.'"--a student

"Kids need practice at perseverance and resilience."--Tony Wagner

"What I have learned is that merely giving students more of the same education will not create students who can innovate. For student to become innovators in the 21st century, they need a different education, not merely more education."--Tony Wagner

"I have only two rules: safety and character--be careful and caring."--A parent

"Most people have something unique to contribute in the workplace, but it takes the right environment and leadership. You have to engineer the business around the individual who works for you, rather than around the system you use."--Brad Anderson--Best Buy

"All creativity and innovation starts with a 'problem' that needs solving...could be some major, life changing problem, or could be just how to arrange your studio space to be able to texturize paper."--Noreene Thibault-Chen

The big deal about Finland:
  1. They have transformed the teaching profession through a radical overhaul of their teacher preparation programs. 
  2. They've pared down the curriculum to a few concepts that are deeply understood, in sharp contrast to the bloated, fact-and test-based curriculum that burden many or our high schools and colleges. 
  3. They place a high value on career and technical education in their upper secondary schools. 
  4. They emphasize student learning independently and making choices about what they study. 
  5. They have embraced innovation in teaching and learning at every level.--Tony Wagner

Final thoughts:
What does all this look like in elementary school? I'm still stuck on play, passion, and purpose and how very little of that exists in a school day. And, I get the sense anyway, that play, passion, and purpose only exist between organized after school activities. I love the fact that my school has an outdoor environment dedicated to imaginative play and choice. I love the fact that in classrooms in my school time and opportunity still exist for exploration and wonder. That in my school 'iteration' is becoming more prevalent than failure. 

Once again, thanks for reading.

About Enduring Understanding

If enduring ideas are what might be important and worth understanding 40 years from now....here is my running list: **

  • Living things try to survive
  • Motivation counts in trying to do or be something
  • There are many sides to issues...understanding is knowing all sides
  • There is diversity and sameness in the world
  • All structures have a function
  • The parts of a system interact
  • All things are parts of many systems
  • With freedom there is responsibility
  • People communicate in lots of ways for lots of reasons.
  • Communication is important to the human experience.
  • We construct meaning through a variety of media
  • You can be proactive or reactive
  • Within organisms there exists independence/interdependence/dependence
  • Patterns exist in the world and can lead to accurate predictions
  • At the moment…matter cannot be created or destroyed
  • We read to know that we are not alone
  • People have reasons for deciding if they like something or not
  • People are social creatures…they tend to do things together
  • All things in the universe are connected
  • The basis of innovation is close observation
  • People create for a variety of reasons
  • Nature inspires
  • Understanding impacts outcomes
  • Data informs position
  • Parts impact the whole
  • Problems guide inquiry
  • Structure impacts function
  • Perspective influences perception
  • Action by living things impacts all things
  • Beliefs inspired by observations reflect who we are

I also think, but haven't really articulated them well that the following have something enduring about them...maybe some of them belong under the idea that you have to know all sides of something to really understand it.

  • Energy and matter
  • Models and theories
  • Probability and prediction
  • Change and conservation
  • Time and scale
  • Cause and effect
  • Adaption and equilibrium
  • Impulsive and reflective
  • Individual and group
  • Fantasy and realism
  • Inhumanity and sensitivity
  • Chaos and cosmos
  • Objective and subjective
  • Static and dynamic

So why is the idea of enduring understandings so important? Well, past the idea that there is far to much   information (especially information that is constantly changing) in the world, something enduring is grounding. An idea, to come back to. An idea that all other ideas radiate from. I think there is something comforting about ideas that are enduring. Ideas that will last past supper, be with you when you wake up in the morning and when you get home from school in the evening. Ideas that will be with you 40 years from now.

I like the idea of enduring because so much is not. What do you think?

**my list comes from my thinking,  In Search for Understanding: The Case for a Constructivist Classroom; Brooks and Brooks, Jamie Bailey and the World Class Education team of Douglas County School District, and, most importantly, Pam Cogburn, fabulous art teacher, Debbie Rabideau, and my colleagues at The Renaissance School who wrestle with what is enduring everyday.