Monthly Archives: December 2010

Sir Ken Robinson – Good workers or creative thinkers? (Visuals + Videos)

Here are two lectures of Ken Robinson on TED and and a wonderful visualization of his message on RSA. Transcripts of his TED lectures you’ll find on the TED website in a box on the right. (For more on Robinson’s core ideas see my post on Dec 25, 2010 on his notion of the ‘Element’.)                                                                         Robinson is probably the most fabled educationalist today. Millions of clicks on his TED lectures suggest this. His key message on this first lecture: We don’t get the best out of our people because “… we’ve been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers.”…and what’s worse “we are educating people out of their creativity” (Quotes:TED Website). This is probably the key problem of our educational systems and the key challenge in the age of knowledge economy. Ken starts his first lecture by talking about the future. We don’t really have a clue about how the world is going to be in 5 years, yet we have to educate children for it…

This was his first appearance on TED in 2006 in Monterry, California.

…and this was his second appearance on TED in 2010:

… and this is a RSA visualization of his theories: “Changing Education Paradigms” (very entertaining!)

…and if you are interested in more, here are more links to his website, blog etc.

John Biggs: “Constructive Alignment” (Theory + Video)

John Biggs has been hugely influential as an educational psychologist. His notion of ‚constructive alignment’ has become an pillar in pedagogic theory. Watch this award winning 20 min film about the core ideas of Briggs put forward in a classroom setting in rather a unique way.

“Teaching Teaching & Understanding Understanding”
Claus Brabrand and Jacob Andersen
19 minute award-winning short-film (DVD) about Constructive Alignment.
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Aarhus University Press, University of Aarhus, Denmark, 2006.

His theory in a nutshell:

Leaving behind the good student/bad student; good teacher/bad teacher model, Biggs presents a practical approach about about how all teachers can achieve an ‚intended learning outcome’. „In 1976, Swedish researchers Ference Marton and Roger Saljö demonstrated that students learn not what teachers think they should learn, but what students perceive the task to demand of them.“ (John Biggs Website). It implies knowledge is created less by teacher’s transmission but more by construction through learner’s activity. It’s not what the teacher does but what the learner does is of more importance when it comes to understanding the teaching/learning system.

About assessment it says that exams are only one sort of assessment, they don’t assess how well you can use the topic to inform their behaviour. In constructive alignment, the assessment task is how well can students apply given principles. The most important learning outcomes are: bringing about a) different behaviour and  about b) making informed decisions.

…And teaching is about weaving a constructive web of learning where students are activated to develop higher level cognitive processes – climbing through the 5 cognitive levels of the ‚SOLO Taxonomy’; it’s about shifting students from the mode of ‚surface learning’ to ‚deep learning’.

…more to follow at a later post. Here is his book: Teaching for Quality Learning at University” (Biggs, Tang 1999/2007. MacGraw Hill, NY)

..and he is a prolific writer of travelogues and novels!!

Doha – WISE:World Innovation Summit for Education. December 7-10; 2010

Two weeks ago, one of the most important international conferences on education took place (for the second time) in Doha, the capital of Qatar, a country now widely known for it’s winning the bid for Soccer World Cup in 2022, and less known for its enormously ambitious educational development program. The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, led by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, is the organization spearheading this ambitious program. Its flagship product is the ‘Education City’, a campus comprising six (!) universities including Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Carnegie Mellon and others. Qatar is surely one of the places where innovation in education is taking place in a very thoughtful way.

Looking into the website of WISE surprises you not only with an excellent collection of videos of keynote highlights from the conference but also a collection of films made by their ‘Learning World Channel’ that show short films like on Finnish Schools or on the international winning projects prized by the Summit. The summit is not a one-time thing, its becoming a platform. Very enjoyable and informative!

Sir Ken Robinson – His concept of the ‘Element’

Well, since I have nothing better to do on Christmas Day, than be sick and spend it in my bed, I thought I would flip through some of Ken Robinson’s (website) videos to get inspiration for an article I’m working on. Ken Robinson is a leading British educationalist living in LA since a decade. He consults Fortune 500 companies, governments and educational institutions. In 1998, he led a national commission on creativity, education and the economy for the UK Government. ‘All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education’ (The Robinson Report, 1999).

The man has a wry, British humor; he is entertaining and has a special way of bringing his message across. I heard him first speak at TED, and was quite touched by this words. Let me try to summarize the things I found out about his ideas…

Many people (I dare to say ‘most’ people) leave their schools without having an idea about what their real creative abilities are. Ken starts with this paradox: most children believe they are highly creative , and most grown ups believe they are not. What happened in-between? His first book was about this problem:  Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative (Wiley/Capstone):

His second book is called The Elements – How finding your passion changes everything. 40 years of experience is compressed in this book. His core philosophy, I think, is this: “The element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels.“ Also… „The Element shows the vital need to enhance creativity and innovation by thinking differently about human resources and imagination. It is also an essential strategy for transforming education, business, and communities to meet the challenges of living and succeeding in the twenty-first century.“ (taken from Ken’s Website)

His understanding of human resources (great lecture at LA Public Library): It’s a dormant potential that lies somewhere deep inside. If you cannot create the right „conditions“, it will never be tapped. He correlates the environmental crisis with the impending human resources crisis – the roots of both crisis, he believes, go back to the same intellectual, cultural and social movement of the industrial revolution. The roots of our educational systems also go back to that period of time. Schools were ‚fordist’ models of production – children going in at one end and coming out of the other end ‚qualified’ for doing xyz. This linear assumption is today getting replaced by a more non-linear, organic evolution of individuals. While in the industrial age educational institutions fulfilled the ‚demand’ of the labour market, today, it’s more about individuals who can create new ‚potentials’ in the marketplace. There was no demand for the theory of relativity (or the ipad?).

On the one hand, he believes if people can connect themselves with their own talents, it changes his/her relationship with the environment. That involves a different approach to one’s life in general. On the other hand he speaks about the environment that can foster this connection between human beings and their inner creative centres. At this point, he speaks about the city (i was happy to hear him say this, as I’m looking for more support for my theory of ‚educational urbanism’. Cities as a whole can help to create this atmosphere that helps us to connect with our individual and maybe collective creative centres).

To sum up, here are a few positions of Ken:

1. Everybody is creative; creativity can be taught. 2. “Creativity is having regional ideas that have value(Ken’s definition of creativity!)”. 3. Create more balance between science and art subjects (students enjoy arts even if they are good in the sciences, or the other way round). 4. We need a diversity of talents (The Italian Renaissance was not built up with maths only) 5. Physical environments tell you ‘how’ you have to behave: change them so that people can see things differently, not do things the same way. 6. ‘Subject’ aren’t a very good idea. ‘chemistry’ is an interrelated set of relationships, concepts, modes of analysis, certain areas of exploration and focus…but it’s not a separate ‘subject’. (Probably he’s heading here for ‘project oriented’ lerning?) 7. Organisations are not functional machines, they are more like (breathing) organisms: with individuals that have values, motivations, aspirations (or lack of aspirations) and they are in relationships. They reciprocate with their environments – good organisations are those that help to enrich the environment they depend upon. 8. About educational ssessment: assessment is important, but applying a regime of standardization narrows down the scope of potentials of learning. Standardization can help to diagnose a situation, it cannot be the purpose of education. 9. …and finally we must find a way to ‘individualize’ our educational system (more to these points in later posts).

And this is what I’ll take into my Christmas musings:                                                   What are the conditions where human talent can flourish??

(The above mentioned points were taken from Sir Ken Robinson’s web site and the lecture he gave at the LA Public Library in 2010: ” A new view of human capacity)

Shanghai tops the PISA list. But Chinese newspapers don’t mention it.

The world was surprised to find Shanghai on top of the PISA ranking list published by OECD on the  December 7, 2010. But China wasn’t. Curiously, there was hardly any mention of it in its national newspapers. Why?

Probably because they want to get away from PISA. And, probably because they are busy creating a new understanding of education.

Education in the 21st century is about making human beings critical and creative. We know this by now. We also know, that it needs to bring forth a diversity of skills on a national level crucial to feed the growing hunger of the knowledge based economy with fresh, creative, enthusiastic and motivated minds. But the skills of these minds cannot be measured by solely three criterias as measured by PISA – which can be compared to evaluating athletes for the Olympic Games on solely three types of games (see Yong Zhao below). However, PISA is not a bad test, it can be an interesting comparative indicator showing whats going on in schools in different countries. Problematic is only the misleading effect it may have on our minds and our our policy makers (or rather politicians) by creating a very simple picture of a very complex reality … especially in times when we need to gather all our wits to understand what we really need.

Lets look at Finnland – the country which is gaining more and more recognition to have cooked up the magical mix of spices for schools of the 21st century. Their students excelled at the PISA test (#1 in OECD), while maintaining a completely different educational model (see later post) than lets say China. Since the 1960s they have pursued policies that sound innovative by all modern pedagogic standards. Community schools, high quality teachers (top 10% of students recruited from universities), student centred learning, project based learning, social mix etc etc. Being good at PISA is only a side effect for Finnland.

Going back to China – while most countries reported heavily on their performances at PISA (like Austria tumbling down the ladder; Britain too, despite huge investments in schools; Germany celebrating their slight rise on the ladder etc.), China did not even mention its topping the list (see Yong Zhao) in its national newspapers. Instead, it published the comments of a Chinese mother who complained about the Chinese school model and about the inhumanly long hours her child has to spend on school work, and her fear of irreversible mental and physical damage of her child. China seems to be eager to propagate a new understanding of educational. What are they up to?

Yong Zhao, professor at Michigan State University, analysed the case to great detail. Look into his blog to find where the Chinese are heading for, and in contrast, where the US is heading for. His book The Mismeasure of Education: Worthy Knowledge in the Age of Globalization sounds to be quite promising . I decided to make it my  Christmas gift : ).

PISA Results 2010

PISA survey 2010: South-Korea and Finland top the list of OECD’s countries  …that’s no surprise, but Shanghai-China (a non OECD country) tops the world wide list! Did you expect that?  Hong Kong at #4 is also new … Singapore at #5 is no surprise…

We can be critical of the PISA survey, but lets face it, it has an impact on policy making.,3343,en_2649_201185_46623628_1_1_1_1,00.html