Friday, November 09, 2012

as one might expect...

Tools in school have always been messy propositions. Doing real things means some level of chaos rather than perfect order. One of our students had gone to a local public high school for the SAT exam, and was surprised at the level of sterility. No color, no mess, no single, sign of work.

These days education seems to be heading inevitably in the direction of high tech, and yesterday I attended a seminar on the use of laptops in school. The presenter, who seemed quite full of himself throughout his presentation (a little bit of ego goes a long ways) left as his final point, "case closed." Just as one who protests too much, his decision was that anyone arguing against the application of high tech devices in schools has already lost the case. But in my view, that is true, not because we should not and cannot justifiably be questioning the utility of such devices, but because the overall thrust of educational development and the movement of market acceptance of these devices is overwhelming the voices that raise other very serious concerns.

Now I am in another session, live blogging for the first time in my life. So far this one is about how to find stuff on the web to help with the development of STEM programs. Here's one...Check and another and another... How about ? digital systems library? Career cruising? have you heard of it. Try google. A last site for upper school:

At this point, my live blogging will end. TMI to keep up with. I was hoping for strategies for finding local resources... But hey, here's one that can help to connect local resources: National Lab network

Update: Our keynote speaker at lunch today was Daniel Pink, an author whom I've mentioned before in the blog... His book Drive, investigates human motivation and dispels the mythology of the relationship between monetary rewards vs. the kinds of intrinsic rewards sought by artists. One study he mentioned showed how artist's works were more inspired when they came from the personal motivation of the artist rather than  made in response to commissions paid for by others. The same intrinsic motivation can be at the heart of every learning endeavor, and my thoughts were very much on the learning model presented by David Henry Feldman, the child as craftsman, which I have mentioned so many times before in the blog. Pink's presentation reminded us of how very close we at Clear Spring School are to doing things right.

I await my turn to set up in the conference room assigned to my presentation. I will be flying home tomorrow in a plane piloted by a former student.

Make, fix and create...


  1. My son likes computers, not for gaming but for making websites and writing code. When he was 12 he was having a conversation with the man in charge of computers for the Minneapolis schools. Afterward the fellow told me the hardest part of teaching computer usage in schools was finding teachers that knew more than the kids! The biggest thing you can do to educate kids is to enable them to do what they are interested in, feed the fire, don't damp it down. Before a child goes to school at 5 or 6 years of age his parents have taught him to dress himself, use the toilet, feed himself, walk, and speak a language. If his parents read to him he can read as well and probably do simple math, all outside of a classroom, just hands on learning.

  2. Alex Slocum at MIT says that computers are great if kids are allowed full rights to exercise them. Break them if necessary to understand them. Break the code, break the machine if necessary. A presenter this morning said that the problem he found with the iPad was that there was no way to get it to do anything that wasn't entertainment framed by others.

    Too often the concept STEM stands for Scripted, Technology, Engineering and math. Science required breaking things down and requires personal investigation.

  3. Doug, I am coming to the view that computers might be banned from schools before a certain age, however I guess you are right - the horse bolted some time ago.

    One point, is this true - "artist's works were more inspired when they came from the personal motivation of the artist rather than made in response to commissions paid for by others". Renaissance artists probably only did commission work in most cases; and perhaps inspiration is strongest when overcoming external constraints. Think of the great b&w films that came out of Eastern Europe in the 50's and 60s period of repression.

    Thanks for your thoughtful blogging. With grandchildren approaching school age I am becoming more interested than I think I was with my own kids in what will happen to them in the "system".

  4. Peter,
    We are so strongly conditioned at this point to assume that all new technologies are beneficial for learning, that yes, the horses are all out of the barn. Only the wisest parents and grandparents will set limits on computer use and engage children in more creative tool use.

    Researchers found that non-commissioned work was more creative, more artistic, but not necessarily of lower technical quality than commissioned work. Who knows where the great masters of art fit in. I have found that the creative quality of commissioned work in my own case depends on who is doing the commissioning. Some of my patrons have given me the license to be my best, and have contributed strongly to the creative, collaborative aspect of the work.

  5. Interesting ideas about an artist's, or craftsman's, inspiration versus commissioned work. I was just approached to do some interior woodwork on a sailboat, and even though it would be an interesting technical challenge to work with all sorts of curves in wood, it's not the same as being in my shop and thinking through what I'm going to do with the last piece of burled walnut left in the rack.