12 February 2013

Responding to your Kimbra, Ken, Creativity Post - More ICOT2013

Rosemary Hipkins ICOT2013
I enjoyed the bullet points Ruth! And they prompt me to revisit a few themes and roughly sum up another Icot2013 Breakout. 

I wonder if you can download the slides here as Rosemary Hipkins, in her "Ideas about thinking that challenge traditional education practices", also referred to Descartes. R. Hipkins talks about traditional ideas around thinking (prevalent in school) whereas thinking is "a mental activity that individuals do in a linear sequence and as effortlessly as possible" (Descartes, Mind Vs Body) . She points out that now there are some biological facts that Descartes did not know (Neuroscience and psychology, eg. body and brain are made of the same stuff and thinking patters are influenced by our emotions.). Challenging implications for learning is if we accept that thinking is embodied (e.g.; for the constructivist the body is a structure that learns (think about Wii, 3D printing etc). Challenging also to consider where thinking happens (traditionally in the brain): the internet changes what knowledge is, the idea that "thinking happens in the spaces in between" as knowledge now "lives in the connections of neurons, bones, blood and marrow" is one that I would need to dvelve in more to better understand.
So to leverage thinking in the spaces between individuals R. Hipkins lists 5 conditions. Her source is Engaging Minds (Davis, Sumara, Luce-Kapler) and links these conditions to how we can approach teaching.
Complex systems thinking replaces traditional linear logical and predictable thinking." How do we foster complex systems thinking that will help students make sense own increasingly intertwingly world?"> Epistemic thinking. It is about thinking about knowing and knowledge. And getting our head around this new way is an effort, it' s different. "Epistemic experiences are moments when we become conscious of something about our knowing". So here was another convincing argument to do things differently: Rosemary organised her thoughts for her presentation around thinking and professional learning.

E. de Bono also talks about our traditional thinking as similar to the caveman's(!), describes it with this acronym EBNE (Excellent But Not Enough!) and urges not to be solely concerned with truth but also with perception. "Looking backwards is easier than looking forward and open new tracks". Is it why certain suggest we ought to "start with the end in mind"?

Another thing that your Sir Ken's bullet points reminds me of is discussion about what creativity is. Is it anything to do with the arts? Is it something some have and others don't?  I believe it is Ewan McIntosh (can't find any notes on that...) who says that it is the same creativity that brings works of art and solutions to a problem. Creativity needs to be called for action through posing the right questions, creativity means bringing something new into existence not for the sole purpose of  making art. (Kimbra's award rewards her interpretation of somebody else's song (art), not her own production, she is recompensed for the value she has added to it)  So we may not all be artists but we are all by nature creative: we just need to pay attention to what we are doing and how we do it.  A role of the teacher is indeed to support students gaining this awareness.
You described your creativity to put together resources which shows you are aware of the process. How do you foster it in your class? How can it be you "flip" it so that they are creative, not you?

Worth revisiting the Problem Posing concept Ewan McIntosh exposes in this TedTalk. 

There are another two main themes in your post:
Not only you have a deep and thorough understanding on how you learn yourself and what contributes to make you want to learn but you also can recognize in your students the attributes that contribute to make them awesome learners.  This shows you are well equipped to "turn inwards". I suppose it is a matter of finding the way to turn this outwards so that students learn to do the same.
"Successful people know the why of what they do" "Knowing the Why", "Making learning whole is essential" "What is the point of the learning?" (Ewan McIntosh): invite your new French learners from an early stage to formulate for themselves their goals, that will be an essential part of the "Know your students" and suggest they keep safe this goal and revisit. Kids won't want to learn to communicate if they dont define their why? in their own terms, no matter how convincingly "Why learn a language" is put together.

I know you usually baulk at the idea of recipes, systems, set pathways... In Ewan's words, one "needs a method to their madness"... May I suggest you establish a list of the key attributes you want to see your students develop, and then a list of those key language acquisition elements? Then we can revisit what stands out for us in what McIntosh, Claxton (6 magnificent qualities) and maybe C. Harte Flip model (that I see you ve got onto now!) put forward.
The Language Learning Task as described by Ellis provides opportunities to develop thinking and problem solving skills.  What type of thinking and how to go about problem solving if the language skills are so few and disjointed?
The heart of our problem is indeed in the task design...
Then from there maybe we could try to make connections and map how to "marry" these three lists, in the light (or rather fog!) of all that we are gathering here? Or what method would you suggest to go about this? I feel we need to be a tad more "scientific" (!?) about it as there is going to be real soon some real learners to infuse not confuse.
                                                                 What do you think?


  1. "The heart of our problem is indeed in the task design..." Yes indeed.
    I'm thinking a lot about the affective element of learning and Ken Robinson's 'exile of feeling'. I couldn't agree more.
    As far as a more scientific approach is concerned, it isn't really a method that I warm to. I know it might unsettle some of the students not to know at every step of the way where they're going but isn't this a more accurate microcosm of life? I may in the short term be obliged to stick with some of the tired old material but together we can devise ways of making it relevant, in some wider, more open-ended context.

  2. As far as the key attributes that I would like to help my learners develop, we need look no further than Guy Claxton's Magnificent 8 Qualities. I've internalised them in the same way as I've internalised the Key Competencies and Ellis' principles and am trying to internalise Newton's Intercultural Principles, so that they provide a constant filter through which I pass my pedagogy. What is this activity doing to help develop .....?

  3. I've just had another look at Ewan McIntosh's Problem Finding Ted Talk and that has also reassured me that I don't need to map my methodology out in advance. I need to follow my instinct and intuition, honed over the years and trust that my experience both as a linguist and a teacher will be equal to whatever comes up. I have a few doubts about the German for precisely the reason that my lack of depth here won't allow me to be such a flexible resource as I can be in French or Spanish.

  4. My prompts worked: you did "list" your principles! Yes step by step and back to the drawing board if needed I would be happy to devise materials with you as the need arise. All to be revealed when you meet your students, discover the learning environment and take stock!


Let's go Back to the Drawing Board!