Tag Archives: technology

Should teachers make their students suffer? Let’s not show them how to do it.

Scott McLeod shares this video from Michael Pershan in his post ‘A Japanese approach to Khan Academy’.  Michael raises the question: why do US students lag behind their peers in many other countries?’ It seems that the US and Australian teaching styles – showing students how to do something and then getting them to practice over and over – is not the best way to teach. The video shows a Japanese teacher giving students maths problems and leaving them to work out how to solve them. Listen to the video, it’s very interesting. So all is not well with Khan Academy for this very reason, and it’s interesting to project the possibility of Japanese educators’ version of Khan Academy. Problem solving, not practising ad nauseam according to a prescribed model, is the suggested alternative. It would obviously work with numeracy but also with literacy. If our students are disengaged in our classes, this might be one of the reasons. Don’t you think? And while we’re at it, why not give our students real world problems? How involved can they be in something that doesn’t matter to anybody.

Diane Curtis’ post about project-based learning quotes Seymour Papert on the reason why students are turned off by school:

“We teach numbers, then algebra, then calculus, then physics. Wrong!” exclaims the Massachusetts Institute of Technology mathematician, a pioneer in artificial intelligence. “Start with engineering, and from that abstract out physics, and from that abstract out ideas of calculus, and eventually separate off pure mathematics. So much better to have the first-grade kid or kindergarten kid doing engineering and leave it to the older ones to do pure mathematics than to do it the other way around.”

I know what I would prefer – being challenged with real-world problems rather than work from textbooks which are predictable and uninspiring. Recently our year 9s and 10s received iPads – as I’ve mentioned before – and sadly the focus has been on the technology rather than how teachers and students can use these mobile devices to teach and learn differently. So far it’s been more about learning how to use the iPads to do what we already do, and throwing in a couple of apps. Hmmm…. No wonder the general consensus from staff is not overly positive. My favourite aspect of one-to-one devices is the possibility of connecting with others. If iPads are mobile devices then we should be using them to reorganise the classroom or even take it outside. Why don’t we connect with others outside the classroom, perhaps globally? Sharing ideas, opinions, photos and created multimedia is surely more engaging than practising skills in a theoretical situation.

What do you think?

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Mobile learning with no limits @VITTA

The Victorian Information Technology Teacher’s Association‘s Mini Conference, A contemporary learning series: mobile learning with no limits, was held last Friday at Ringwood Secondary College, and focused on 1:1 devices, how they could be used effectively in the classroom, and how they were relevant to the Australian Curriculum. The principal of Ringwood Secondary College, Michael Phillips, Outstanding School Leadership Award Winner, delivered the keynote plenary, Synch and Swim, which centred on the theme of Leadership for Learning that keeps ahead of the wave.

Disruptive technological change is rapidly shifting the balance between traditional models of teaching and learning and those that are more blended. The factory model of learning has finally closed for business.

Directions for learning are limitless as:
• distributive technologies allow 1-to-many;
• collaborative technologies encourage many-to-many;
• personalised learning is possible through 1-to-1;and
• distributive feedback technologies promote 1-to-many or many-to-many.

All of this is possible now in every classroom in every school.

Michael’s speech was a powerful message for educators and educational leaders to stop talking about 21st century teaching and learning as if it was set in the future, and accept that the future is here and requires a radical shift in teaching practice. When Michael said, “The factory model of learning has finally closed for business”, I felt like applauding and crying simultaneously, knowing that many schools were still in denial of this fact. Still, the conference participants were testament to the willingness to listen and learn, perhaps to embrace change.

Concurrent sessions are slightly frustrating because you can’t be in more than one place at the same time. The first session I attended was run by Roland Gesthuizen, a fellow Google Certified Teacher whose long experience in presenting enabled him to lead a relaxed but dynamic session which drew participants into discussion. One of Roland’s interesting observations was that the iPad was a microwave – it’s not the same as a laptop,it doesn’t do everything, but what it does, it does well and fast. After a fertile discussion, Roland demonstrated how he used Google apps such as Moderator in his teaching, and gave a quick overview of his experience in Sydney at the Google Teacher Academy.

I enjoyed presentations by Kevork Krozian and Clare Rafferty, both from Ringwood Secondary College. I think that Ringwood S.C. would be an exciting place to teach and learn. Some sessions I missed unfortunately, including Cecilie Murray‘s 2 talks which were full to bursting, and Jenny Ashby‘s session which ran at the same time as mine. Jenny and I presented at what Jenny referred to on Twitter as ‘graveyard shift’, the last session of the day. Despite the hour, I was impressed by the attentive audience I had in my room, and grateful for the positive feedback at the end of the session. I was also privileged to have SLAV’s executive officer Catherine Ryan and VITTA’s Jo McLeay join my session. Thankyou for your support and kind words especially as I was reluctant to present – not a fan of public speaking, so much more comfortable writing a blog post. I must say, though, that I ended up enjoying the experience.

If you are interested in having a look at my iPad/iPhone apps showcase – a spectrum of apps strewn across the curriculum – you can see it as a slideshow here. After so many hours of research I’m thrilled if anyone finds my resource useful.

And it’s always fantastic to see people you know at conferences. Happily, I had the pleasure of seeing Jenny Luca (and being introduced to Megan – hope to God I’ve remembered your name correctly) and John Pearce again. The online network is brilliant for maintaining the conversation but face to face is still the best.


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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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Kids teach parents tech in their own way

This makes me laugh; I think my eldest son may have left home because of this.

It’s true that many of the ‘parent’ generation are less than expert at tech. Embarrassing, yes, and something I can completely relate to. When I did my Master of Education online, I didn’t even (dare I say it) know where the ‘on’ switch on the computer was. So the line ‘have you tried switching it off and on?’ would have not helped me one little bit.

My son was about 12 then and helped me struggle through the whole thing so that I could complete the degree. It was painful for both of us. I used to think that, once I’d logged onto the Charles Sturt University site, if I made a mistake, the people at the other end would know, and it would be embarrassing. The same as when I was a very young and I thought the people on the TV could see me. I’m not very tech-savvy.

It’s ironic  because, as my friends know, I’m connected a lot of the time (still don’t have the phone, but contemplating). My role as teacher librarian in finding and setting up the most interesting, relevant and engaging resources is made possible only by the enormous amount of time I spend online connecting with people and organisations, asking questions, joining discussions, saving it all to Diigo and Vodpod, sharing it with people.

It’s interesting to note the emerging learning styles of young people, on the whole, demonstrate an independence we never had. Connected, they find what they need to do what they want. We get on their nerves because we are helpless and think we need someone to tell us how to do something. They google, youtube, and whatever else, or even create videos to teach us, just to get us off their backs.

As educators, it would be nice if we let go of the traditional teaching/preaching approach, gave our students some credit, trust and space, and allowed them to learn actively by taking charge of the research/learning process. Instead of us teaching them, they could create teaching videos for each other. I hope to try and turn around some of the learning and teaching in the classroom this year.

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Technology brings back the village doctor

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Thanks for Gabriela Grosseck for the link to the video.

This little talk grabbed my attention.

Arna Ionescu talks about change in the delivery of health care, but she may as well be talking about change in education.
Yes, Google has an immense store of information, but how do you make the decisions as to the right course of action? Just as health care is built on a foundation that’s personal and caring, so is learning. We accept information from sources we trust, but more often from people we know and trust.
Arna mentions the nostalgia surrounding the family doctor of the past. I often think that today’s personal and professional learning networks are moving closer to the notion of the family doctor. We feel more confident asking people we know than following a Google link.
Arna also talks about using technology to channel the motivational people in our lives -technology as the enabler that allows personal and human touch to spread; technology as a conduit.


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When are students leaders and experts? Listen2Learners @ State Library of Victoria

When are students leaders and experts?

When we hand over the stage to them to play in.

When we give them more to do than listen to us.

When we trust them to be responsible and capable.

Yesterday I saw evidence of this at The State Library of Victoria’s Listen2Learners. Thirteen school teams, some collaborative, presented their learning to adults. They were articulate, intelligent, knowledgeable and impressive. The buzz in the room was palpable.

Young people may be learners today, but tomorrow they are employees, employers, citizens, CEOs and community leaders so decision makers in government, business, industry and the social arena are taking notice of how young people learn with technology.

What young people think and have to say is helping to shape decisions and inform policies.

I was impressed and excited by the showcase of what kids – many of them primary – can do given meaningful, collaborative, real-life projects and connected through technologies to learn from and with real people. My excitement was tempered by the thought of them entering secondary school, the fear that this freedom to learn would be taken away from them due to a fear of technology and the restrictive nature of a score-centred curriculum.

The groups showcased a variety of focus, approach and location. Sacred Heart School, Tasmania collaborated with Pularumpi School, Northern Territory. A student from the Tasmanian school said that the best part of the project was meeting the other students, learning about how different people and places can be in your own country. They worked in Google docs, online social networks, and used Skype to communicate and collaborate.

Students from Prospect Primary School, South Australia, became teachers when they reversed roles to show more than 70 teachers and school leaders how to produce a movie.

Their work had all the hallmarks of good teaching and learning; planning and storyboarding, brainstorming an authentic enquiry question, setting assessment criteria, modelling and coaching.

Students ran an online radio station, they demonstrated how rural schools connect for the best science education, created video games, prepared a cybersafety program for incoming primary students for orientation day, created applications to help users develop numeracy skills, used technology to learn instruments and play in online bands, designed a Multi-user Virtual Environment (MUVE), connected with students from around the world in virtual classrooms, and more.

It was extraordinary to see what these young students were capable of doing, and inspiring to witness their passion, engagement and enjoyment.

These kids really knew what they were talking about. They had to ask the hard questions throughout the process, and in many cases they had to provide written applications for a place on the team. They knew what they were talking about because they worked through the process and were engaged, not because they had listened to what they teacher had told them or studied a text. When I listened to these kids it was obvious that they had worked through the what/how/why and understood the thinking around and inside their project and process.

This was by far the most inspiring learning opportunity for me this year. And, to boot, I got the opportunity to chat with Stephen Heppell.

Read about the schools taking part in this event.

 

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Filed under 21st century learning, Collaboration, creativity, Digital citizenship, Education, network literacy, networking, Web 2.0

ACEC2010 My slant

How is it that a conference about technology, namely the ACEC 2010, the national biennial conference of the Australian Council for Computers in Education, wasn’t chiefly about technology?

That’s a good thing in case you’re wondering.

So, for me, at least, the conference was about the opportunities to meet new people, share ideas and make connections. Some of these people I hadn’t previously met, others I knew online and was happy to finally meet face to face. And the program wasn’t too bad either.

I attended one day in body and the other days virtually. Either way, I was there thanks to the gracious collaboration of participants on Twitter #acec2010 and other great places to be when you’re not there.

The theme of the conference expresses the essence of the program:

Digital Diversity conference explores interactive and creative approaches to ICT in education. Addressing diversity in styles of learning and thinking offers us new pathways for building the right knowledge and skills to adapt to constant change.

Yes, the theme of the conference is ICT, but the words ‘interactive’, ‘creative’, ‘diversity’, thinking’, ‘building’ and ‘adapt to change’ express the real focus.

The sharing has been amazing. For example, @ackygirl tweeted a link to the Twitter transcript.

Here are ACEC2010 Delicious links.

Alan November‘s plenary and workshop sessions were a highlight for me on the Wednesday.

Amongst other things, Alan spoke about authentic learning projects based in the real world, for example,  the teacher and students who built their own Wikipedia page. Listen to these students describe themselves as historians in the most serious way.

A huge thankyou to organisers of this very successful conference. Hope to see everyone again next year.

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Flattening the world with Flickr in the classroom

Photo courtesy of matthewpAU on Flickr

In his book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman says that there are certain ‘flatteners’ that promote and allow for connection, collaboration and creation via distance.  He was referring to technological applications which shrink geographical barriers and make global connections possible. This is my aim for a special project at my own school – a project which would enhance teaching and learning through ‘connection, collaboration and creation’, taking the students out of the classroom and into the world.

In 2009 I decided to take up a Flickr challenge to upload a photo every day for a year and post it to appropriate flickr groups. As a result I connected with others through interest and dialogue, and three of us –  Marie Coleman, Sinikka Laakio-Whybrow and I –  agreed that a similar project  would be an enriching experience for students. I was lucky to find a teacher who was interested in the project and who has supported it wholeheartedly.

Sinikka reflected:

‘I would really like to challenge my students to bring out their real personalities in the foreign language. I have learned over the years that Finns especially seem to suffer greatly from a sort of ‘personality reduction syndrome’ when using a foreign language. I blame our text books and language classes for this, since students hardly ever get the chance to express THEMSELVES in the target language, but are always asked to talk about external topics, or role play. Their use of the language is also far too fact-based – emotions and feelings are hardly ever touched upon’.

I think Sinikka hit the nail on the head by underlining the importance of students expressing themselves, instead of practising their writing skills using isolated topics and writing mainly for the teacher.

The learning is happening for us as teachers too. In the planning stages, we collaborated in a Google document, using Google spreadsheets and slideshow (thanks Marie!) to brainstorm and formulate our project. The geographical time differences weren’t a problem at all, and occasionally Sinikka would catch me in Google chat before going to bed if I was online early enough in the morning.

The final product is an 8 week project with a weekly assignment based on a photo and written description following a theme. The first assignment is to take a photo which ‘is not you, but represents you as a person’ – so, an introduction to initiate the sharing of personal information and interests. Although almost every student included sport and music in their introduction, there were diverse details which created interest in the group. The cultural differences were obvious conversation starters, and the similarities brought the students together through shared interests. I know that our boys, being in a single sex school, were interested in the opportunity to connect with the girls!

Photo courtesy of MorganT7.USA on Flickr

The project is quite  simple but with very rich results. The weekly themes set  diverse tasks. Some themes ask for the sharing of personal, cultural or geographic information, some encourage photographic creativity (‘Take a photo: of something you go past every day and take it from an interesting new perspective”), while others require deeper thinking and creative solutions (‘Take a photo that goes with the title or lyrics of a song’ or ‘Take a photo that somehow represents learning to you’).

We have used Flickr as a platform for this project. Flickr provides an easy way to upload photos, an automatic photostream for each student, and a profile for identification. Our group, Through global lenses, is a one-stop shop for the whole operation. It holds all the members from the three schools, allows for instructions and program, as well as storing all essential information such as netiquette, creative commons, commenting guidelines, etc. It even has email.

Challenges

Following  a weekly theme and guiding questions, students’ task is twofold. Firstly, to take their own photo – this requires thinking and reflection, creativity, individuality, and it is hoped that, as students become accustomed to the challenge, they will become more creative and try different things. Secondly, to write something which responds to the theme, answers prompt questions, and informs and entices readers.

When students view each other’s contributions, this sparks curiosity, natural questioning, and ensuing dialogue. It also brings out  a desire to do as well or to do something different. Students are not writing for the teacher, but for a peer audience, sharing generational views and tastes, and learning about cultural differences.

It really is one big conversation, with everyone getting a go, and nobody feeling they can’t get a word in. Several people can engage in dialogue under the same photo. Conversation arises from shared interests and curiosity about cultural differences. Students encourage each other and develop trust and respect for each other. The result is writing from desire instead of duty.

Differences in language are often the subject of conversation. Students ask and explain linguistic and semantic differences, for example, the first week’s photo has resulted in a discussion of the differences between American and Australian football.

Challenges for us include encouraging students to move away from ‘chat language’ and to write correctly and fluently. Despite our instructions, I’ve noticed in the early stages students reverting to their preferred chat in the comments.

Practicalities

It’s easy to keep up with who is commenting on your photo, or further conversation in photos you’ve commented on, when you visit the homepage for the group. Another useful feature is the availability of editing comments or writing. Teachers can ask students to improve or correct their writing at any time.

Reading through comments in the early stages, I can already see the conversations developing as more people enter the conversation, as questions are answered and elaborated on, and the desire to develop the dialogue becomes self motivating. This is very different to writing for your teacher which is a static exercise. Here the writing is interactive and can continue at any time.

I’ve noticed that our boys seem different in their writing and comments to the way they present themselves at school. In the comments they seem unafraid to say that something is beautiful, comment on cute dogs, and be generally more open. I guess that’s what comes with writing to a peer audience. That and writing to connect with kids like them from distant places. For these reasons I’m excited about this project which, even in its initial stages, has sparked authentic and engaged conversation, and which will no doubt develop for each student  his/her voice through images and words.

Photo courtesy of BasseFI‘s photostream on Flickr

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Filed under 21st century learning, creativity, network literacy, photos, teaching, Web 2.0, writing

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Photo courtesy of phillipsandwich on Flickr.

I don’t usually make New Year resolutions but I’m considering it. Resolutions pertaining to my role as an educator.

I’ve been spending a enormous amount of my personal time online – either reading, commenting, writing, on Flickr, Twitter, nings, my own 3 blogs, wikis (both maintaining my own and following others), a ridiculous number of groups, and trying to keep up with some of the obscenely long list of subscriptions in my Google Reader. This exercise has been the result of me jumping in, having a go, experimenting to feel for potential.

Next year is hopefully going to be different. I’d like to have more control so that I don’t feel as if I’m drowning, be more discerning and selective so that I’m not as tired or overwhelmed, and always ask ‘why am I doing this?’ and ‘is this adding value to the educational experience’.

Is this a realistic promise? I’m not sure at this point. Although I’ve really pulled back during these holidays, and I feel the benefits of this in terms of creating some headspace, I’ve also recently added Edublog winners’ urls to my rss feed. I’ve talked about not restarting a 365 photo challenge in 2010 but then joined the group EdTech 365/2010.

It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to require discipline and determination.

In terms of integrating technology into teaching and learning, I’m not going to try to change the way people think or behave. Did I really think I could change the way things operate in my school? If I did, then I was deluded. Do I think I can make a difference? You bet I do, otherwise there would be no point in me being there, or anyone else for that matter. But the difference will be in a very small way with one or two people. My resolution will be to stop spreading myself thin while my head is swivelling 360 degrees in case I miss something, and settle on less but with more depth and lots of evaluation.

I’ll make it clearer that I’m not advocating technology for its own sake, that it’s not necessarily always the best platform and, as Maria and I discovered when we taught year 7 English within a ning, it requires many more hours of teaching support and good plain discussion, and even some old-fashioned, hands-on activities, in order to make it meaningful and balanced. Our ning was never about technology, it was about connection and interaction.

On an emotional level – and I’m not sure how I’m going to do this, but it’s worth a try – I hope to take things less personally (that’ll be a first), care less about the details of things, take up fewer battles, respect difference of opinion, and understand that not everyone wants to put as much in, and that’s okay.

For anyone who reads this blog, I wish you a rich and balanced year, with new inspiration and connections with people. Since I started operating within Web 2.0 platforms for my personal and professional learning, by far the most enriching benefits have been the personal connections with people from whom I’ve learned much and with whom I”ve shared even more.

Photos courtesy of VIRGOSAMARA. Book title translates as ‘With my own eyes”.

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We all need a regular kick in the pants

Antoni-INhabit2

Janine Antoni, “Inhabit,” 2009. Courtesy of Luhring Augustine Gallery

 I agree with the Art21 blog post, Another kick in the pants, that everyone needs the occasional kick in the pants, only I think that maybe we need it regularly. Joe Fusaro says

I use Art21 for a kick in the pants from time to time, whether it’s to inspire my teaching by watching Carrie Mae Weems or to give my studio practice a jolt by listening to Kiki Smith talk about her process for making works of art. I mean, everyone needs an occasional kick in the pants, don’t you think?

Joe goes on to mention TED talks as another source of inspiration, and I have to agree with him –  TED.com and Art21 have been regular sources of inspiration for me too.

TED’s theme is Ideas worth spreading, and its mission is of epic dimensions:

…our scope has become ever broader…. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. This site, launched April 2007, is an ever-evolving work in progress.

A clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers is an amazing boast, and the reason why so many people either discover TED with joy or continue to return to its rich storehouse.

The scope of Art21 is enormous, and its themes a dream for teachers of art. The series explore such themes as compassion, consumption, ecology, fantasy, humor, identity, loss & desire, memory,paradox, place, play, power, protest, romance, spirituality, stories, structures, systems, time, and transformation. Each theme is tantalising in its scope, eg. compassion – artists explore conscience; reconcile past & present; expose injustice; express tolerance. It makes me wish that Art were compulsory, or at least, not separate from the official literacy which seems only to reside in English. A sharpening of higher order thinking skills will find no better place than the Arts (although it certainly resides in all subjects).

Every day I still find myself explaining, justifying and defending my online activity. I always point out that it’s the connections to people and ideas, information and images, which I would otherwise not discover, that keep me coming back to my laptop. It’s a breathlessly vast source of inspiration and ideas, a regular kick in the pants – pushing my thinking, challenging me, jolting me and enriching my life.

I would recommend Art21 to anyone, not just art lovers, because it provides a window into a world of ideas and creative concepts, and of course, TED.com because of its amazing array of interesting people who have a way of making complex things simply fascinating.

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