TIES Keynote – Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.” The following includes excerpts of the Monday keynote from TIES. The post is a long one. The presentation was delightful.

It is impossible to predict what will truly happen next. You can anticipate the future, however, but not control it. We are living in the period of revolution – literally. A real revolution with real consequences. If we’re going to meet this revolution, we need to think collectively – many adults do not enjoy what they do, the work they do or the lives they live. They get thought he week to get to the weekend. Then, there are the people who love what they do and can’t imagine doing anything else. This is the “other climate crisis.”

This is a human crisis: the most egregious example is a 40% drop out rate from public education. (I love his attitude and commentary).  There is a problem with the system, and a big part of it is the teachers who don’t love what they do, they can be bad teachers, and they need to do something else. Thsis is a systemic issue. This system is inherently blind of each individual that passes throug: it is not designed to meet individuals, rather designed to meet the needs of the masses. Many drop outs decide that education isn’t about them: and they are right. Personalized teaching would result in a lower drop out rate.

Another example of the climate crisis is this: the highest budget item (and fastest growing) in the states’ budgets (after Medicaid) is the correctional system. Isn’t it preposterous that we will soon spend more on incarceration than on education> The current system isnt desinged for this.

There is a revolution – we need to think differently about our abilities – we need to use different strategies.  We need to get back to the basics: the talents of every student and every teacher.

He was born in Liverpool in 195, he now lives in LA (which explains his “boyish appearance”) – it is almost impossible to grasp the difference in the world, in culture from 1950 to now. TIES was founded in 1957 with a “bizarre interest in computers” In his early life, if you had a telephone, television, record player, and radio, you had the four electronic devices to have. If you have an iPPhone, you have more computing power than there was on the world in 1950, collectively. Most of the things our children have access to today are 10 years old or younger. Now, instead of praying that punch cards, we’re saying, “Come on, I have a minute” while we get impatient with waiting for Google – this level of access is unprecedented and extraordinary. Our children have grown up with this; they take it for granted the way we don’t. Secondly, all of these gadgets, it is true, whoever, they will be antiquated in a couple of years. One of the head researchers at Apple said,one of the most powerful computers on earth, have the processing power of the brain of a cricket. Even the most powerful comptuers don’t think. Airplanes don’t have opinions about flying, they just fly.

IN 10 years, computers will have the processing power of a 6 month child. At that point, we’ll cross a threshold: computers will be capable of learning. Ty will be able to rewrite their operating systems based on their experiences. (Read: The Singularity)

How many people can really live on earth? we’re approaching 9 billion people by 2050: if we all consumed what an average Rwandan, we could handle 15 billion. If we all did what North America, we could handle 1.2 billion. Our children are hheading into a world we don’t know and can’t understand but we can get them ready for it. Our education systems are obsolete, they are prepared for the 19th century.

From interviews for his book, Paul McCartney and George Harrison both hated music in school/growing up. They were told they had no musical talent.  Their teacher had 1/2 of the Beatles in his music classroom, not special talent.  Hmmm.  Elvis was not allowed into Glee club. We have to create the conditions which allow talents to shine. If you love something you do, you’ll never work again (remember the saying). Bart Conner loved the gymnasium, now he and Nadia Comaneci have their own gymnasium and hsupport the Special Olympics. His mother encouraged his natural interest, not thwarted it. We tend to divert people from their natural talents.

We should have a way to celebrate a diversity of human talent: not only that they should do nothing else, but provide a venue for exploration of special talents. The second thing is this: even though Bart’s mother supported and encouraged him, there is no way she would have known where he would go with gymnastics…We need education systems that are economically sustainable. We need to change curriculum, pedagogy, and the physical environment of schools. At the heart of it, we have to move away from the industrial model and (example of problem of industrial system = lesser value of university degree). We need to cultuvate an organic form of education. Education si an organic process (or it should be).

Death Valley had 7″ of rain in 2004. In 2005, the floor of Death Valley had flowers. It proved Death Valley is dormant, not dead. Things are waiting for the conditions to be right, then they will live. This is exactly the same way as with people and schools. If you see schools architectural drawings, they are suggesting we’re industrial, but we aren’t. We are like organisms, we need feelings, values, a feeling of belonging. Running a school is much like agriculture. There are many things to help, We need individualized learning. We need to cultivate learning. If we are to make education fit for the 21st Centiury, it needs to be personalized. We will then create a different type of world.

Miracles can happen every day: if you work in education, you’re in the miracle business.

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