Monday, May 24, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson - Learning Revolution

Reform is no longer enough. Renovating a broken and bankrupt factory model will not take us, or our children, where we want to go. Renovation is not innnovation.

If you shrug or roll your eyes to the concepts that are being delivered by Alfie Kohn, Linda Darling Hammond, Deborah Meier, Ted Sizer, Sir Ken Robinson, Monty Neil which I try to share so often on this blog, then you are not listening. (If you don't know who these people are - you're really not listening!)

There may not be time for an evolution - what we need is a revolution. Like it or not, there is some urgency here.

We need to think anew and act anew.

If you are still teaching the way you always have - you're not listening.

If you still use those laminated lesson plans - you're not listening.

If you still place importance in standardized testing - you're not listening.

If you place great emphasis in grading - you're not listening.

If you want to make a difference and be a part of this education revolution, you need to disenthral the tyranny of common sense that has developed around linear standardization and commonality.

You have to stop standing at the front of the classroom and spamming all-calls.

You need to concern yourself less with standardization and more with personalization. Think of learning less as a linear exercise and more like an asymptote.

The culture of public education has been poisoned. The expiration date for our industrial model of education has come and gone. It is time to switch metaphors - it's time for a more organic model.

Personally, I have chosen to make a difference by abolishing grading, and it has made an immeasurable difference. At the risk of sounding dramatic, it has liberated my teaching and their learning. It really has.

Now, what are you doing? Please share.


  1. Thanks for another inspiring post, Joe! I enjoyed hearing Ken Robinson speak, as always. For fellow readers, if nothing else inspires you to do whatever it takes to change education, listen to the last words of the talk. THEN try coming up with excuses.

    As for what I'm doing? Well...

    I challenge any idea I think harms students - even while others (even higher-ups) warn me not to get too radical.

    I listen to students and try to give them what they need, despite what I had in mind or what's on the syllabus. I try to be a friend to students when that's the one role I'm warned to never take on (after all, friends don't subject friends to soul crushing education systems).

    I try to make myself redundant, even knowing it makes me professionally vulnerable, because I have faith that if I work my butt off to take care of those around me, I'll never be left in need.

    ...Basically, I have faith in people, love learning and sharing that passion with others, and I don't respect any "education" system that doesn't let me do my job as an educator.

  2. Revolution, indeed! But I might cast a wider net and situate society's educational travails within the overarching class war.

    As for what I'm doing - or how I'm applying some of these other lenses - I wage small battles in my classroom (secondary social studies), but my gaze is cast upon the greater war: my MA research involves using cultural studies to identify ideologies underlying epistemic positionalities.

    If there's a revolution coming, we've all got roles to play - and prepare for.

  3. Great rant Joe.(If presenting reality in a passionate way can fairly be called a rant.) All power to your virtual elbow. And your call to action takes steady aim.

    Revolution not "reform".

    - Josie

  4. Joe,

    great blogs! I am a follower and am doing my bit in my teaching community. I am getting a tech group together to talk about the ways we can move our teachers into the 21st century. So many of "us" aren't aware of this movement or don't care. I believe what we need to talk about is change management if sweeping change is to occur. Grass roots revolution is what it seems like now, perhaps this is the way. If you are interested in what I am doing, I have a blog called "educational change management" :

  5. @Chris, I love how you put that "make myself redundant". That is such a cool way of looking at it.

    @khephra: I agree. We all have roles to play. We need a strong followship to legitimize those who are leading the way. Unfortunately, those leaders may appear to be a little off their rocker - that is until more people catch on.

    @Josie: I like that term "virtual elbow". Very catchy =)

    @tcomfort: I will check you blog out for sure. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I used to be a perfect cog, keeping my crazy ideas grounded.

    I'm learning that playing it safe is crazy.

    I'm finally doing things I've always believed were best. The exhilaration from unleashing students (and teachers) keeps me up at night.

    Thanks to all who have helped unleash me.

  7. Taking action is risky. Doing nothing is far riskier.

    What gets you through the day (or a career) may not get you through the night.

  8. I figured there would be a Joe blog coming about Sir Ken's talks. What am I doing? I am constantly collaborating with people like yourself who follow the people you mentioned... I am then using these thoughts to form powerful discussions with staff, students, parents, and others around education reform. Since I saw the original TED talk from Sir Ken, our school has really worked to provide more opportunities for students an staff to explore and spend more time learning in areas of their passion and strengths. We still have a long ways to go but we are making baby steps in the right direction. Next steps are to reflect on grading practices, separate subjects, homework, educational hierarchies, etc.... I love being part of the " revolution"

  9. Great post, however only two questions. What are your suggestions for students who require standardized testing to access the best possible resources to make their educational journey the most beneficial and valid for them.
    How do you intended to advocate for a student in need of level 6 (severe special needs) funding without have sufficent, agreed upon and recognized evidence.

    I agree for these students grading does more harm than good, but these are our students that are at risk the most for not fitting into any model. What should I do with them?


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