Monday, November 23, 2009

NYSCATE Keynotes-Sir Ken Robinson & David Jakes

Today's NYSCATE keynote addresses were troublesome. I walked out of these keynotes wanting to take my kids out of school. I walked out wanting to encourage policy makers and administrators to blow up the current educational system and start from scratch. I walked out engaged in discussions about new education models. It's difficult having these thoughts and emotions knowing that I work in this system and my kids go to school (with success but not much love) in a broken system. So what was said today to inspire these emotions?

An interesting spectrum of ideas were presented today by Sir Ken Robinson and David Jakes. Robinson's view was systemic and global. In many ways, Jakes was saying the same things but came at us in a much more pragmatic approach that reflected his current work.

Sir Ken Robinson:
You can't let Robinson's humor take away from the seriousness of his message. This is sometimes a difficult task. The best thing to come out of Liverpool since The Beatles, Robinson knows just when to digress into native bashing. Clearly ticked off that we are still celebrating the British going home every July 4th, he still found reason to move his family to California nearly a decade ago.

Robinson makes bold statements. We are in a revolution. A revolution in infancy. Robinson explains that currently the world's fastest computer has the processing power of a cricket brain (at least that's what someone at Apple said). Computers will soon match the power of a 6-month old and exponential increases in power will match the global population in my lifetime. Imagine where this will take us. Actually, that is almost impossible.

Robinson concludes that the current system is broken. The evidence? An average national dropout rate of over 30%, 50-60% in Detroit and other urban areas . In America. Is that all the evidence we need? Robinson added the heavy use of drugs & alcohol and the ADHD epidemic. He referred to ADHD as this generation's tonsillitis. If kids aren't taking drugs themselves, the parents are drugging them anyway. So what is the answer?

Sir Ken Robinson believes that since parents, teachers, administrators, and politicians all want the same thing for our kids and it's not happening then the problem is systemic. What do you do with a broken system? There are so many obstacles and push-backs. You change one thing and it effects 2o other things and the most passionate, energized movement stalls. Some believe the change will come from the students, they will demand it. Others think change will happen one school at a time, one teacher at a time. Whatever the model, Robinson believes it takes on 3 characteristics: learning is organic, personal, and customizable. Education 1.0 was philosophical, religious, survival of the fittest. Education 2.0 was and still is an industrial model. Education 3.0 is on the verge of reaching those characteristics of being organic, personal, and customizable. I agree learning is best when these qualities are captured. I get excited from learning that grows out of my own motivations and interests and is met by custom instruction that answers my specific inquiries. This type of learning inevitably leads to more questions and more learning. Technology can make this type of learning happen, in ways it couldn't before. Getting there will not be easy.

David Jakes:
It was refreshing to see Jakes put some big ideas into some reasonable context. A context that didn't seem as overwhelming. Change that was clearly difficult and hard but not impossible.

Jakes shared some of the newest ideas like augmented realities, which in the future would be created by users, not programmers (just like web page design used to be only available to programmers). I think the point Jakes was trying to make here is that technology is a moving target. It's not about adopting the newest cool gadget (although that can be fun). It's more about blending the physical space with the digital space.

What does it mean that our elementary students are already social networking in digital spaces like Webkinz and Hot Wheels? It means businesses already understand how the physical can be enhanced by the digital experience. How does this apply to the classroom? The physical space of the classroom (and the school) is very important. Jakes showed us simple ideas like tables on wheels, common areas that students had impromptu coffeehouse jams, and whiteboard walls where students worked out physics problems together. However, a digital world surrounds this physical space. A digital space. A digital learning space. The question is how do we fill this space so that it blends with the physical space into what is perceived by the student as just a learning space. To me, this context seemed more manageable, more possible. A teacher asks themselves how can I blend my physical space with digital space. The answer is deliberately & purposefully, and we need to start tomorrow.


Chris said...

Thanks for the overview, Dave. When I can't attend events I enjoy reading reviews of what was discussed. It gives me a chance to hear multiple points of view, but I can't get those unless people like you put it out there for us to read. I've been following these two for a couple of years now but haven't heard either one keynote. Thanks for sharing and I hope you enjoyed NYSCATE.

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