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.


12 thoughts on “buy local

  1. sunshine102297 says:

    In all honesty, I think that the answer this this question, as many other questions, lies somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. While Ken presents it as a no-brainer–obviously we should be honoring the buoyancy of children!–I believe that the actual solution is much more complicated than that. And hasn’t that been the core of the debate between traditional and progressive educators for the last several decades? The struggle between an educational system based on principles of self-discipline an an educational system that strives to accommodate all learning styles but which may also seem chaotic. The struggle continues because there is no easy answer. Some who are fed up with a public education system that they view as already being too progressive turn to homeschooling, private schools, or classical schools in order to fulfill the needs that they believe their child has. And others advocate for an even more progressive curriculum within the public schools. My personal convictions have always sided more with the traditional side of things, because that’s how I was raised. But maybe Ken Robinson can convince me otherwise.

  2. alexandriayoungren says:

    I believe that this is a fantastic thought/question. In my other classes we talk a lot about developing a passion for what we teach and about finding ourselves because in order to help our students reach their goals and meet their full potential we must know the journey that it took ourselves to get to where we are today. It is extremely important to get to know our students and connect with them on a personal level. There are so many external things that shape children’s work ethic in the classrooms. If we as teachers have no idea about these things we cannot connect with them and get them engaged in our content. I also love the idea of starting local. Environmental factors also play a role in each students lives, so to have each school in the United States on the same educational layout is ridiculous. Students from urban areas may have lower reading scores/abilities than rural students. This is why we cannot put all of our eggs in one basket. In another Ted talk by Sir Ken Robinson he tells us that education is not a mechanical process. It is a human process. Why are numbers so important then if the best way to learn is through living life in your own thoughts. Standardizing the system is like trying to fit a square into a circle.

  3. I find it interesting that in order to make the education system less about conformity so that we can have the students express their creativity more, Ken Robinson suggests that we focus more on the local level. I had not thought much into the idea that we have to start individualizing the system from a larger perspective. It is not much about making the system more individualized in a global sense, as in everywhere should become more individualized because in that sense it would still be about conformity. In order to change the education system, we must begin separating ourselves from looking at the global perspective as a comparison. It should not be about the standardized education around the world but more about the individual needs in the local community. In that sense I agree with what he is saying, that we should start at the local for a new education design so that it can start from the beginning at the individual level. In doing so, we can then focus on the individual student and their interior lives, or their creativity and individual ideas. We no longer focus on the overall standardized ideas that we want every student to know, we instead give them room to create their own ideas. By customizing it to the community, we can look at the needs of that individual group of students.

  4. Isaac Morley says:

    As I read Sir Robinson’s approach, I was struck by the wording of his charge “the buoyancy of children.” I think that it is in the nature of children to rise above the challenges they are presented with. Much like a buoy, children have an innate tendency to shoot towards the top with all their strength. As teachers, I think that it is our responsibility to create an environment that, to the best of our ability, doesn’t require them to desperately climb to the surface. By this I mean, regardless of the home life of a child, we as teachers are able to create a place in which we lift the child up, instead of them being forced to struggle by themselves. I don’t mean we should avoid challenging them, but rather in understanding who our students are, create a social structure around them in which they can guide one another and seek help where they need it.

    Working with a multi-grade program, I have found that the best place to begin with something like this is group written ground rules. For some groups, these rules become laws that are honored and simplistic, in other groups they become ideals to strive for, and in others still they become reminders of where we all come from. The nature of humanity is understanding, or at least a desire to find understanding. In children, the natural tendency is to seek out friends and create a place where everyone is having fun. This doesn’t always play out perfectly, as there are often arguments, but the tendency is there.

    Not all groups will need the same structures, which is why participation in their creation is necessary. At one of the schools that I work at, the students have organized, completely of their own volition, a mentoring group. The older students guide the younger students through their work as they progress themselves. Obviously this is not the usual outcome of self-governance in the classroom, but it speaks to the differences that live within each class. Allowing a class to find this self governance tends to allow for a greater sense of purpose and place in the class.

  5. kelsealtheim says:

    Ask any teacher you know, “Are any two of your students the exact same?”

    I am willing to bet you that the answer will always be ‘no.’

    If this is the case, then why are we expecting all children to learn the same? How can two children who are vastly different from each other possibly learn in the exact same ways? Unfortunately, this is the current status of our education system today.

    Many parents recognize this problem in the education system and choose to either home school their children or enroll them in alternative forms of education — which often comes with a hefty price tag. Something that stuck with me after watching another one of Ken Robinson’s TED Talks last night, “How to Escape Education’s Death Valley,” was when he stated, “These should not be considered the alternative forms of education. They should be the standard.”

    Therefore, it is vital that as educators we stop educating from the top to the bottom. To clarify, what I mean is that in the current status of education in the United States most policies come from government officials or lawmakers — not the students or teachers themselves. Teachers then have to follow these policies to keep their jobs, and often because these policies were not created with the individual students in mind, these policies do not work.

    An example of one of these policies that do work is standardized testing. In my schooling experience, I felt that I went to school for 13 years simply to be able to do well on my ACTs and get into a good college. I truly felt that my entire schooling experience had led up to one 3 hour day in a poorly lit classroom taking a standardized test that simply had no relevance to me and what I want to do with the rest of my life. Now I know that that belief sounds silly. How on earth could you actually believe the thousands of hours spent in school from age five to eighteen could actually just lead up to one moment like that? I’m not alone in thinking this. Many of my peers also felt that schooling today is simply about college preparation. I’m not saying that college entrance is not important, but you know what also is important that schools are not adhering nearly as well to?

    The creativity and passion for learning in children.

    Therefore, we need to honor the buoyancy of children rather than ignoring their interior lives.

  6. I think it is 100% VITAL to grow/start education from the small communities upward. If we look at what Ken Robinson said previously in his speech “How to escape educations death valley”, he compared the US’s system of education to Finland. In Finland, they focus on schooling in a broader aspect, and in the country with a population of 5,000,000 people, the effects have been fantastic. They often come out highest ranked in mathematics, science an reading, so if we compare 5 million people in Finland, to the population of one state i’m america, you would think the same changes could be reflected in the states just as effectively. So, if the US was to start focusing/looking at schooling the way Finland does, focusing on the individual students, we could have just as much success. Focusing on the individual student connects to the idea of making sure their interior lives are brought into their education as well. A student has to have a safe space when going home to learn and evolve as their education evolves as well, so making sure their interior lives, and everyone involved, are on the same page as the education system is vitally important. As stated by you, currently “compliance, conformity, and competition are what drive education today, so we must ensure the education systems, and the students’ support systems are realizing that flaw, and instead try to promote creativity, creating a rounded person, and fostering knowledge rather than competitiveness.

  7. tobedevontay says:

    I would love to see a more personal a specific approach to students learning, I actually seen something of the sort went I went to this small town on the outskirts of Colorado. This particular school has a very tight knit community, so much so that majority of the people there, have lived there their whole lives and have never left. They make their money by selling meats and have implemented that into their schools curriculum. For example, the students raise Pigs till their of age, feeding them and taking care of their barns and such, then they would learn the process of killing the pig and selling it. This may seem a little different from most type of schools that are more of the technical type but the students actually love it. This gives them the opportunity to learn about some of the things that their community does to get money and gives them a insightful look at something they may do in the future.

  8. In so many of the education classes that CSU has designed for us, we focus on the importance of individualizing education. There is no one method of teaching that every single student can learn from. Modes of learning is a very real thing and it is our job as teachers to address a variety of modes. I find the concept of “making education personal” and “customiz[ing] it to the community” fascinating.
    There is no reason in a world as broad and varied as our own to standardize education. Every little corner of the world has its own needs, ideas, and opinions. So why would we focus on the global? Who cares about competition when the lives and successes of students are at stake? It seems to me that when we begin to focus less on our students and more on how to make our students look better to those in the outside world, we are losing sight of our purpose.
    Our communities need to know that our goals are the same as theirs: to educate young people and prepare them for whatever it is that those people wish to do in life.

  9. What is the “buoyancy of children?” The definition of buoyancy is an objects ability to float. So what does that mean in terms of children and their education?
    My second question is how do we honor that “buoyancy” in terms of not ignoring their interior lives?
    I agree with sir Ken Robinson that looking at a school’s community and personalizing education would be extremely beneficial. I come from a very small town in Colorado and most of my fellow classmate were children of migrant workers, lived in poverty, and many more differences could be listed between us and the population of a school such as the of Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins, CO.
    With communities so different and children with all different backgrounds coming together, why would we try to educate them the same exact way?
    If we don’t make things personal or find a way to bring in a perspective that resonates within the child, will they really learn it?
    Many kids in my school chose not to learn or try based on the curriculums relevance. I remember hearing often about how one of my classmates didn’t want to work on assignment because they didn’t see the point; they didn’t see how it related to their lives, so why should they care?
    I think working toward the LOCAL in education could be beneficial because it might very well give students a more personal reason to learn, rather than merely having to meet up to some standard placed by a government in some far away land, with problems typically consisting of things people in small towns can’t really fathom. I’m not saying this is all students, but it is some students. And aren’t those the students we should be most concerned by, the ones who struggle to make a connection that allows them to learn?

  10. Anna says:

    I completely agree that education should be made personal. I believe that it is incredibly unfair to assume that one size fits all when it comes to students and each student deserves the most valuable education that is customized for them. While this can be a lot of work for the teacher, it is our job after all… When education is made personal it becomes much more attractive to the student thus making them want to not just get an education but own their education. It is up to the teacher to see where the kid is at in their life (not just their education but their community and living situation) accommodate them accordingly. This comes with knowing the surroundings of the school and demographics as well as building relationships with as many students as possible and connecting with other teachers in the building to see what works for them with students you may be having trouble with. A school that understands that each student is in a different place in their education and comes from a different way of life, ultimately that no student is the same, is a school that cares for the students and can prepare them for their individual futures. Personalized education leads the students through a better education and onto a better future.

  11. jcjujubee says:

    From my understanding, Sir Ken Robinson is saying we need to throw away the current system and start over, which I agree with overall. Our education system is so broken that any efforts we make to “fix” it are mere patches that won’t hold for long. Going local gives teachers the ability and confidence to start where they are familiar and have control. I know for me, personally, when I look at the future of education, I often get overwhelmed because there is so much to take on. The local approach includes students in every way because their lives in this local setting are relevant as they are individuals and not theoretical beings made up in a government building. When we look at education this way, we are able to not only acknowledge our student’s lives but also encourage them to incorporate them in our classrooms so that we are all able to learn from one another. Focusing on customizing education to a community is a good starting point for moving towards completely individualized learning. At this point, it’s all a nice idea but I’m still curious about how to implement this, and how to get school boards to go along with the plan, and how to make change happen while still fulfilling all of the other requirements thrown at us as educators. What does this sort of education really look like?

  12. Mudita says:

    Ken Robinson makes a good point. How are we so surprised that the school system is doing exactly what we asked it to do? But I’m on the fence about this subject a little bit. Should we reform the entire school system or should we improve what we have?
    If we start over then there would be a lot of confusion, not everyone would go along with it. I can see some benefits; our teaching styles would be more accepting and individualized, and we could fix the problems we were seeing in our old schooling system.
    However, if we stick with what we have and make improvements that would be good too. People would be more willing to work with something they know rather than something entirely new. I don’t think it’s impossible to fix our education system, with new teachers flooding in, there are new ideas popping up. I did notice that school are a lot more accepting and willing to slow down than they were 10 years ago. So maybe that’s something.
    I guess the conclusion I reach to is we should do a little bit of both. Encourage new ideas and new teaching styles that help each student learn in their own way, but with a familiar system that everyone is comfortable with.

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