Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Doodling about Education... A Perspective from Sir Ken Robinson

Please take a moment and watch this video created by Sir Ken Robinson. He details his opinion about the current state of our education system through a very unique and engaging presentation. My brain surely was jumpstarted by some of his comments.

I know he moved a bit quickly, but take a moment and reflect on any part of the video that may have resonated with you. You may comment below or send your comment via email. (if you comment below please make sure your name is included)

If you have trouble seeing this video please click the link below and watch directly from youtube.

Sir Ken Robinson


  1. This really got my mind going about so many different things! I do agree that children these days are overmedicated and that our money driven culture has caused medical professionals to over diagnose and over prescribe ADHD medication. (it's easy for me to say this because neither of my children suffers firom attentional issues.). Still, one thing that stood out for me was that by medicating children we are anaesthetizing them and therefore reducing their excitement about learning. Instead, I do believe that we, as educators, need to find the method/approach/strategy that works best for individual students.
    Differentiating instruction makes perfect sense in a perfect world. While we all do what we can to meet the needs of all learners, our class sizes surely have a
    negative impact on our abilities to differentiate as well as we would like. As was
    stated in the video, our students are grouped together by age... Maybe it would
    be more effective to group students differently- according to ability, interest, etc.
    It is very true that our educational system was set up for a completely different
    time and purpose. How can we move forward to help our students, and
    ourselves as teachers, so that our children are prepared for the future?

  2. First - I really want to make a movie like that! ;)

    Second - "Don't look, Don't copy, That's Cheating. Outside schools that's called collaboration." I believe that collaboration is a big part of learning. Working in groups helps children in an academic sense as well as a social sense. Small groups sometimes bring children out of their shell and let them open up socially, while exploring academic topics.

    As Ken Robinson said, anywhere you go in the world, collaboration is a big part. As an undergrad, I had many, many group projects (I was a finance major.). Sometimes, I thought that it was a pain to find time to get together with random people that I hardly knew, but usually, thoughts were rolling all over the place to figure out how to accomplish the task at hand.

    Even in our careers as teachers, we continue to collaborate. We collaborate with grade level colleagues, we collaborate with different subject matter teachers, we collaborate with specialists. Collaborating in our field is necessary. And as many say, two heads are better than one.

  3. I am not quite sure what Sir Ken Robinson is suggesting here. I found it very informative, and agreed with certain points he made... but what is the solution?
    You would think that differentiated instruction would be a solution, but in more and more classrooms, it has become the norm...something that all 25 students will eventually NEED to reach their academic potential. Why has it become so difficult to teach our children? As educators, have WE become boring or is it the content? Or is it that children are so overly immersed in information through technology on a daily basis (if not hourly...or minutely) that by the time they sit in class, they have found a way to zone us out. "Why do I need to sit in class when I can just GOOGLE IT!"
    Yes, we certainly have a different and difficult situation on our hands, something that the forefathers of our education system may not have factored into the equation (we still know what an equation is, right?).

    I am a big believer in having a creative outlet, especially allowing children to nurture their artistic talents, but I think it is still so important to teach children "academics." Maybe our system of grading students, basically judging them, has created an anxiety for those who are not necessarily those types of learners.

    I think the age grouping is also very interesting, although there must be a reason for grouping children by age. Don't children develop certain abilities at different points in their life? If we start grouping children just by their interests or abilities, I think we would be depriving them of becoming well-rounded individuals.
    "Our children are living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth." ...oh, is that all we are up against?

  4. Karyn MaliszewskiApril 6, 2011 at 6:58 PM

    Wow, quite a lot to take in, in such a short amount of time. First off, and maybe I missed it but...who is this guy? Is he an educator, theorist, doctor? I know he's a "Sir," but what is his role in analyzing our educational system?

    I definitely agree with his thoughts on our education "now" (modern)can be seen as boring to this generation, when taking into account all they have surrounding them with technology and instant gratification. When I was younger, Game Boy and Nintendo were all the rave (and really the only rave). Only "the lucky ones" had it at home. As for computer games, I remember playing Jeopardy and Oregon Trail. LOL. But I don't recall it hindering me in the classroom.

    I felt it was quite interesting to entertain the idea of children being grouped by their capability, interest, etc. I wonder what the assessment process would be like to organize such a concept? It also could lead to smaller class sizes (which would be great), but wouldn't more teachers be in demand? The thought of more teachers isn'a bad thing for our kids, but probably would be a nightmare for our budget,especially knowing how things are today!

    Overall, this video definitely put a few things into perspective and left me thinking about "where do we go from here?"

  5. First I have to say that I had to listen to the video a second time without the drawings. I found them distracting from the presentation. Maybe this is what we are taking about with our students. If it is not stimulating all their senses, they are bored.

    Second as a teacher of special needs students and a parent of a child with ADHD I have mixed feelings about medication. My daughter who is a high school student says she is much more confident and able to focus when she takes her medication. I asked her if there is less of a need for medication if the assignment is collaborative or independent. She said it didn't matter, she finds the medication helpful in all situations. As we all know getting the right medication with the the proper dosage is key.

    Third, the approach he mentions sounds very much like the Montessori Method of Education. This tends to group kids by interest and abilities not just by age. Although too much emphasis on standardization may be misplaced, Concrete goals are vital.
    K. LaSalle

  6. This video was jam packed with thought provoking information. I felt a little ADD trying to follow along and wrap my brain around everything the presenter was sharing. With that said, it is always good practice to stop and evaluate what we are doing and why. Easy to say, harder to do.

    The part of the presentation that stood out the most to me was the section about how kids do not see the purpose in going to school. This statement was very sad to hear. But at the same time depressingly true.

    Society has changed. People are getting rich doing reality shows. Why would someone want to stay in school when he or she could be paid big bucks to party and get into fights? Celebrities that are controversial seem to be getting a lot of attention. Why should I toe the line, when celebrity x is being rewarded for ranting and raving? Our economy is struggling. To save money, some school districts are overlooking educators who have their masters because they cost too much to employ. What message does this convey?

    Education has opened up so many opportunities for me. It helped me find my path in life. I believe that college is not the be-all end-all and that a degree alone does not make a person successful. It takes a village to raise a child. Education is a part of that village.

  7. RSA stands for the Rhetoric Society of America a.k.a. “Smart” people talking about big things. I’ve watched a couple of the other videos from this organization and truly appreciate the freshness of the ideas and admire the way complex ideas are showcased in simple terms. This particular lecture encompasses so many aspects of education it’s hard to absorb all of the content. However, the one piece that stays with me is how our educational system was designed for the Industrial Age. It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard that the antiquity of our educational system is a problem. Unfortunately, our entire society is based on outdated and stunted forms that tend to hinder growth, change and lack the necessary flexibility to reflect the increasing complexity of modern civilization in general. Our own government’s structure is a perfect reflection of this - especially in these times.

    I don’t have the answers and I certainly lack the arrogance to think I could come up with them, however, I do know that things must change dramatically if we are to keep up with the changing world. As teachers, we need to have open minds, keep feeding our brains, and be sensitive to our students’ needs. Personally, I strongly believe that the kind of teaching we need to do, and the kind of learning the children of today need is exponentially difficult with increasing class sizes.

    It’s kind of hard to miss the correlation in our increasing dependence on technology and the rising numbers of children diagnosed with ADHD. My lessons have morphed over the years to adapt to that part of the student population and I think it’s been beneficial to all of the children to some degree. On the other hand, I haven’t lost sight of the fact that self-control is an art that most kids don’t get to practice very much anymore. This always makes me think of how Native Americans taught their children to be stone still when hunting or as a defense. I know it's an extreme example, but this physical self-control was an expected and invaluable skill that’s been lost in our culture since we don’t have to be in the woods to get our dinner anymore. That doesn't mean there aren't other reasons for such a need. The typical workplace rarely gives allowance for the ADHD mind.

    I am constantly changing ideas I’ve had about effective instruction. Most of the time, my students have been MY best teachers, but I still feel like bigger changes need to be made. If Sir Ken could come up with all of these questions I would love for someone, or several “someones”, to come up with some answers. My feeling is that the realization of the necessity for radical change on all levels is still relatively new. We need big picture thinkers to come up with solutions that will revolutionize our entire society.... and for people with the courage to follow them... like those nutty dancers in the video we saw at our staff meeting.

    One thing I do know for sure is that I’m always excited when I hear ideas that have bounced around in my head with ambiguous persistence but haven’t been able to articulate. I crave the intellectual stimulation videos like these from the RSA offer. I also hope that I will live to see the day when the world we live in finally catches up to the needs of the people in it.

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  9. This video gave me lots to think about. Some really good points were made by Sir Ken Robinson, leaving me to reflect on my own teaching style. How must I change my teaching, in order to reach this generation and generations beyond? I especially appreciated Sir Ken's view on teaching divergent thinking. I came away from this video "challenged", to figure out ways to tap into our children’s creativity. However, I did not necessarily agree with everything that Sir Ken said.

    I felt as if Ken was using propaganda and cliches to prove his point that “medicating children with ADHD was bad or wrong.” However, he left me wondering: How “valid” is his statistics? Where did he get all of his information from? Who is Sir Ken anyway? Is he an educator, an orator, or a statistician?

    Some of the information Sir Ken gave was plainly inaccurate. For example, Ritalin is not an “anesthetic.”; Rather it is a “stimulant drug”. It wakes you up rather than makes you into a zombie. The picture shown with the boy limp-as he was being injected with a needle was shown in poor taste. I mean, who gives ADHD drugs with a syringe? As Kirk mentioned, ADHD drug, administered properly with the right dosage, can be a positive solution for SOME, although NOT the correct solution for ALL children with behavioral problems. I also believe that we should not so easily give medications to children. We should always seek an alternative solution to helping children with various disorders.

    In conclusion, I felt that this video made some good points and was definitely entertaining to look at. By the same token, I think we should apply some of our own "divergent thinking" to many of Sir Ken's "opinions".

  10. Whew! After watching that video, I have a few random ideas. (Uh Oh! Is ADD setting in?)

    Was he saying all of these ideas so quickly so that it would mimic how we are bombarded by so much information all the time?

    Also, even though our current educational system was established hundreds of years ago, there are still many important elements. One of those is that a public education is a right of every child in our country. We can't lose sight of how revolutionary that was and how essential it is to our democracy.

    He stated that one reason our educational system was set up was to prepare people to participate in the economy of our country. Isn't it ironic that during a time of a weaker economy, funding for education is being cut?

    One thing that I worry about is that we are stunting the growth of creative thinkers though standardized testing. Why are "reformers" so caught up in high test scores that reward those able to think of "the" right answer when what we really need are divergent and creative thinkers to solve so many of the problems we face today.

    Now after watching the video and posting my comment, I need some time to reflect. How can we give our students and ourselves time for this in our hectic, pressurized school environments?

  11. Sir Ken Robinson does an impressive job compacting his opinion about the current state of our education system. Within an 11 minute presentation Sir Ken Robinson explores the history of education, presents realities, and outlines “what to do’s” for the future.

    Samanthaa Lennon
    I appreciate Sir Ken Robinson’s mention of the Enlightenment view of education and the practice within this time period of grouping students as “smart” and “non-smart”. This practice in education is very really, this over used practice (during the Enlightenment time period to present) pigeon holes students into categories. Categories are dangerous and many times “smart” kids are mislabeled to a “non-smart” group do to other variables that serve as realities to life. What we do statistically know is that ones social economic status, environmental influences, and personal perception of self are the coefficients that hold the highest statistical significance to student achievement and then later employment status. Sir Ken Robinson’s views of the Enlightenment period are directly connected to research of the such.

    I found Sir Ken Robinson’s take on ADHD to be especially interesting. What is the cause for this “non-epidemic”, nonetheless increase in cases? ADHD will be a timeless debate. What we are certain of (with logical thinking and with the realities of being in the trenches) is that the use of technology has increased, the amount of technological devices has increased, the rate of boredom in the classroom has increased, and that when humans (animals) become bored they become unfocused and fidgety.

    As a final thought...We do need to change the paradigm and encourage our students to embrace their ability to be divergent thinkers/learnings. We have maintained an industrial production line school system that no longer fits with our national needs. Why do we continue to group children according to age; why do we compare standardized test based upon demographics as opposed to conducting pre- and post-test for individual comparisons; why do we push differentiated instruction but not truly respect our students as individual learners????

    Great clip!
    End of Post

    Samanthaa Lennon
    Northeast School - Grade 5 Math

  12. I really enjoyed this video - watching the graphic helped me to better comprehend the fast spewing of verbal information.

    The point that hit closest to home was Robinson's idea that the arts often fall victim to the traditional method of education. While there are great programs dedicated to the aesthetic experience, unless you are Domingo, McCartney or Gaga, the artist must find a way to survive the gauntlet of educational process which values and celebrates a mode of thinking which is like being immersed in a foreign language. Eventually you learn to speak it, but perhaps never as well as a native.

    In my own life, I was always a B student, with occasional A's and C's. Learning in the traditional way was an anathema. I struggled so terribly hard to fit into the mold, with only average results. My salvation was the Conservatory of Music, which provided an emphasis on a completely different method of expression. There I could process knowledge and achieve success naturally. My friends got into college through their SAT scores. I literally sang and played my way through academia. I always felt "stupid" next to them, because my test scores paled in comparison, yet I knew I had something of value because there I was in the same university, albeit by a different road.

    When Robinson speaks about Divergent thinking, we should listen and begin to court ideas of how it can be applied in our classrooms and our own lives.

  13. I’ve always enjoyed watching lectures with creative animation. Maybe it’s because I’ve always viewed myself as a visual learner. This sort of animation reminded me of the UPS whiteboard commercials! I think that by adding the animation, this video does exactly what the speaker is saying needs to happen in modern education -- make it interesting, engaging, and able to keep students’ focus in light of our very stimulating lifestyles.

    I think there’s a lot of value in what is being said within this video. Our world has clearly changed in many different capacities since the Industrial Revolution and is requiring us to ask questions about who we are as a culture.

    Side note -- has anyone seen the movie, “Waiting for Superman?” It too suggests that our current educational system is broken and is in need of a revolution. I came away inspired, motivated, yet still yearning for the right solution. Many people are quick to blame the economy and budget cuts for our failing school systems. However, I don't think it's a budget issue, because more money is spent in this country on education than almost any other country in the world. There are dozens of statistics that show that spending per pupil is not linked with achievement. One of the biggest obstacles is that the world has changed and yet our approach to education has not.

    One thing from this video that really impacted me was the suggestion that, “Divergent thinking deteriorates as children grow up.” I agree with Nancy that we should be worried that we are “stunting the growth of creative thinkers through standardized testing” and that “what we really need are divergent and creative thinkers to solve so many of the problems we face today.” It’s also very discouraging to think that many of our students are unfamiliar with or unmotivated to really strain their brains and think outside the box.

    This also ties in with Robinson’s belief that, “Great learning happens in groups.” In my husband’s new office building, they have designated one room for the sole purpose of collaborative thinking. They call it, “The Think Tank.” It has floor-to-ceiling whiteboards on every wall and various manipulatives to encourage creative, divergent, yet collaborative thinking. I think it would be great if teachers were able to foster this kind of thinking and problem solving in their classrooms, for students to hear the ideas and opinions of their peers and to come up with “multiple answers and not one.”

    To my understanding, this video was adapted from a lecture that lasted close to an hour. I’m curious what other points were discussed by Sir Ken Robinson that could inspire us to think about the changing nature of education.

    P.S. How does one become a “Sir”?!?”

  14. The first thing I thought of as I watched this video (especially since I am a teacher of children with special needs) was I was glad there was a visual component to it. Sir Ken Robinson spoke so quickly, so it was helpful to "see" what he was talking about.

    That being said, this video got me to think about our current educational system. Since children have so much information right at their fingertips through technology, should we in today's day and age continue to test them on rote memorization of facts in subjects such as Science and Social Studies (as an example)? Should we change our testing procedures to allow for open book testing or the use of the internet to find information? After all, if we as adults need information about a topic, don't we just Google it? Wouldn't it be more helpful if we simply taught children HOW to find the information they need? Food for thought I guess....

    This video also got me thinking about standardized testing. Shouldn't we change our thinking about standardized testing? Why should testing be a "one size fits all" model? Shouldn't children with special needs be tested at the level they are working at? Is it fair to compare them to their peers who are working at or above grade level?

    Related to this idea, I started wondering if maybe it would be a good idea to group children according to their interests/abilities rather than age. On the other hand, it is beneficial to learn things from people with different interests. This really gave me a lot to think about.

  15. Wow, that video was over stimulating! I found the video to be very interesting and thought provoking. However, why is the failure of our youth always blamed on the education system?? What about the breakdown of family dynamics? How about the fact that parents simply do not teach their children right from wrong anymore?! The values that are instilled within our children are poor and/or are simply lacking. Teachers can only do so much. It is critical for parents to play a major role in their child’s education. Unfortunately, there are various factors that make it difficult for parents to be active members of their child’s education. Within recent years to current times there is so much blame being bestowed upon teachers and public education systems, and frankly I am just tired of it! Each day we come to work and bust our tails to meet the individual needs of each student that sits before us, and we constantly berated and judged. We required to be teachers, counselors, and parents on daily basis for all of these children. Obviously we all know we signed up for somewhat of a thankless job, but parents have to start taking some of the responsibility for their children’s education.

    Lastly, ADHD is a neurological disorder. Recent studies show they can actually pin point areas of the brain that are being over or under stimulated. Thus, it is not fair to discredit ADHD as a bogus disorder. However, we continue to diagnose ADHD merely through observations and parent and teacher rating scales. I absolutely think there has to a more accurate and efficient means to diagnosing this disorder. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration when assessing why eastern states tend to have a higher incidence rate of children with ADHD. For example, New Jersey alone is an extremely over populated area. Also, we tend to have better measures of diagnosing and treating disorders of this kind. Thus, many families move into this area to seek help for their children. Lastly, our lifestyle is very different from those who live in middle America. We live a very high strung and stressful life. We are constantly on the go, and that which can be done today will never be set aside for tomorrow. Our children observe this type of lifestyle on daily basis and are often forced to live this way because it is a part of the environment in which they are raised.

  16. As a parent of a child whose first grade teacher suggested I put my son on Ritalin to help him concentrate, this really hit home. Before making any decisions on this, I did my research, watching Dateline videos and getting books on the subject of medicating kids. I decided not to medicate him. It was hard work. Many evenings up until past midnight trying to get him to concentrate and finish his homework. He is now a junior in high school and though it has been hard work for both me and him, he has survived. It wasn't easy!
    I now have a child in my classroom that is diagnosed with ADHD and I think Sir Ken is right when he talks about over stimulation in our environment. If the computer is on in my room for any reason, he is drawn to it like a magnet. He has a difficult time completing his work and often cries because he thinks he can't do it. With a little humor, I talk to him, assuring him that "yes he can" and he usually completes the activity. He is such a happy child that I personally hope his mom never medicates him. It was already suggested by his dr.
    When Sir Ken talks about teaching by intelligence level instead of by age level, I think how easy it would be for teachers! But with class sizes getting larger it is harder to make sure every child is being accommodated at their own learning level. I do agree that some changes need to be made.

  17. I forgot to add that I did find the part on divergent thinking very interesting. Especially when he showed that kindergarten students had a higher percentage of "genius" thinking levels. I do think that our education system as a whole tends to be very traditional in the fact that there are expected generic outcomes. In our classrooms we are expected to, and strive to differentiate instruction to reach all learners. However, at the end of the day our state still measures our students through standardized testing. The assessment does not match the type of instruction we are delivering!

  18. Wow! So much information to digest.It so surprising that in spite of it all children learn in a system that is clearly outdated. Who has the job of changing the school systems so all children can be educated? With all the budget cuts that are taking place in Montclair, New Jersey and other parts of the country, you can bet that nothing is going to change anytime soon. How can you go about changing how and what children are taught, if the state testing is driving the instruction?

    On the subject of giving children Ritalin to change their behavior, I think that they should be given it after all other remedies have failed. It is amazing to see how behavior can change when sugar and other additives are no longer in a child's diet. However, it may be that for some children drugs may be the only remedy. We have all had a student who just can't sit still or not able to concentrate and when given Ritalin is able to successfully complete activities and learn. I know that it must be a very difficult decision for a parents to have to medicate their child on a daily basis before going to school.