Friday, January 14, 2011

Thinking About 21st C Learning

The amazing things we can know more about in our technology-enhanced teaching and learning environment via email, TED, tweets, and feeds compell the inquiring mind.  Thanks to the gleaners whose deep inquiries and reflections have brought me to this body of work and this platform from which to expound my views on the value of a real and liberal education for young British Columbians:

TL Extraordinaire Mark Roberts sent me an article by George Petsko, noted American structural biologist, in defence of teaching and learning in the Arts and Humanities. Here is a blog post that links to everything you need to know about this amazing "mind" who surely must drink coffee ... follow the link to Petsko's letter to the President of UAlbany.  The letter uses a humanistic lens to deliver a masterful, elegant, powerful, yet humourous cautionary statement about the eroded capacity of science and global politics when these are severed, as in the President's "Faustian bargain," from the Humanities.  See also Petsko's 4-minute TED talk (2008) about the impact of the pending epidemic of neurologic disease on society. 

Sir Ken Robinson's youtube response yesterday to a TwitterQ8 [#askSKR] about creativity in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines makes exactly the same point in K-12 terms ... it is a catastrophe that, during times of economic recession, the Arts suffer and the real purpose of education is defined by the economic imperative and described as a focus on Math and Science. 

Snipped out of Linda Hof's Webbits for today is this article from The Guardian, "Get Creative in School With Digital Media" (Julie Nightingale, Jan 11, 2011):  The highly valued skill of creativity is increasingly scarce among job applicants. But it needn't be if more schools promote creative media technology across the curriculum.

This week's Globe & Mail editorial comment by  Jeffrey Simpson, "The good, the bad, and the ugly education facts," (Jan 12, 2011) discusses Canada's PISA results, notes the relative success, but identifies the declining results as a problem; Simpson offers the following commentary:
Canada spends more on health care than on all levels of education combined. And it’s education, not health care, that will light a path to a more productive future. As Canada ages, however, the public pressure to spend even more on health and less on education will intensify. The consequences of that shift for a more productive future are bad, and will get worse.
And for us in schools, consider carefully the directions we will pursue for 21st Century learning and ask the critical questions:  when are economic arguments for cost-efficiencies, down-sizing, and a skilled workforce as the impetus for educational change enacted at the expense of our children's quality of life?  How do we break down the silos that segment our work in secondary schools and take a stand that we are stronger when all parts work to shape the whole child who becomes the whole adult whose life and work must carry on where those like Petsko leave off?  How do we add value to the Arts and Humanities as they are essential to understandings in life as well as the sciences, such that any re-visioning of learning in our schools is framed only on such a broad and firm foundation?  How do we argue, in this political and economic climate, for continued and sustained investment in  education with the increased needs for investment in health care?  After all, aren't our children entitled to the same full 13-year educational package which encouraged the aging baby-boomers, with educator support, to discover and explore a wide range of human learning experiences until graduation?  Let's stand and be counted as opposed strongly to anything that proposes to strip young British Columbians of their full entitlement to the rich range of opportunities for learning in our real schools.  See this as short-sightedness and as short-term savings, with the potential for long-term loss -- or in Robinson's terms, catastrophe. 

Make sure you have a cup of coffee when you do this reading.  (If you followed Petsko's TED talk, you will agree this is important.)  The binary terms that pit the education of the young against the health of the aging would suggest that a healthy school system would invest in simply keeping more senior teachers' caffeine levels up, training barristas, and perhaps including coffee as a retirement benefit and incentive, kind of like Starbucks does with its employees.  Perhaps, now that there is no junk food allowed, we should be offering coffee to our students along with this healthy education as a preventitive offset to their later neurologic detrioration to enable us now to continue to invest in their education. 

What's this got to do with libraries?  It's amazing what we librarians come across in a day of research, don't you think?  It`s important to make and build on connections.  There need to be those whose critical questions keep them searching for the relationship between real and important goals and questionable means.  People need time and space to read and reflect.  Some libraries serve coffee and ponder barrista training.  

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