Can creativity be taught? Absolutely. The real question is: “How do we teach it?” In school, instead of crossing subjects and classes, we teach them in a very rigid manner. Very rarely do you witness math and science teachers or English and history teachers collaborating with each other. Sticking in your silo, shell, and expertise is comfortable. Well, it’s time to crack that shell. It’s time to abolish silos and subjects.
via Why Learning Should Be Messy | MindShift.
So begins an excerpt from a book written by 17 year-old high school student, Nikhil Goyal. Nikhil asserts – and I agree – that learning will experience a paradigm shift when we as educators change how we teach. Skills such as creativity can be taught more effectively when students can construct a holistic view of the world, rather than an isolated, departmentalized and, ultimately, incomplete understanding of the material. Learning should be messy because life is messy. Rarely do I find myself not leaning on another colleague or mentor for perspective or support when faced with a complex issue or decision. At Alexandria Country Day School, we have used our 1:1 iPad initiative to bust silos and create a shift in our Middle School in the role of teacher and student. Both are now viewed as learners with individual or group needs that can be met in a variety of ways. Grant Lichtman, COO of The Francis Parker School in San Diego, dropped by recently as part of his country-wide tour of innovative schools, and had the following observation to share:
ACDS has busted an important set of silos that in the past separated the responsibilities of teachers and “other” specialists. This is an important step in broadening the effective use of new pedagogies, and also in evolving a mindset that constant updating, at an appropriate pace, is both OK and expected.
via Process, Information, and Communication Literacy Leading Innovation at Alexandria Country Day School
The process is clearly far from complete and will require intentional leadership on the part of both admin and faculty. Indeed, a key part of our success is due entirely to our faculty team that has invested countless hours and their mental/emotional energies in their own professional growth. More than admin leadership, empowering our cadre of teacher leaders has been essential to our progress here at ACDS. The key questions facing us now, as they are many other schools wrestling with a similar paradigm, are how to align a schedule and curriculum with new thinking, new structures and routines, and an updated set of skills for the 21st century. When we began almost two years ago, we had many ideas to choose from on how to roll out our 1:1 iPad initiative, but what was immediately clear to everyone at the table – to borrow from Nikhil again – is that we had to “start rolling around in the dirt from the get go.”
I have been contemplating recently about the state of professional development in schools. The term “professional development” generally evokes a conference or a workshop/institute held outside of the school’s facilities and run by an external organization and attended by educators from several other schools, locally, regionally, or nationally. In the 21st century, I wonder if we need to broaden our horizons beyond this model and consider on-demand, realtime professional development. I’ve written previously about using Twitter as professional development; there have also been several newspaper articles and blog entries on the subject too. But Twitter still resides externally and is primarily about engaging educators working outside your immediate school facility.
How can we provide professional development in-house and one that’s on-demand and in realtime?
If I have a question as a Language Arts teacher about accommodating a student who has been recently diagnosed with expressive and receptive language disorder, then who, where, and how could I access the training I would clearly need immediately to work most effectively with that student? What are the different possibilities to structure that training? How about ongoing support? Frequently, teachers in such situations would turn to their Learning Center (if they have one) and ask for resources and tips on any accommodations/modifications to structure in the classroom and on homework for that student. However, is that enough, and what has the teacher absorbed about how that student best learns if they have simply been given a list of reading materials and strategies to use?
We have been experimenting this year at ACDS with providing such on-demand and realtime professional development to our 1:1 iPad Pilot teachers. It has been relatively easy to schedule trainings given that the pilot has only covered one grade level. However, as we expand the 1:1 iPad initiative to the rest of our middle school next year, scheduling ongoing trainings and providing realtime support could prove to be more difficult. I hope to share more about our approach this year in future posts, and what benefits have accrued as a result of keeping the iPad and curriculum training in-house, versus sending our teachers to workshops and conferences.
Does your school do something unique or innovative with professional development? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
This is my part of a presentation given tonight to ACDS parents at a Town Hall meeting on the State of the School.
I wrote this article to address some of the questions surrounding innovation that are rarely asked or addressed concretely in the literature on 21st Century Schools. Innovation is necessary and essential, but it also comes at a cost to the school culture.
Hope you enjoy reading this piece as much as I did writing it on Saturday night at 2AM! Please leave your feedback in the comments section.
I gave this presentation last Wednesday to the ACDS Board of Trustees on the changing educational landscape, and how independent schools must innovate more to best prepare their students for the 21st century. NAIS and Pat Bassett’s presentation at the 2012 Annual Conference provides the basis for much of the content surrounding 21st century schools, and I have added my own thoughts and tried to give context to his ideas.
The world has changed, and schools must now match their rhetoric and understanding of this with action. We must, as I say in one of the slides, redefine what learning is in the 21st century, what we value, and how we assess. We must also address the most important question of all: Why should families continue paying $20,000 plus per year for an education that is increasingly moving online and much of it for free?!
A cartoon from The Bobcat Globe
Click here to check out the student newspaper, The Bobcat Globe, written and published by our 8th grade students this week, covering the 2012 Festival of Learning theme of Endangered Species. Thanks to faculty editors, Todd Gilbert and David Carpenter, for leading and guiding the students in their writing and the newspaper layout!
The newspaper articles cover a range of reports from interviews with students, faculty to pictures of the various speakers and events we have hosted this week. In the words of the editors, The Bobcat Globe is “ACDS’s first-ever Festival of Learning Online Newspaper. In conjunction with the iPad Pilot Program and ICL (Information Communication Literacy), The Bobcat Globe focused on providing students with the skills necessary to feel comfortable in a paper-less world, whether reading, writing, or sharing information.”
I could not be more proud of our students today!
A cartoon from The Bobcat Globe
Michael Tsai on Apple’s Textbooks Announcement:
Kids are bored. The iPad is fun and engaging, Schiller explained. This is the same contention made for decades, and I challenge readers to find any longitudinal studies tracking students who have used or are using packaged multimedia-enhanced instruction showed measured and consistent improvement over control groups.
This immediately made me think of a quote from Steve Jobs:
I used to think that technology could help education. I’ve probably spearheaded giving away more computer equipment to schools than anybody else on the planet. But I’ve had to come to the inevitable conclusion that the problem is not one that technology can hope to solve. What’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent.
Based on my experience with iBooks 2 on an iPad 1, I much prefer paper textbooks. This is not to say that electronic textbooks are a bad idea. The speed and resolution will improve. In the last year, I came to prefer reading non-textbooks on a Kindle. In time, I presume that tablets will catch up to paper textbooks.
But, like Fleishman, I do not see this as a revolution in education.
via Michael Tsai – Blog – Apple’s Textbook Plan Feels Like a Blast From the Past.
This blog post and the arguments outlined herein seem misleading to me, akin to being a good writer if you have a Mont Blanc pen. That’s all that iBooks 2 and digital interactive textbooks can promise – to provide the possibility of engaging lessons and interactive learning, but they cannot replace a good teacher or a motivated student. The medium and the user are not one here and no current technology at least can promise to fuse both. So Steve Jobs and Glenn Fleishman (and Michael Tsai) are right: “what’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology,” but technology can and does help in the hands of the right user. Would anybody argue that Web 2.0 tools as simple as blogs and wikis have not changed how many teachers teach? Would anybody complain about the use of video, mind-mapping tools like Inspiration and, even more basic than all of those, the internet in the classroom? Sure there are issues, but as with any tool, let’s place the responsibility where it truly lies – with the user.