Tag Archives: creativity

Schools can no longer provide students with a complete toolkit for their futures

Schools and unis can no longer provide students with the complete toolkit for their futures; now it’s about equipping them with skills to be lifelong learners.

Our students need self confidence, adaptability, and strong values

School’s task to develop people as successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.

Knowledge remains vital but it’s not enough. Success depends on deep understanding and having the skills to turn knowledge to useful effect. Deep learning and the development of skills is important.

The curriculum should not be a catalogue of content – things to be learned. Students should be building networks and developing collaboration.

Deep learning and development of skills are critically important.

In the modern world, the evidence needs to be increasingly in advanced transferable cognitive skill – critical thinking, problem solving and creativity.

There is a new emphasis on learner engagement. There is the idea that the learner has to take responsibility for his/her own decisions and has to be involved in his/her progress.

All learning has to become more ambitious. We have our new mission statements. We share the objectives but nobody has yet made the breakthrough to real 21st century practice.

When will we stop talking about this and start taking apart an outdated, irrelevant system?

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We are not where we need to be for what we want to happen

Still following the mental thread from my last post. I’m feeling restless in my professional position at the moment, a mini crisis which is usually a part of preventing stagnation and breaking through to a better flow. I’m not sure if I can adequately explain it (feeling unwell) so what I’ll do instead is share talks and articles which have resonated.

First off, I revisited Charles Leadbeater’s old TED talk. This article reminded me of this.

And Charles’ more recent TED talk. The man can talk. If only I could communicate so well.

The piece by Richard Elmore has a standout phrase for me which is that ‘a progressive dissociation between learning and schooling’. This is very disturbing, particularly if you believe it. It makes me question everything we do in school. It makes me think that whatever assessment we have for teaching is ineffective. Do our compulsory self-evaluations for renewed registration mean anything? Isn’t it relatively easy to justify what we do using the relevant terminology? Isn’t it really about the students? When are we going to assess our teaching based on what our students really need in life? I can’t recall that conversation in any staff meeting or curriculum day program.

A ship in the harbour is safe but that’s not what ships are for – photo by Joel Robinson

You might think I’m being negative but I’m just breaking things up a little, thinking about what I could do, in my free space as teacher librarian, unfettered by marking and curriculum guidelines, to create wonderful, surprising, fun learning opportunities. Anyone join me?

I leave you with this.

Wait, another one. Many voices and much sense here.

 

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Are we Copyright Cops?

I saw this film on Tom Barrett’s blog post. It’s a powerful film about young people’s behaviour on the web and the extreme reaction of the law as they succumb to ‘stealing’ that which is to easy to take.

Not so long ago information wasn’t as accessible and tantalising as it is now. You only had one identity (unless you were a celebrity). Now people, predominantly young people, enjoy and possibly cultivate an online identity which may or may not be identical to their face-to-face identity. They enjoy audience most of the time through mobile technologies. Even when their blog posts claim that they are alone in their despair and will not be heard by anyone, they are generally enjoying the thought of being ‘read’ by their ‘friends’.

It’s an exciting time with the possibility of connecting with so many instantly, the possibility of finding so much information, viewing and copying so many images, so much music. It can be a confusing time, not knowing if something is true (as sometimes occurs with news on Twitter) or if it has been played with.

As educators we should try to understand the online existence from the inside, and from that perspective proceed with instruction and guidance so that young people approach that part of their life as wisely as we would hope they approach any part of their life. We should not overdramatise, not use fear-mongering, not pull them back. There is so much to be enjoyed, so much creativity possible. This needs to be tempered by an informed knowledge of how to use and share information, images and music responsibly and legally. So much is shared through Creative Commons, and it is a very good idea to attribute everything; it’s just manners.

I like the fact that this film is open source, and that it encourages people to remix and take a personal spin on what’s available.

It’s an exciting time. Let’s be open to it, be informed and respectful of each other. As educators let’s support young people in a world that doesn’t stand still, let’s not police them inappropriately.

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Filed under Copyright, creativity, networking

Music apps – a music teacher’s perspective

As I’ve already mentioned before, I’m in the process of investigating iPad apps for learning enhancement in the classroom. A few weeks ago a colleague and brilliant music educator, Stuart Collidge,  joined me in a meeting with our Deputy Principal (Curriculum) and a few other leaders in the school, to put forward a case for the use of iPads in the school, specifically for learning enhancement. I asked Stuart to write up how he sees the use of the iPad in the music classroom.

Recently, Tania asked me to speak with some of the decision-making powers that be at school to pitch the use of iPads as learning tools.  This was something that Tania and I had reflected on a little and saw some potential in so I was more than happy to make the pitch.  After borrowing Tania’s iPad to have a play on (I am not yet one of the iPad collective L), I worked my way through a few possible applications and uses.  It was also very useful to troll through Google and look at the ways that other music educators are using these beasts.

Being a laptop school, it was important to differentiate the potential of these units from the laptops that are already in the hands of the students. For a school with no laptop program, I imagine that a class set of these would be AWESOME for a whole raft of areas of study, but being outside my brief, I didn’t focus too much on it.

My impression initially (and once we are up and running with a program, I’ll report on the accuracy of those impressions) was that this device would be awesome for me on two levels: as a music/education professional, and as a performer.  I can also see how students could use these devices in the same way.

As a performer, the iPad is now a very comprehensive musical instrument. In fact, several instruments all in one.  There seem to be two different approaches to performance apps.  The first way is to use the device as a synthesiser. There are several things that already do that, but the advantage of the iPad is in the interface which can encourage different approaches to composing and performing.  If you sit down at a conventional keyboard, the notes are laid out in a particular way and we are trained to approach the keyboard in that particular way (unless you are into avant garde composition).  A lot of music is constructed around  melodies and chords that “fit under the fingers”.  Take a look at a synth like Musix.  The layout of the octaves and notes allows us a melodic freedom and an opportunity to audition sounds that are harder to achieve on a conventional piano.  I imagine that you can find many other synths that encourage alternative approaches to melody making.

There is also a variety of apps that are much like a hardware synth allowing you access to oscillators, LFOs, filters, etc. You can also use the iPad to drive Digital Audio Workstations for tracks or DJing live.  Ableton seems to be the best suited to creating and manipulating arrangements in a live situation.  And for patching your iPad into your amp/PA/recording rig, try this: https://www.alesis.com/iodock.

All of this means that with a few apps and some time, students can generate performance material  in a variety of different ways to suit a particular idea or project and allows for a greater degree of creativity and freedom.

As a music professional, I am most interested in using the iPad as music stand. I have spoken with people that do this and received mixed reviews, but I feel that this is where music reading should be going.  An iPad could contain an entire library of sheet music in PDF format (solo music, ensemble parts, method books, scores, backing tracks) and would be fantastic to use in performance or rehearsal.  No longer need to worry about losing original parts, remembering pencils (the software stores any annotations made), or sorting through libraries of stuff (although the logistics of scanning everything might be headache enough, until publishers are in selling more of their material in that format).  Imagine being able to transpose a score instantly into a new key (to my way of thinking, the only way for us to be rid of the archaic institution of transposing instruments).

Of course, it already has a variety of apps that are useful (and which I use on my iPhone) like chromatic tuners, tone generators, metronomes, DMX dipswitch calculators, remote control for lighting desks, decibel meter, power load calculators, chord finders, etc.

All this in a device the size of a small text book!

I am very much looking forward to putting my hands on a unit that I can stock it up with goodies!

Stuart Collidge

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Filed under 21st century learning, teaching, technology

Focus on national tests robs children of true learning

Richard Gill says it well and with the passion of a man for whom educational change is not just a pedagogical exercise. My younger son, a VCASS music student, has had the absolute pleasure and privilege of working with Richard on a performance of Dido and Aeneas, as well as during recent MYM Summer School.  Richard’s love of music and dedication to excellence in music education was obvious – my son would come home glowing, impassioned and totally connected to the the process of learning within the musical work. He was reflective, evaluative and lucid in ways I hadn’t observed before.

Before the MYM concert – presented as a transparent workshop – Richard Gill spoke passionately about the importance of music education, and the need for people to speak up collectively so that excellence in Arts teaching would not be compromised in Australia. In the following article, his message is loud and clear – the obsession and complete focus on our current testing in schools is robbing our young people of true learning – learning which develops and nurtures creativity, originality and imaginative thinking. I absolutely agree.

Read the article and judge for yourselves.

Wake up, Australia, or we’ll have a nation of unimaginative robots.

School is back and it is a matter of regrettable fact that large numbers of children in state and independent schools will be subjected to a style of teaching directed exclusively to producing satisfactory results in national literacy and numeracy tests and consequently scoring high ratings with My School.

I want to make my stance very clear from the outset: NAPLAN tests and My School have nothing to do with the education of a child. This abhorrent and insidious method of assessing children, teachers and their schools needs to stop now. Principals, teachers and parents need to stand up and be counted and resist this unnatural activity, which only succeeds in turning education into some sort of cheap competition in which the last consideration seems to be the mind of the child.

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Screaming the words literacy and numeracy from Canberra does not constitute having an educational policy. In fact, the race to become the most literate and numerate schools with the best rankings nationally is exacting a terrible price.

Evidence is now available that schools all over the country are cutting back on arts education to devote more time to subjects that will make children literate. It can be demonstrably proven that activities used in teaching for the national tests destroy individuality, stifle creativity, stultify thought and make all children respond in the same way – a sort of educational circus in which the children are the trained animals and the teachers the poorly paid ringmasters.

The very things that promote literacy and numeracy are the arts, beginning with serious arts education in the early years. If we want a creative nation, an imaginative nation, a thinking nation and a nation of individuals, then we must increase the time for arts education, especially music education. If we want a nation of non-imaginative robots who can do tests, then we are well on the way to achieving that condition.

Parents need to know that it is through participation in arts subjects that the mind, imagination, spirit and soul of a child are stimulated. Through this stimulation comes a bonus in all other areas of learning.

Music, for example, when it is properly taught, requires an extraordinarily high level of listening and concentration from the student. It requires the student to have a capacity to work in the abstract, an ability to work across several skill areas simultaneously and the ability to rationalise this verbally.

Children’s involvement in musical activity has a profound effect on the development of the child’s general learning. It is now proven beyond doubt that children who are engaged in arts activities, especially music, have advantages in all areas of learning. The research is in, proven and beyond doubt. Why, then, with the evidence so overwhelmingly supporting children’s involvement in arts education, would schools decide to reduce teaching time in these important fields?

In supporting statements of this nature, let’s examine one school in Victoria, the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, where senior students spend half a week on the academic curriculum and half a week on their chosen arts discipline. Each year the students from this school seem to do extraordinarily well at the year 12 examinations in spite of only spending half the time on academic work.

How can this be? My view is that they are highly motivated children who have, early in their lives, encountered enlightened parenting and teaching and are motivated to work hard in all disciplines in an environment that promotes creativity, imaginative thinking and individuality. In short, most of them have had early, prior opportunities.

All children in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark seem to have such opportunities; why can’t all Australian children? By ignoring arts education we say to our children: ”You are too stupid to have good education in the arts – your brains will never cope with intense learning in music, for example, so we will only do the bare minimum with you in any arts education and really concentrate on getting you through your NAPLAN tests.”

Wake up, Australia, before it’s too late. Teachers, parents and children need to let governments know that we are heading into a cultural and educational crisis unless we address these issues now.

Richard Gill is the music director of Victorian Opera.

Article in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday 9 February 2011.

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Filed under creativity, Education, learning, music, teaching

Holiday bloggy sluggishness. But wait! something… mathematical?

Apologies for my rare postings of late  to those who still take an occasional peek into this blog  – although I doubt the existence of these people very much because there has been an unmistakable lapse in eventful posting. This is due mainly to school holidays and family things, not all pleasant. Nevertheless, here I am, and even if nobody is here to witness my thoughts falling into this post, I will proceed undeterred because I haven’t got anything better to do. OR, I actually have something interesting to share with you.

Today a Facebook link shared by my dear online friend and PLP colleague, Hiram Cuevas (@cuevash on Twitter), gave me the pleasure of discovering a rare talent, Vi Hart, who is obviously a very gifted young lady. Vi is as passionate about maths as she is about music, art and other things.  Her website made my jaw drop. Often I’m astounded by how much of value very young people have achieved in their short lives; how much more do they have to offer.

Here’s the first video that caught my attention. Let me know what you think.

I love the doodling videos; here’s another one

What did you think?

I haven’t explored everything in Vi’s site but the music boxes are fascinating.

The balloon page looks challenging. Not sure if the average party clown would be game for these.

A little about Vi from her own website:

I like most creative activities that involve making a lot of noise, mess, or both. Aside from composing, I love improvising on various instruments, drawing, sculpting, and other methods of making things. My main hobby is mathematics, with special interests in symmetry, polyhedra, and surreal complexity. This usually manifests as collaborative research in computational geometry and other areas of theoretical computer science, or as mathematical art. I think the human brain is incredible and strange, so I have developed a great interest in dreaming and consciousness. As a result, I am a trained hypnotist and a lucid dreamer. The human body is pretty neat as well, so I enjoy dancing and judo. I always love to learn new things—variety is the food of creativity!

It would be interesting to trace Vi’s learning history to peek at the environment which supports such an intelligent, creative and unique person. I will be taking on a new role at school next year, Coordinator of Learning Enhancement, and I’m mentally hovering over different mental images of how best to support and inspire those responding to learning enhancement opportunities. All suggestions and ideas are very welcome.

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Filed under creativity, Mathematics

Copyright kills creativity and culture

Can people ever be original again?

And what kind of future do we have if we can copy and paste, download and remix almost everything but we get into trouble for it?

I came across a very interesting documentary in a blog post on Brain Pickings. It’s 24 minutes long but well worth watching.

a new documentary from Yale Law & Technology, offering 24 densely compelling minutes of insight into various facets of intellectual property in the age of remix. From appropriation to sampling to creative influence to reuse, the film is an anthology of conversations with some of today’s most notable remix artists and media theorists, exposing the central paradox of contemporary copyright law: How can something originally intended to incentivize people to create serve to hinder new forms of creativity?

Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “Walking on Eggshells: Borrowing Cultu…“, posted with vodpod

I’ve pulled out some of the ideas in the video which resounded with me –

  • You’re only aware of a portion of your influences at a time. Things work through you; you’re not always in control, and when you create something, it’s in the world and others can use it.
  • everything is cannibalising itself, eating itself (interesting way of putting it)
  • postmodernism is the end of everythingL meaning collapses under the weight of too many perspectives. With the internet, everything happens faster and faster. You’re not living in a real way, you’re experiencing references.
  • music is every tune you’ve ever heard pulled out and mixed together.
  • Remixing is like using the remote control, flipping through stuff. Remixing is like flipping through culture.
  • Look at all the references in Bugs Bunny; we always knew there were references even if we didn’t fully get them.
  • If copyright was applied to Bach, Beethoven, etc. they’d all be in trouble.
  • Now, in the recording age, music is not to be made – it’s to be consumed.

Here’s an interesting discussion of the emerging remix culture with Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, acclaimed street artist Shepard Fairey, whose iconic Obama “HOPE” poster was recently acquired by the National Portrait Gallery, and cultural historian Steven Johnson, whose new book, “The Invention of Air,” argues that remix culture has deep roots in the Enlightenment and among the American founding fathers.

We have so much rethinking to do. It often seems that our thinking got stuck in the nineteenth century. Social media has enabled access, sharing and remixing of so much, surely we need to think of possibilities and not restrictions.

We can’t invent new colours, but we can work with a varied palette to create our own vision.


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