I recently attended the annual NAIS conference in Boston. I worked with two other strong, confident, and thoughtful women leaders from school’s in California to present a 3-hour workshop on leadership and the work of the a division head. Take a look at what one of the attendees had to say as she responded to our workshop highlights:
One of the speakers at the NAIS Annual Conference was Sunni Brown, champion of doodling as a valued form of thinking – both process thinking and representative thinking. She spoke about visual literacy. As a long-time doodler myself (literally decades of fostering…and sometimes hiding or resisting…this habit) I wanted to scream and jump and applaud her for shedding light on how important visual representation is. Think about your students who doodle and consider thinking innovatively about how to channel their need to put pen to paper and produce a picture towards learning…instead of trying to shut them down. Can joy around visual representation produce greater focus, investment, and engagement in learning? I believe it can! Enjoy these thought-provoking resources from Sunni:
New York Times: Uncovering an Enigma Wrapped in a Doodle
TED Talk: Doodlers, Unite!
“We need to prepare students for their future, not our past.” – Daniel Pink
Daniel Pink’s oft-repeated words serve as a constant reminder of our work as educators and parents. This video states:
“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist…using technologies that haven’t been invented in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”
It is our role to provide children with skill sets that go beyond information – skill sets that are transferable and can be relied on for whatever challenges, problems, and careers lie ahead in their future. As parents and educators partner in this quest – here are a couple useful resources. The first is a small booklet titled 101.3 Ways to Build Creativity. Within you’ll find numerous creativity, construction-based, collaboration-requiring activities that may prove useful in your work with students. Some samples:
- Place a yardstick across six people’s index fingers parallel to the floor. Try and lower the stick to the floor, you will be surprised how difficult it is!
- Create a tabletop game for two people using a pin pong ball, paper clips, and tape. Define the rules and scoring and how to wine the game.
- Make a device that can place a penny in a cup without allowing any team member to be within 30 inches of the cup. You may use popsicle sticks, paper cups, string, tape, straws, spaghetti, and marshmallows in your solution. See how many pennies can be put in the cup in two minutes.
- And 98.3 more!
The second resource is an article from the latest issue of Independent School magazine titled Education for Innovation: Teaching Children How to Change the World. The authors write,
“Students need to feel empowered to go out into the world and solve its problems. In essence, we want to figure out how to produce future innovators.”
The article highlights some key qualities that characterize innovation. Qualities of innovation are nurtured not just through STEAM activities, but throughout the large and small moments of children’s days and in many of the things you do with your students/children. Innovation is a habit of mind, not a discrete set of facts that can be memorized. It is a muscle, and as such must be worked and practiced to be strengthened and honed for the work that lies in both the near and long term. The article references Google Vice President Susan Wojciciki’s eight pillars of innovation, the conditions which need to be present for innovation to flourish and thrive:
Have a mission that matters: “If we want our students to not only have big ideas but also to learn how to run with those ideas, we need to start talking about things that matter.”
Think big, but start small: “By seeking volunteers and not issuing a top-down mandate, we assembled a team who were not only interested in integrating creative problem solving into their lesson plans, but who also wanted to re-envision our campus culture.”
Strive for continual innovation, not instant perfection: “If we want our students to become innovators, we have to inspire them to continuously improve upon their work. That’s hard to do when so many young people are programmed to work for the highest grade possible, achieve it, and move on to the next assignment.”
Look for ideas everywhere: “If we really believe that good ideas can come from anywhere, we’ve got to be open to listening to even the smallest voices.”
Share everything: “Our goal is for the way we teach innovation to affect our entire community.”
Spark with imagination, fuel with data: “We want our students to learn to listen to their hearts and their heads in equal measure.”
Be an open platform: “Rather than protect our intellectual property, let’s layer our ideas on top of each other and see if we can produce a generation of innovators who make breakthroughs that matter.”
First graders at TPS are collaborating together to build a three-dimensional community in their classroom…and deepening their own classroom community in the process. Check out their brief story here on NAIS Inspiration Lab: http://inspirationlab.org/story/5324
How can I teach leadership skills to all my students? Read Teaching Leadership to All
How can I create a culture of inclusion in my classroom? Read In Pursuit of the Multicultural Curriculum
How can I develop my own creativity so I can model it for students? Read Embracing our Creativity
What is innovation and why does/should it matter to me and my classroom? Read The Innovation Imperative
Surely you’ve seen the Ford Focus commercials where two people are driving in the car and talking about how “and” is better than “or” (for example: sweet OR sour chick, black OR white, protect OR serve, going to a bed OR breakfast). They have a point.
As I was reading the other day in Because We Can Change The World by Maria Sapon-Shavin, I took note of how this same principal applies to the idea of being – as Pat Bassett says – schools and educators that strive to grow students who are “smart AND good”. Maria Sapon-Shavin writes:
“Educators are realizing that we need not dichotomize or choose between teaching skills and teaching students to be caring and responsible human beings. We need not sacrifice reading to teach sharing or abandon math goals in favor of teaching mutual support and help. Rather, the classroom community can be structure so that students learn reading through sharing, and work on math goals with teacher and peer support.”
We strive for excellence of skills AND excellence of heart because, as with the Ford Focus, AND is better.