Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Evening With Sir Ken Robinson and a Message of Hope

I had the great pleasure of taking a bus with 35 district teachers and administrators from Grande Prairie to Dawson Creek last night to attend a talk given by Sir Ken Robinson on personalized learning, creativity, innovation, passion, and the need for education reform.  Thanks to Lance and the senior leadership in our district for sponsoring the lot of us to attend!

Look how happy everyone is in the picture, as we stand beside what is apparently the second largest semi-aquatic rodent in the world.  Next time we stop at the BMI!

If you've not seen Sir Ken speak in one of his talks on TED, or read any of his books, you really should.  He's funny, engaging, has an inspiring message, and I think you'll like what he has to say.  You might also take the hint: @jenclevette gave me and listen to his latest book The Element in audiobook format.  SKR reads it himself and is equally engaging on iTunes as he is in person.

Sir Ken didn't say anything especially new or unique yesterday.  He didn't rock us back on our heels with challenging or controversial claims.  He simply shared what I consider a message of hope for the future of our education system!

At the 40,000 foot level, you can't argue with anyone who says kids need the opportunity to explore their passions.  Who says kids need caring people in an education system to personalize their learning.  Who says kids need to develop the skills that will prepare them for a future that we are not entirely sure what it will look like.  Sir Ken's message was quite clear at the 40,000 foot level.

But we live at ground level.  And things are not that clear close to the ground.  The talk today was about what we do with his message. Logical sequential people may have felt a gap today, while random abstract people will likely last a few more days basking in the message before moving on to something else.  Regardless of one's position, I think the next step, however, is not evident.

I'm optimistic that enough people heard, and value, the message though and that it will gain traction over time.  The same message is coming from Alberta Education as the Action on Curriculum builds momentum.  It is inherent in the new Education Act.  It is a common message from a number of different directions.  It is also a common perspective in all of these messages that I think the specifics of changing our practice have to be left up to us.  As a district, we need to construct our own meaning of what this message of hope means for us.

Who will lead our transformation?  How will our Board engage our community on a deep and meangingful level to get involved so that we can help all our students embrace their passions?  How will our Ministry give us the authority to truly personalize individual curricula?  How will our district and our administrators create the conditions for teachers to succeed and then get out of the way to let them do what they need to do?  And, finally, how will our students handle the responsibility we need to give them?

Of all the questions in the preceding paragraph, the one I'm most sure of is that our students will amaze us.  They always do.  And I can't wait to see that.  Sir Ken's message of hope resonates with me today.  Let's get to work.  Together.  We need to work on those first few questions from the paragraph above...


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