Friday, September 26, 2008

Wagner's Question 1: Educated Adults 3

In reviewing Tony Wagner's seven survival skills, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills model and Howard Gardner's Five Minds for the Future, I see the case growing for more interdisciplinary learning opportunities. Being an educated adult will be mucg less tied to what we know and more to how we think.

Tony Wagner: 1) critical thinking and problem-solving; 2) collaboration across networks and leading by influence; 3) agility and adaptability; 4) initiative and entrepreneurialism; 5) effective oral and written communications; 6) accessing and analyzing information; and 7) curiosity and imagination.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills: Core subjects interwoven with 21st century themes: global awareness; financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy; civic literacy; and health literacy AND 1) learning and innovation skills (creativity and imagination, critical thinking and problem solving, and communication and collaboration); 2) information, media, and technology skills (information literacy, media literacy, and ICT literacy; and 3) life and career skills (flexibility and adaptability; initiative and self-direction; social and cross-cultural skills; productivity and accountability; and leadership and responsibility.)

Howard Gardner's Five Minds for the Future: 1) The Disciplinary Mind: the mastery of major schools of thought, including science, mathematics, and history, and of at least one professional craft; 2) The Synthesizing Mind: the ability to integrate ideas from different disciplines or spheres into a coherent whole and to communicate that integration to others. 3) The Creating Mind: the capacity to uncover and clarify new problems, questions and phenomena. 4) The Respectful Mind: awareness of and appreciation for differences among human beings and human groups. 5) The Ethical Mind: fulfillment of one's responsibilities as a worker and as a citizen.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wagner's Question 1: Educated Adults 2

In The Global Achievement Gap, Tony Wagner asks:

In light of the fundamental changes that have taken place in our society in the last twenty-five years, what does it mean to be an educated adult in the twenty-first century?

My generic list of the most basic skills follows.

Educated people are those who:
  • Are actively using and developing their natural talents and gifts in ways that contribute to the greater good.

  • Have developed—through schooling, reading, observing, experiencing, and doing—a mental framework of knowledge that allows them to ask good questions and continue learning in one or more domains.

  • Can read, observe, and listen critically. When they approach a text (whether reading a book, viewing an artwork, watching a play, whatever form), they can see applications and generate ideas.

  • Can find, apply, and produce solutions to complex problems in one or more fields using the most appropriate tools.

  • Can see and communicate structure and connection among concepts and ideas.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wagner's Question 1: To Be an Educated Adult

In The Global Achievement Gap, Tony Wagner asks:
In light of the fundamental changes that have taken place in our society in the last twenty-five years, what does it mean to be an educated adult in the twenty-first century?

I'm working on an in-depth response to this question, but first, I would like to explore the phrase "educated adult." Maybe we need a new term.

My Oxford dictionary says educate means "give intellectual, moral, and social instruction to (someone, esp. a child), typically at a school or university." Educated simply means "having had education," which is defined as both "systematic instruction" and "the knowledge gained from this" (systematic instruction).

Claiming to be an educated adult means, "I received good systematic instruction." In other words: "Someone (educators) gave something to me." The problem I see with this is threefold:

1) It suggests that I was a passive recipient of knowledge and that my only responsibility was to be a compliant receiver of knowledge, a sponge. (I used to feel complimented by that praise.) Although the term comes from the Latin educat- ‘led out,’ from the verb educare, related to educere ‘lead out’, I feel that meaning has been sacrificed so that we might serve the education system we have created.

2) It suggests the process is pretty much over. I may need some minor updates and maintenance of key knowledge and skills to keep my "educated" status. But I graduated, so I am educated.

3) Also, there is the implication that knowledge is a commodity that rests solely within the province of a select few. In other words, "I know the instruction I was given was good because the people responsible for this instruction have been officially designated as qualified educators."

I haven't come up with a viable alternative yet, but here is a working definition: An educated adult is an active learner who has demonstrated that he or she is prepared to assume increasing levels of responsibility within a domain of knowledge, is continually deepening his or her understanding in a range of domains, and is continually exploring new domains with a spirit of inquiry.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Creativity vs Innovation

In one of the LinkedIn groups I follow (Innovative Learning and Education Innovators), Gerald Haman posted these questions: How do you define creativity and innovation? How do creativity and innovation differ?

Part of my initial response:
I define creativity as a way of being in which we draw from the imagination, the intellect, and the world around us to bring something new into being. Innovation is the use of creative ideas to add new value to an existing idea, product, process, environment, or system. Purely creative action draws heavily from the intuition, maybe even the "collective unconscious," while innovation combines a wider range of intelligences along with creativity.

Originality and newness are more central in the decision that something is "creative" while effectiveness is more valued in assessments of innovative capacity.

Another member suggested that the main difference is: "
Innovation has a connotation of driving something forward or advancing. It is possible to be creative for creativity's sake. We've all met certain people that think differently or seen a piece of art work that used unpredictable elements. But that's all we get. An interesting idea or artifact. Nothing more.

My response:Is it possible to have an "interesting idea or artifact" and nothing more? Maybe it's just that with products of innovation, the results are more visible and/or measurable, while the results of a work of art or theory are characterized more by less measurable impacts: first the internal change that occurs in those who encounter the work, then how that encounter shapes their thoughts and actions. I agree with you that creativity and innovation can often be used interchangeably. Maybe in something like a work of art, you might describe the innovative aspects as the technical part—Van Gogh's brushstrokes and colors and how they took the techniques of Impressionism a step further—while the creative part is how his unique psyche opened itself up to and responded to the emotions and spiritual impulses that flowed into him.

New Dialogue for Our Children's Future: Wagner's Essential Questions

While new assessments would have an impact, Tony Wagner ends his book The Global Achievement Gap by recommending a new dialogue that begins with this admission: I thought I knew what students needed to learn and what a good school looks like—because I was a student once and I went to school and it worked for me. But times have changed. And maybe students today do need something different. I wonder what it is?

He proposes these essential questions for all of us:

  • In light of the fundamental changes that have taken place in our society in the last twenty-five years, what does it mean to be an educated adult in the twenty-first century? What do we think all high school graduates need to know and be able to do to be well-prepared for college, careers, and citizenship? And since we can't teach everything, what is most important?

  • How might our definition of academic rigor need to change in the age of the information explosion?

  • What are the best ways to know that students have mastered the skills that matter most? How do we create a better assessment and accountability system that gives us the information we need to ensure that all students are learning essential skills?

  • What do we need to do in our schools to motivate students to be curious and imaginative and to enjoy learning for its own sake? How do we ensure that every student has an adult advocate in his or her school who knows the student well?

  • How do we both support our educators and hold them more accountable for results? What changes are needed in how educators are trained, how they work together in schools, and how they are supervised and evaluated in order to enable them to continuously improve?

  • What do good school look like—schools where all students are mastering the skills that matter most? How are they different from the schools we have, and what can we learn from them?

Book Summary: The Global Achievement Gap

The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills Our Students Need—And What We Can Do About It by Tony Wagner (2008, Basic Books).

Tony Wagner, who is co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a senior consultant to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, makes a strong case that our education system needs to address not only the gaps in opportunity (and thus, achievement) between white, upper income students and minority, economically disadvantaged students, but also a global achievement gap between even our "best" students (those attending public schools in affluent communities and even pricey private schools) and students in other industrialized nations. He says state assessments, as well as Advanced Placement exams, require only recall and recognition of fragmented, decontextualized information rather than evidence of higher order thinking skills that students need for success as 21st century workers, citizens, and lifelong learners. The accountability measures of No Child Left Behind, he says, have led to a dumbing down of state assessments and an over-emphasis on test preparation.

The centerpiece of his book is his recommendation that schools teach and assess seven survival skills that are needed as we deal with the transformation to a global knowledge economy, an information environment characterized by flux and glut, and new media technologies. Those skills are:
  1. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
  2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
  3. Agility and Adaptability
  4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective Oral and Written Communications
  6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
  7. Curiosity and Imagination
He asserts that today's students are differently motivated. He recounts interviews with students and educators, as well as profiles of successful schools. He also describes his visits to typical schools in affluent communities.

He advocates alternative assessments, such as:
  1. The PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), which includes a test of problem-solving skills in making decisions under constraints, evaluating and designing systems for a particular situation, and trouble-shooting a malfunctioning device or system based on a set of symptoms, and
  2. The Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), an open-ended, ninety-minute “performance assessment” in which students have to demonstrate their reasoning, problem-solving, and writing skills while attempting to solve a “real-world” problem.
He puts forth a list of essential questions that I will list in my next post and begin to address in future posts.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Journey of a Digital Immigrant

I agree with Marc Prensky (Don't Bother Me Mom—I'm Learning) that young people are digital natives while adults are digital immigrants.

Many kids would say, "So what?" or "You mean you haven't always done/used that?" but here is what I have done in the past year as a Web 2.0 immigrant:
  • Shared my bookmarks on some social bookmarking sites.
  • Created this blog and commented on others' blogs. I've started a couple of blogs in the past related to projects I was involved in but did not keep them up.
  • Published a Web site outlining my services and purchased my own domains. Used iWeb on my Mac for this site and have used Yahoo's Sitebuilder tool in the past on sites for charities I support. I like the ease of use and templates with iWeb, but it's not a long-term solution because it's harder to get picked up by search engines. Have been working on my HTML, CSS skills and doing some of the pages as html documents.
  • Used tools for creating slideshows (Slide and Animoto).
  • Created a wiki. (
  • Downloaded photos from Flickr and YouTube. Uploaded photos to create an online scrapbook for family.
  • Used Skype.
  • Set up profiles on LinkedIn and Classroom 2.0.
  • Commented on several discussion boards.
  • Attended a Webinar.
I am reluctant about instant messaging and Twitter though. I know how it works but don’t know if I want to go there. What will happen to my concentration? I'm already feeling the effects of so many information streams, although I think I am developing a rhythm.

I think the important things are:
1) Don't give up. Use what you can.
2) Think about how your clients might benefit.
3) Keep asking "so what?" Think about how the tools will improve your thinking, creativity, and productivity. After all, it's not about what tools you use. It's about what results you get.

Photo Source: U.S. Library of Congress
Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

On Change

To exist is to change, 
to change is to mature, 
to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.

—Henri Bergson

I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

—Pablo Picasso

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Looking Back: Entering the Web

The Web has been both a subject and a research tool in my work since 1992. I’ll never forget the day when I entered its amazing frontier. I was editor of a computer newsletter read by NASA Lewis Research Center’s scientists and engineers (but probably more importantly by administrators who controlled the budget). I stopped to visit Fred Goldberg, my best source on networking, and boy did he have a scoop. He showed me this new way to communicate that had been developed by a guy in Cern, Switzerland. There were probably less than a dozen sites up at that time, and we visited them all. Over the next few months, I wrote about it and hung out with the computer geeks who were using it (I guess it’s OK to call them “geeks” now but they would have been offended then.)

At the time, I was working on a Master of Arts in journalism and mass communications at Kent State University and this was right around the time when I needed to propose my Master’s project. I decided to look at how journalists and media organizations would be affected by electronic technology advances such as the “new World-Wide Web” (which was so unfamiliar to my audience that I had to define it, believe it or not). I did lots of research on media control and ownership, gatekeeping, ethics, and other areas. There wasn’t much written yet on what was becoming known as “new media.” I did a lot of speculating too and proposed many theories about effects that later came to be. The visionary portion of my paper was published as part of a 1993 NASA symposium on emerging computing and communications technologies (not online but can be ordered from NASA). This was probably one time when my “creative generalist” tendencies failed me. After completing the work and graduating in 1993, I moved into new areas of interest instead of immersing myself a little further in writing about new journalism media.

That new area was education. After deciding to start an independent writing practice, my first project was writing a technology vision for Ohio’s Technology in Education Steering Committee. I’ve worked on some other state initiatives related to technology in education since then, but I also branched out into other areas. Hence (and I’m not complaining, just stating a fact), I no longer work at the frontiers of technology. I try to visit there whenever possible (and should do so more often) but I’m no longer what you would call an early adopter.

Creativity, Order, and Truth

“Einstein’s space is no closer to reality than Van Gogh’s sky. The glory of science is not in a truth more absolute than the truth of Bach or Tolstoy, but in the act of creation itself. The scientist’s discoveries impose his own order out of chaos, as the composer or painter imposes his—an order that always refers to limited aspects of reality, and is biased by the observer’s frame of reference, which differs from period to period, as a Rembrandt nude differs from a nude by Manet.”
Arthur Koestler

Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education

Lois Hetland, Ellen Winner, Shirley Veenema, and Kimberly M. Sheridan, who are with Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education are known for discouraging advocates from making a case for the arts by linking arts learning to achievement in other areas. Research establishing causality is not adequate. But they felt it would be valuable to describe the dispositions acquired through serious study of the arts that have the potential to transfer to other areas of learning.

Eight Studio Habits of Mind

1) Develop craft
Learning to use tools and materials; Learning artistic conventions.

2) Engage and persist
Learning to embrace problems of relevance within the art world and/or of personal importance, to develop focus and other mental states conducive to working and persevering at art tasks

3) Envision
Learning to picture mentally what cannot be directly observed and imagine possible next steps in making a piece.

4) Express
Learning to create works that convey an idea, a feeling, or a personal meaning

5) Observe
Learning to attend to visual contexts more closely than ordinary “looking” requires, and thereby to see things that otherwise might not be seen

6) Reflect
Question and explain: Learning to think and talk with others about an aspect of one’s work or working process
Evaluate: Learning to judge one’s own work and working process, and the work of others in relation to standards of the field

7) Stretch and explore
Learning to reach beyond one’s capacities, to explore playfully without a preconceived plan, and to embrace the opportunity to learn from mistakes and accidents

8) Understand art world
Domain: Learning about art history and current practice
Communities: Learning to interact as an artist with other artists (i.e., in classrooms, in local arts organizations, and across the art field) and within the broader society

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Defining Terms I

Artful: In general, a product, process, or performance that displays artistry. In this context, "artful" also suggests the need to place high-quality arts education and arts integrated learning at the center of the conversation about improving schools and preparing students for the future.

Innovation: The implementation of creative ideas that create significant value. The use of creative ideas to add new value to an existing idea, product, process, environment, or system. Widely recognized as critical to U.S. leadership in 21st century science, technology, and business. The education community is beginning to recognize the need to prepare students for the realities of competing in an economy driven by innovation.

Arts: Music, dance, theater, and the visual arts.

High-Quality Arts Education: In-depth opportunities for students to respond, perform, and create in the arts with originality and rigor.

Arts-Integrated Learning: instruction that incorporates content, processes and/or techniques from one or more arts and at least one other discipline. Approaches vary, but one major mark of quality is a design that leads to significant learning in each discipline.

Imagination: ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from Latin imaginatio(n-), from the verb imaginari ‘picture to oneself,’ from imago, imagin- ‘image. The part of the mind that sees possibilities and generates original ideas.

Creativity: A way of being in which we draw from the imagination, the intellect, and the world around us to bring something new into being.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Artful Innovation: The Questions

Few disagree that the arts reveal, nourish, and challenge the human spirit. Yet the fine arts remain at the periphery of education reform and at the bottom of the priorities list. As we enter what I predict will be widely called the age of innovation, it's time to make learning in the arts a central thread in two critical conversations—the one about transforming education and the one about thriving in a global economy. While the arts are not the whole solution, I believe that their exclusion is having a much greater negative impact than imagined. In this blog, I intend to explore that and to focus on two major questions:

1) What contribution can high-quality learning in and through the arts make to:
  • Engaging and challenging all students?
  • Promoting safety, cultural competence, and positive social relationships in the learning environments of children and youth?
  • Preparing the adaptive, innovative thinkers our economy and society need?
2) How does the purpose and implementation of arts education need to change?

I don't have the answers to these questions, but I hope to contribute by helping to frame the issues, review the literature, highlight connections, and tell the story that I see unfolding in my work with educators and arts organizations.

I hope this blog will go from capturing my daily thinking and reading about these issues to a more structured examination of the questions.