Monthly Archives: January 2018

buy local



Yesterday was a big day; I actually got to hear Sir Ken Robinson speak at the Future of Tech Ed conference. Curiously, he didn’t talk much about technology, but he did hit on his familiar themes, as the title of his talk reflects : “Creative Schools: Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up.” For about an hour, he heeded that awesome bumper sticker: LOCAL.

I told my CO301D class that I was coming to the conference and asked them what questions they wanted me to listen for. The thoughts and questions they posed in their blogposts are smart; you can check them out here. The overall pattern that emerged among their posts is reflected in Brooke’s questions here:

“I would… ask [Ken Robinson] what his suggestions would be in terms of changing the way that the school system works to help students become more creative? Have you seen any changes in recent years?”

Robinson got right to the point and opened by saying that the most frequently-asked questions he gets since that 2006 TED talk in 2006 are Brooke’s questions exactly. His response: the issues in education haven’t changed so much, but what has changed is the context. In fact, he said that you can’t fix education by improving the existing system. His exact quote: “If you design a system to DO something, don’t be surprised if it DOES it.” That’s why that in a decade where the education system has prized the GLOBAL over the LOCAL and has been driven by standardization, we shouldn’t be surprised that the gross national products of this design have been compliance, conformity, and competition.

But as we think about a new starting place for educational design, what if we started with the local instead? What if we made educational personal? What if we customized it to the community? What if we considered how the people there were learning, living, and coming alive and went from there?

But his ultimate approach to going local was to ask this question: What would happen if we honored the “buoyancy of children” rather than ignoring their interior lives? 

I’d love to hear your responses to any of his questions above, especially that last one. So write on friends. You always help me learn.


happy 12th b-day, sir ken



It’s hard to believe that this much-circulated talk is still timely. And that makes me a little sad, but it also bears witness to the fact that educational change is glacial.

I know lots of teachers (am a teacher, am married to guy who was a teacher), and I don’t know one who wakes up every morning and says, “Let’s go kill creativity today!” But I do know that often our hands are tied, or it feels as if they are. In talking with many educators over the past couple of years, I’ve learned that they feel like they’re luring their students toward creativity in spite of others who may have more power than than do in the system.

I began teaching since the turn of the century (ahem), and I had the same questions then. Around 1995, when I assigned Hard Times to my AP Lit students, we talked a lot about Thomas Gradgrind. Gradgrind is a wealthy industrialist who assumes the position of teacher in one chapter, and let’s just say his “educational approach” reflects his name. I asked my students to consider how Dickens used Gradgrind to reflect the ills of education in his time: What ills did they see? From there, we talked about their own experiences in school. How did it feel when teachers asked them to be creative now? How did they respond?

Many of them said that it felt like a glass of cool, clear water; others confessed they were fearful to take the offer, even when given the chance. What’s happened in schools? And how are we as teachers to respond to the powers-that-be that might discourage the innate human impulse to create, to the students who are thirsty, and to the ones who don’t believe they can do so anymore?