Saturday, November 3, 2007

New Educational Paradigm Is Hard to Understand When Seen Through Lens of the Old

From: eSchool News
"T+L's message to educators: Aim High
Acrobats, astronauts inspire attendees of NSBA's annual technology conference to innovate and take risks "
"... educators attending the National School Boards Association's 2007 T+L conference were urged to inspire and be inspired. The annual ed-tech conference took place Oct. 17-19 in Nashville, Tenn... In total, there were some 200 exhibitor booths, 1,800 participants, and two unusual choices for keynote speakers at an ed-tech event: the creative mastermind behind Cirque du Soleil and the founder of commercial space travel...that was exactly the point conference organizers were making--to think outside the box and use new ways to encourage the kind of innovation that is needed for 21st-century success...

The opening speaker was Lyn Heward, Cirque's former president of creative content, who stood in front of a giant screen that featured whirling acrobats. Day two's speaker, Peter Diamandis, the brains behind the X Prize Foundation, later stood in front of the same giant screen--only instead of professional acrobats, teachers and students tumbled and cavorted in zero gravity.

"This isn't just about managing people, it's about knowing how to inspire, how to stimulate, and how to achieve results," explained Heward. Though she was referring to her own responsibilities as a circus director, she also was describing many key traits that educators, too, need to reach their goals.

To be a good leader (and educator), Heward said, one must apply creativity to everyday tasks... Cirque not only inspires its members but builds a team around multiple, well-rounded skills. Diamandis and his foundation have managed, after eleven and a half years of work, to convince the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow specially engineered planes, called Zero Gs, to carry commercial passengers--and this year, 400 were teachers.

Teachers say they come back from Zero G and their students view them as heroes," "It builds interest in science. Those teachers who have gone have managed to raise science assessment scores in their classes by as much as 20 percent...."
Read the full article at:

Can educators be inspired to aim high and think out of the box, and still reflexively evaluate the quality and impact of that new thinking in terms of assessment scores??? Surely Zero Gs and the application of creativity to the entire enterprise of Education must yield something loftier than that!

If one understands the institution of schooling as a socio-intellectual eco system, one comes to see that generation after generation of compulsory eductation students haved "survived" in the envrionment of school based on innate attitudes and abilities that have permitted them to thrive there. More than a hundred years down the road of mass public schooling now, this environment has weeded out (as future shapers of that environment) those who aren't compliant, passive, and endowed with a predeliction for text and ordered talk. Those who know how to spit back the expected answers, behave in a manner that supports the perceived efficacy of those in charge, and who do NOT challenge the intellectual status quo too profoundly work their way toward the top of this food chain. In a Darwinian sense, those who thrive in school, go on to run school, and downstream the result is a cohort of ex-alpha students running them that is at this point virtually incapable of conceiving even the need to change the environment that produced it, let alone actually engaging in thinking that would alter it fundamentally.

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