Monday, November 23, 2009

Creativity vs. NCLB

Although this is just one person's point of view, I consider this to be the ever-present battle in education: our responsibility as educators to foster creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills vs. the mandate to make sure students have sufficient technical math and reading skills, as told to us by legislature. Another sprinkle added into the mix is the omni-present and growing nature of technology...and how to utilize these tools to teach students what they need to know and open doors for creative outlet.

Everyone universally agrees that students need be proficient in reading, math, and writing. The problem is, schools can get so bogged down with mandates (and looming threats of lost funding) that curriculum can lean towards lower-level, rote thinking drill and practice. Typically, creative, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills lose out in this battle. On top of that, programs like the arts and physical education lose out, taking away an opportunity for countless students to grow and show some of their amazing skills.

Sir Ken Robinson talked about this a few years back, during a TED Talks seminar, and he returned to the topic again recently in this article.

How can we as educators use all of the technology and resources around us to help students become creative, critical thinkers in the 21st century? For every 1/2 point gain on a standardized test, what are we losing on the other end? How can we best prepare out students to prosper and solve tomorrow's problems? These are questions that I always have, and hopefully they are questions we can work towards answering while we find more places for creativity in our schools.

Conferences & Workshops

The busy time of year is back! Holidays, workshops, conferences and grading...just to name a few. It's an exciting time, and typically this is a stretch of 5-6 weeks that goes by pretty quickly. It has been interesting to reflect on the first quarter of the year and seeing how so many of the students have grown into responsible, self-sufficient middle schoolers; while at the same time having quite a few students struggle with the new demands.

Conferences began last Thursday, with a pretty good turnout from parents. The night was steady, but certainly not busy. I am hoping to see more parents today and tomorrow morning, to at least meet people, put faces to names, and celebrate many successes.

This morning we have the first part of our fall workshops, and we are meeting with our Communities of Practice. My CoP this year is focused on integrating technology into the classroom, and it has been fun and rewarding to learn many new ways to do just that. Even this morning, I just created my first - albeit very amatuer - Scratch project. Even though the students have the week off, there's a lot of learning going on...