During the roughly 25 years of my teaching life, I’ve never thought so much about teaching and what it ought to be like, how it ought to change, and what I myself could – and can – contribute as in the past couple of months. Why? Because of Twitter and embedded videos and streamed discussions on the Internet.
Do I have time to write this blog post? Not really (so I’ll keep it short). But I somehow feel it’s necessary. I didn’t have time to watch the videos and communicate via Twitter and blog entries or comments either. It’s something I do in addition to everything else because I find it fascinating and important.
Not all of my Twitter contacts are teachers or teaching experts, but the percentage is rather high. And there are lots of links recommended every day, most of them full of intelligent and inspiring content. Let me give a couple of examples.
1. Sir Ken Robinson’s famous speech at the TED conference: Schools kill creativity (Feb. 2006)
Why don’t we get the best out of people? Sir Ken Robinson argues that it’s because we’ve been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies — far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity — are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences. “We are educating people out of their creativity,” Robinson says. It’s a message with deep resonance. Robinson’s TEDTalk has been distributed widely around the Web since its release in June 2006. The most popular words framing blog posts on his talk? “Everyone should watch this.”
A visionary cultural leader, Sir Ken led the British government’s 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education, a massive inquiry into the significance of creativity in the educational system and the economy, and was knighted in 2003 for his achievements. His latest book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, a deep look at human creativity and education, was published in January 2009.
2. “We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For” (Oct. 2009) – this is both a DVD and an inspiring website; there are even some clips on the Internet that aren’t on the DVD – so keep clicking on everything at this website, there are many short clips from the DVD and beyond. What is impressive about this project – apart from its serious and profound contents – is that this is a real movie about what is wrong with education and what ought to change, with very good picture quality and professionally done all around.
The world is changing rapidly – but our education system is not keeping pace. This landmark independent documentary, inspired and guided by Lord Puttnam and Sir Michael Barber, explores the education system in the UK and asks whether the current system provides young people with the opportunity to develop their talents.
High-profile figures who share their personal experiences include Sir Richard Branson, Germaine Greer, Henry Winkler, Bill Bryson and Sir Ken Robinson. This thought-provoking film offers unique insight across generations and nations, and reveals a very inconvenient truth about education.
3. Chris Lehmann’s speech (April 2010) about the power of social media to change education, at a conference on the effects of the real-time Internet on both business and “we” the people – named after the number of characters allowed in one tweet: 140Conf, short for “140 Characters Conference”, organized by Jeff Pulver. You can ignore Pulver’s introduction (roughly the first two minutes), but Lehmann’s 20-minute speech, delivered in 10 minutes, is really something to watch and enjoy. Chris Lehmann’s blog, where this video is hosted, has a great title, too: “Practical Theory: A View from the Classroom”.
For those who aren’t native speakers of English (and Chris Lehmann does speak very quickly here) – and in order to show what statements I found quotable (among a couple of others) – I’ll list a few here:
“Teachers all over the world know they have to change, they know there’s something wrong but they don’t know how to fix it.”
“Kids can do so much more today … publish, be really authentic voices, and yet none of that matters unless it shows up on a test.”
“What we can do today (in education) and what we’re being asked to do is in total disconnect.”
“What’s going on in our schools right now is not education but training.”
“What we especially need in this world is people who can think.”
“We need to teach kids to create, to research, to collaborate, to present and to network.”
“Schools must be caring institutions. We teach kids, not subjects.”
“What if we dared kids to think that school wasn’t preparation for real life, but it *was* real life?”
“We’re teaching wisdom.”
So what is all of this doing to me?
Well, first of all I get a new sense of how important a teacher’s job really is. Secondly, I’m newly aware of what responsibility I owe to the people I teach. And thirdly, I think I’m slowly changing my teaching – I look for more opportunities now where pupils might bring their creativity into the classroom, where the computer room might be used in a meaningful way, how interaction within the class and between classes might be helpful – not forgetting, at the same time, what has been useful and effective so far. And so on. Slowly. But there is no other way, I think.
(Comments welcome in English and German – as you like it.)