Monday, September 26, 2011


Listening to the authors at the Plum Creek festival Gala (thank you Laurie for the invitation) I was struck by the importance of mentorship mostly informal for the development of "talent". The great illustrator Pinkney told the story of how an established artist took interest in him as he was drawing while selling newspapers and invited him to his studio. The two other speakers that spoke at length also discussed individuals who took interest in them and helped guide their development. As I listened I wondered, do motivated "talented" individuals attract such attention and feed on it or is it a phenomenon that can be expanded and if so. Are we giving students the opportunities to forge such relationships that will lead them to new ideas new images of future selves?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Excellence- Or it's ok to work with talented motivated students too!

The credit to this post goes to Jim Lewis a professor of Math and long time math educator. In a conversation yesterday he said (my memory so the responsibility here is mine) excellent educators I work with are reluctant to focus on working with high achieving students, it only counts when you help struggling students. The question is whether our focus on clsing the gap s leading us to neglect our most talented students. We sometimes assume that those are also motivated and understand their own strengths. Do we have art classes for advanced students, those who may with some support become adults who are first and foremost artists: dancers, musicians, authors, actors, painters etc.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Question

A colleague challenged me today. How do you know hat student learning is increased using technology. The context is our discussion about mandating technology in our pre-service teacher ed program. It is a common question that in my struggle to answer at that moment had a hard time calrifying.
Like art technology is NOT just a handmaiden to other learning. Technology at this point is to me like the arts, it is part of the fabric of our lives, not an add on. We cannot afford to teach kids in schools without art and without technology. The world is looking to us as an example of nurturing creativity while we move away from it under the guise of BACK TO BASICS. The problem is we are asking the wrong questions- the goal is not just to improve old ways of knowing- include new ones.
Written during a faculty meeting, the ultimate proof that they are not totally useless...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A World without Textbooks- Lessons from the Art-room

I have been contemplating the idea of no textbooks for a while. Part of it stems from the onslaught of new editions in higher education. At this point major textbooks are reissued on an annual basis- changed so you cannot easily integrate the previous edition easily. I do not blame the publishers, it is their business and they are trying to stay ahead.
The issue in K-12 is a little different since schools purchase the books directly- again a lucrative market to capture.
When you walk into an art-room the teacher does not use a textbook. Instead she uses the materials of art itself. Side note: Schools often complain about the cost in art supplies but never balance it out with not buying textbooks. What the art teacher has figured out is that in some cases it is better to do the learning than to read all about it. At that point of course we must recognize that not ALL school topics can be covered that way. Still I would argue that much of science, math, art, music, can be done without a textbook. I am not saying that we can teach science only hands-on from experience, instead I argue that we can combine with other non-textbook resources to the same or even better effect.
In many of the other topics digital resources or authentic resources can be found. For example: we can teach much about the civil war from a Ken Burns episode, and museum resources available online.
In higher ed textbooks are a great way to reduce the load on the teacher- the sequence is there the main points, the PowerPoint presentations and quizzes. It is the first step in "teacher proofing" your curriculum.
For me in teacher education I find that whenever I use a textbook I am patently unhappy about it, since it is someone elses idea of what should be taught at what sequence and with what emphases. I find myself spending quite some time ignoring the text re-emphasizing points that are lost or correct what I consider mistakes. In short, even the best textbooks I find are "not just right". This summer I taught a few classes all of which avoided using the classic "textbook" instead I used professional materials- practical books for teachers that are resources for a professional while the pedagogic role of explaining theory, history, and big themes was left for me as an instructor. To that I added many Internet resources that are plentiful in the literacy field, video, podcasts, articles and voila: Textbook free courses.
I just want to close with the idea that I would like to teach without textbooks but NOT without reading or preparing for class. Textbooks are necessary sometimes in one format or another but their application has to be thoughtful. In k-12 schools using less textbooks would lead to great savings that can be turned around to professional development or much needed technology.