Monday, May 11, 2009

Quincy Jones Makes Eloquent Plea for Arts Education

"Every great society from the Egyptians, to the Greek and Roman Empires, has been defined by its cultural contributions. The commercial benefits of the arts not withstanding -- our artistic endeavors are a consistent source of revenue in the United States and our nation's largest export -- can we really run the risk of becoming a culturally bankrupt nation because we have not inserted a curriculum into our educational institutions that will teach and nurture creativity in our children?"

In the Huffington Post (dated May 9), jazz icon Quincy Jones calls for a plan of action to "make music education an ongoing part of the lives of children in the United States."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Astronaut Mae Jemison on Reintegrating the Arts and Sciences

Mae Jemison, best known for being the first African American woman in space, presents a new vision of learning that combines arts and sciences, intuition and logic in a February TED Talk.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Making Learning Whole by David Perkins

In his latest book Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education, David Perkins presents an alternative to the superficiality and fragmentation inherent in so much of today's teaching and learning. Perkins, who is co-director of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, diagnoses today's education as suffering from "elementitis" (learning all the elements of a subject without learning the whole) and "aboutitis" (learning about a subject without doing it). He presents his seven principles by connecting them to the way countless kids become skilled to some degree in the game of baseball.

Here is the complete list of principles is:
  1. Play the whole game.
  2. Make the game worth playing.
  3. Work on the hard parts.
  4. Play out of town.
  5. Uncover the hidden game.
  6. Learn from the team . . . and other teams.
  7. Learn the game of learning.
"Play the whole game" is the first of the seven principles —and it's the overarching one. Perkins says playing a "junior version" of the whole game, often involving some type of inquiry or performance that crosses disciplines, is what promotes the kind of understanding that students will be able to apply in a range of contexts.

"Make the game worth playing" is ensuring "immediately meaningful active engagement.

"Work on the hard parts" is isolating and practicing skills and focusing on conceptually difficult knowledge (but integrating them as quickly as possible into the whole).

"Play out of town" is promoting transfer by encouraging reflective abstraction and simulating diverse applications of knowledge and skill, as well as making connections to prior knowledge.

"Uncover the hidden game" is paying attention to the processes of inquiry, thinking and problem-solving that are beneath the surface of student work.

"Learn from the team" is paying attention to the sociocultural context through various group learning strategies.

"Learn the game of learning" is promoting self-direction.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Playing for Change

Between deadlines, visitors, and traveling, I have been losing my steam, but I will persevere. Before I get back into my Save the World Academy series, I will do a couple of brief posts about randoms things. First, have you seen Playing for Change?

A mobile recording studio is capturing music from all over the world. We get to see videos reminding us that we are all in this together.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Robinson's The Element Reminds Us to Tend to the Lifeworld

My state, Ohio, has been reeling for some time from the wave of job losses that is just beginning to affect some states. Many people—from blue-collar workers to skilled trades people to educated professionals with solid track records—are contemplating choices they never thought they would have to make. Choices like:
  • Should I wait out this drop in the construction trades or start college at age 40?

  • Should I go back to college at age 50 for a second degree that will improve my "marketability?"?

  • Should I move to where the job market is better—which means uprooting my family and selling my house at little or no profit? Or should I stay here and settle for a job that realizes a fraction of my potential?

  • At what point will I take whatever job I can get so we can keep our house?
With those kinds of dilemmas all over the news, the vision of Ken Robinson's book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything is truly a revolutionary one. The current job market and the jobs President Obama is trying to stimulate seem to be largely for those whose "Element" is science, technology, engineering, and health care. Those certainly are pressing needs that must be met. But I think many who have been hit hard by the economic downturn may not be able to have the dream of working in a job that epitomizes their aptitude and passion. I fear that today's jobseekers who want to avoid major disruptions in their lifestyles will need to find that outside of the job world. I hope today's children and young people won't be in that position down the road.

As we rebuild, I hope to see some new dimensions of economic development emerge—a real attempt to begin making full use of human potential.

Thomas Sergiovanni wrote about "lifeworld" and "systemsworld." (Based on the work of sociologist Jurgen Habermas). The lifeworld deals with goals and purposes and is concerned with culture, meaning, and significance. The systemsworld deals with methods and means and is concerned with efficiency, outcomes, and productivity. He said that the two are symbiotic and that the lifeworld should be “at the center as a driving force for what goes on” while the systemsworld should be "at the periphery." With our systems—infrastructure, health care, financial—in serious need of attention, I think Robinson's book is an important reminder of why we are fixing those systems and the vision to which we should aspire.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ken Robinson's The Element Reveals a Higher Purpose for Schools

Back in February, I posted my thoughts on Ken Robinson's The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything after watching a video of his remarks on the book. Now that I have finished reading it, I recommend it to everyone thinks about the true purpose of education and wonders how to fulfill that purpose.

"The Element," says Robinson, "is the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion." When people are in their element, he says, "they find that time passes differently and that they are more alive, more centered, and more vibrant than at other times."

Robinson reveals the Element by telling the stories of people who found it. Invariably, those people succeeded in their careers and made a difference in the lives of others. For most, someone early in life recognized their aptitude or passion and provided opportunities for them to enter and grow in the Element. Many of them had to overcome indifference or resistance. Some, including Robinson himself, found the Element after, or perhaps even because of, disabilities or other circumstances most would call adversity. Although Robinson is best known for sharing examples of students whose lives were changed by the arts, the stories in this book reflect the diversity inherent in true success. Some people profiled found the Element through the arts but for others it was through other academic areas, as well as through athletics, entrepreneurship, cooking, philanthropy, and other pursuits.

With his trademark humor, Robinson weaves in the themes that he has been writing and speaking about for years. He debunks myths about creativity, such as the common view that it's a quality possessed by an elite few. He opposes the industrial model of education that promotes teaching to the test. He suggests doing away with the hierarchy of "subjects" in favor of a more fluid interplay across disciplines. He proposes that the curriculum be personalized, which entails more freedom for good teachers to work in their own Element. This book reinforces those themes, and makes the case that finding and nurturing the aptitudes and passions of each individual is the path to transformation and growth not only for education systems but also for all other aspects of human endeavor.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Themes Instead of Subjects—Interesting to Consider

"Rethinking Education," an article by Julian Richardson in Sunday's Jamaica Observer, proposes that Jamaican high schools think about the humanities curriculum in terms of "life themes" that have "obsessed all cultures and all peoples in one way or another." Examples include 'The Origins of the Universe', 'Representations of God', 'Food and Nature', 'The Individual and the Common Good', 'Racial Differences and the Other', 'Gender Identity and Sexual Relations', 'Marriage and Family', 'Civil Life and Political Systems', 'Aging and Death', 'Art and Beauty', and 'Work, Tools and Technology'. (The article expands on each of these.)

Richardson proposes students would be more engaged in these themes than they are in things like "history" or "geography." Examples of arts integrated instruction in books such as Third Space: Where Learning Matters by Lauren Stevenson and Richard Deasy from the Arts Education Partnership, certainly could support that hypothesis.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Arts Education Connection #5: Unity and Variety

Third Installment in my series on Arts Elements and Principles

The complementary arts principles of variety and unity are this week's topic—building on last week's post on contrast. The principles of unity and variety are important in all four arts disciplines. Whether composing music or a dance, writing a play, or creating a painting or graphic design, the artist must strive for wholeness and cohesiveness—unity—while introducing enough variety to prevent a work that is monotonous.

Exploring these principles in an arts class could set the stage for other investigations. Consider: In science, children marvel at the vast variety of species while seeking to impose unity through classifying them. In math, they create a whole shape from a variety of shapes. In reading, they look for a common theme that unifies a novel or poem and for the variety of ways the author or poet uses to present that theme. In writing or speaking, they work on making sure they use variety to keep the audience's interest while building on a thesis. In social studies, they consider the many cultures and ethnic groups that make one United States or the many nations that make one world.

Photo Credits: Stefano Corso, AgĂȘncia Brasil, Justin, Peter Halasz, Mark Harden's Artchive

Friday, March 20, 2009

Link to Be the Change

Sorry. I forgot to add the link to the Web site referenced in my earlier post. It's Be the Change—Year of Creativity.

Design Your Own Creative Business Card

A design Web site called Be the Change provides a fun way to play with ideas—a business card generator that features dozens of occupations you won't find in the classifieds. Some are thought-provoking—Idea Cultivator, Imaginary World Interior Designer, and Engineer of the Fantastic. Maybe more companies should create these positions. Others are whimsical—Goldfish Hypnotist, Moment Anticipator, and Paper Airplane Pilot.

This really made me think about the amazing work graphic designers do.

Here's an example: