When I ‘m not working with ReadingWise I’m busy launching a charity, STEAM Co. to get parents, artists and business to collaborate with primary schools to inspire children with creativity around STEAM skills (that's STEM with an A for Art).
Given he inspired the whole project, I was delighted recently when the Liverpudlian, global educationalist and ex UK teacher, Sir Ken Robinson agreed to do an exclusive Q&A from his home in LA for a launch weekend event we are running next week in a sugar Warehouse in Liverpool docks that is home to 2 amazing schools.
An explosive publication
On the back of that I was sent pre-publication copies of his new book ‘Creative schools’ and it has frankly blown me away. And is really going to shake things up, if only 1% of his TED audience reads it.
You may know that Sir Ken gave a TED talk in 2006 on how schools can kill creativity, which it is estimated has been viewed 300 million times! Well, after some criticism for not finding the time to offer the solution as well as stating the problem in the 18 minutes talk, Sir Ken is back and very much walking the talk with ‘Creative Schools – Revolutionising education from the ground up’.
It is a very accessible summary of the difference between education and learning and why the system we have today simply doesn’t work. Moreover how the reformists have panicked on the back of the PISA league tables and simply made matters worse with a results and test-focussed culture that demotivates and dumbs down children to the extent they need to be drugged to have any school staying power. No wonder then that in the USA 7,000 children drop out of the education system every day and that 5,000 teachers leave the profession every week.
The books describes countless evolutionary and downright revolutionary examples of how schools around the world are rethinking how they engage and teach children with miraculous results. And just getting on with it.
Most of all he calls for a revolution, from the ground up, led by parents and teachers.
Upgrading from D to C.
Which is a similar call to another book I was sent.
I was delighted again when the ReadingWise exhibition presence at the Education Show in Birmingham recently coincided with a keynote talk by another of my heroes, Professor Guy Claxton, who I managed to grab for a quick chat in the green room before his talk. He also agreed to do a keynote talk for parents and teachers at STEAM Co. the event in Liverpool next Friday.
In his latest book ‘Educating Ruby’, published last Monday, Claxton and his co-author Bill Lucas takes their 'Building Learning Power' thinking one step further. Specifically targeting parents (and teachers), it is a ‘powerful call to action for everyone who cares about education in an uncertain world’.
In it, Claxton put some stakes in the ground around different schools of thought for education by identifying three tribes. The ‘Roms’ who are a romantic hands off bunch who don’t want any bother and get walked all over by the ‘Trads’ who want to go back to basics to get results at any cost. So enter the Mods - think modest or moderate, but not wimp - who ‘know, when things are complicated, that patience and humility are required’. He feels most teachers are mods – head down and get on with it while the politicians politicise, until they can take no more and they leave.
‘Educating Ruby’ is a book, a platform, a campaign to bring mod thinking out of the staff room and into the open. Tweet with #educatingruby.
He introduces Learning Power’s seven C’s: confidence, curiosity, collaboration, communication, creativity, commitment and craftsmanship.
These are then contrasted with the seven D’s of a traditional and, in his eyes, failing school approach:
- Confident not Defeated
- Curious not Disengaged
- Collaborative not Distanced
- Communicative not Dumb
- Creative not Deadbeat
- Committed not Drifter
- Craftsmanship not Dogsbody
Two angry men
Contrary to the people who think Robinson started thinking about education in the taxi on the way to give his TED talk, both he and Claxton have been at this a long time, indeed Robinson told me they were drinking buddies back in the 70’s. They are both getting more than a little frustrated with the pace of change, the reluctance to be brave and bold, the sheer waste of our children’s creativity and potential and disastrous consequences for society.
I actually get the impression they are both quite angry and thoroughly recommend these two books to you. Claxton’s is the easy first read for parents and teachers alike, Robinson’s the more thorough and in-depth view. Both essential.
One size doesn’t fit all. What do YOU think? Let’s tell THEM.
Underlying both these books is the observation that the existing system is out of date and failing. That one size does not fit all as children have different learning styles. We cannot write children off if the way we choose to teach them simply doesn’t work for them in this day and age.
Nowhere is this more the case than with literacy. Almost 20% of the UK’s children fail to meet required levels when they leave primary and many never catch up, some ending up as prison fodder. Which is why we developed ReadingWise English and why it is so effective for these struggling readers who may otherwise get written off.
In advance of the election, we’re running a survey to gauge the mood of teachers on these issues.
Please do click here to tell us what you think. So we can tell them. It'll only take a minute or so.
Then go and read those books and tell us what you think of them too.