Tuesday, September 06, 2005
On Friday night I wrote a blog entry, posted it, then took a break. I turned on the news and was reminded of the devastation and suffering. Being strongly affected by this, I went back to my computer and removed the blog entry. It just didn't seem appropriate.
It’s now a few days later, and I’ve decided that work needs to continue. If that work can get people to start being more critical and imaginative in their thinking, then all the better.
The 911 Commission Report(see section 11.1) attributed the failures of 911, at least in part, to lack of imagination. That's right. At the heart of our problem in the protecting of our homeland, is a lack of creativity. Yet, ask, anyone in the field of education how high creativity ranks in terms of federal and state priorities, and you will get some confused looks. It's right there in the report if anyone want to take a closer look. And now, in the wake of the disaster that swept through the Gulf Coast, we see a clear lack of imaginative and creative problem solving. The idea that a levee could break and flood New Orleans seemed to our government to be out of the realm of possibilities.
Abstracting this further, one could say that the standardization of education, the use of multiple choice testing and a lack of a push for creative and critical thinking in the classroom, has lead this country down a dangerous path.
I applaud the creative artists, teachers and thinking people who come to this site to read and share ideas, and I wish more people like this would rise to levels of importance in the country. It's clearly time that we open up the doors of bureaucracies and large, traditional institutions to more non-linear thinkers. More differently intelligent people need to be allowed in to the decision-making centers of this country.
The collective brainpower of Americans IS imaginable, and probably greater than any computer network in the world. That in mind, shouldn't someone be asking us, even challenging us to not only work harder, but to think more creatively and contribute collectively. If the government’s leaders would call upon scientists, academics, artists and other thinkers to rise up with solutions, they might just have responded with answers to a deteriorating levee system. A strong national leader would compliment and honor the talent of its citizens by asking such questions.
The President, just like a teacher, can and should be a facilitator of such action. In a classroom project that I administered over a seven-year period, I witnessed the benefits of bottom-up or “emergent” behavior. As I veered away from top-down control of my classes, students rose up to create rules, form groups and prepare for different scenarios. Feeling as though I had witnessed an exciting phenomenon, I dedicated my thesis research to the study of chaos and complexity theories as they relate to education. Conclusion: people, when given the opportunity and challenged from the top, can rise up from below, use their minds and achieve unimaginable results. A feedback loop is created. The teacher facilitates and the students respond with new information and directions. The teacher makes adjustments and responds back with new plans or instructions. The classroom becomes a living organism and both teacher and student benefit. This same kind of relationship can be formed between Dr. and patient, and yes, President and citizens!
The blogosphere, itself, is such an emergent tool. The other night, I watched Denzel Washington in The Hurricane. One thing struck me… when he went to write, he felt as though he was connected to all the other imprisoned writers in the world, i.e. Nelson Mandela, Huey Newton, etc; that they were rising up together, transcending their cells to become one voice, sending a strong message. The blogosphere can send that message, and can affect change.
Below, is the original post from last Friday. Some of the ideas therein can be used to get students (adults too) to think more creatively and critically.
Friday, September 02, 2005
The idea of someone still reading from a textbook to their classes has never seemed more distant, especially with all the exciting options now before us. I'm wondering if any student has actually said how much they prefer answering the questions at the end of a chapter -- to working on a project (embedded with content) that involves some form of technology. I recently came upon Dr. Bob Houghton's (of Western Carolina University) site. There, you can find all kinds of information about the educational possibilities of podcasting and "wiki" sites.
During Global Challenge (tm), I discovered that if information is "embedded" in the larger context of something fun or interesting, it will likely be more deeply absorbed. This does not mean that we shouldn't try to make content interesting in and of itself. Educators should. The idea of surrounding content in a larger framework suggests that one cannot always download or spoon feed tons of information down a student's throat. There tends to be a natural gag reflex. Podcasting, blogging, websites and wiki sites would add an interesting dimension to this game. A couple of ideas come to mind: Students possessing the nation of Djibouti could deliver a weekly radio address on the state of their nation. For a final project, students could summarize what they learned on a blog, and on that blog could be an interview or debriefing with fellow teammates or between opossing teams.
For more information on this "emergent" style of learning, please visit The Space Between Classes, workshops and tutoring are available to interested parties.