Teaching Collaborative and Creative Thinking in Classrooms: Phase 1 Just read about it

I am  on this “collaborative thinking” kick because of Ken Robinson’s books, The Element and Out of Our Minds. Both very good and thought-provoking books. I am reading Wikinomics right now; I just want to make a connection between how the job market values collaborative and creative thinking and how to teach it in classrooms.

It is an interesting book as are Robinson’s The Element and Out of Our Minds. I really want to understand how collaborative and creative thinking are valued in the work place and how a classroom of students can harness the power of the internet to help them develop and hone skills further to make them employable in future markets.

If the industrial revolution shaped education, then the technological revolution will, and has re-shaped education. The simple read and regurgitate lessons of yesterday’s classrooms have no place in the new technological knowledge based workplaces of today.

The hard part is trying to convince some educators, administrators, parents and standardised testing companies, not to mention colleges, that we need to revise our current systems of education and maybe implement the strategies that shaped the classrooms and curriculums of the industrial revolution. If rows of desks, ringing bells and linoleum lined hallways prepared students for adult lives of factory work, shouldn’t classrooms of today reshape their philosophy and reorganise for a global community workplace?

Does this mean more computers in the classroom, online test taking, group tests to examine the ability to collaborate, innovate and create? I don’t know. I do know that very successful people have suceeded, not because of their schooling, but because they are innovative and creative thinkers. Bill Gates, Richard Branson to name a few, have all done exceptionally well with out college degrees; but how many Bransons and Gates are out there?

Let’s look at the tactics of successful companies, examine what they value in employees and keep our eyes on the internet. The internet, global communities and us, the consumers, are re-shaping job-skills. The classroom needs to reflect those changes in its curriculum.

Here’s the other side of the coin, no technology in classrooms or at home! NBC’s Today show host Matt Lauer interviewed 3 people (start video at 1:35 to hear the discussion) about The Waldorf School in Orange County California. The school prohibits computers in the classrooms and use of computers at home, along with watching television. It sounds interesting, but is it limiting the student’s capabilities?

The Waldorf School in California states on its website, “The curriculum, style of teaching and incorporation of the arts into each subject are the things that set Waldorf education apart.” The website also states, “Within our school community and in our classrooms, our goal is to engage the mind, fire the imagination, and strengthen the will as students develop with initiative, creativity, and the skills to enter responsibly into an ever-changing local and global community.”

When the students enter that “ever-changing local and global community,” will they be ready to face a technological world that changes in the blink of an eye? Is a child raised in a technology void school and home at a disadvantage in this world of Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, blogs and web surfing? The aim of including the arts in each subject is wonderful, but to prohibit use of any technology leaves me wondering when these students will learn to use technology? It isn’t going away, it’s an epidemic and we need to harness its power and make use of it. YouTube videos, blogging, and social websites promote creativity, divergent thinking and collaboration. With proper use in the classroom, kids can hone their individual talents and skills, talents and skills that could very possibly find them successful and fulfilling careers.

The counter arguement is that user friendly applications make all technology easy to use. Within one day a novice could blog, tweet, Facebook and text with skill. According to Marc Prensky in his article, now almost ten years old, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants , the minds of students today, having been exposed to vast amounts of technology, learn differently than the last generation, the digital immigrants learned. Prensky states that college students today spend 10,000 hours playing video games.

“As a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today‟s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors,” Pensky says. He also advocates turning subjects into computer games in order to keep the students in classrooms today stimulated and learning. The challenge he says is trying to convince Digital Immigrant teachers of the benefits of turning curriculum into computer games.

In geography – which is all but ignored these days – there is no reason that a generation that can memorize over 100 Pokémon characters with all their characteristics, history and evolution can‟t learn the names, populations, capitals and relationships of all the 101 nations in the world. It just depends on how it is presented.” Prensky makes a good point here. Not alone Geography, but Social Studies, Literature and composition could all benefit from technology advances in the classroom.

Imagine cross contamination into other curriculums; having art students create an animated You Tube video for MacBeth and music students creating a theme? How many skills and talents does that draw on?

Here’s an innovative speaker, Sir Ken Robinson, talking about collaboration, creativity and innovation in education.

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