Book review: Creative Schools: Are you a teacher that is still riding yesterday’s horse?

BookOn the HPC blog I always like to hear from teachers in schools. A few weeks ago I was tweeting that I had a spare copy of the new Sir Ken Robinson book: Creative Schools *. It was published in June. Well, Luke Mooney claimed the book after guessing my favourite SKR TED talk – but there was a catch.

Luke had to share his thoughts about the book in a short post on the HPC blog as part of the ‘free book mailed directly to him’. Fair exchange.

A little bit about Luke before we read his review:

One of Luke’s roles at a Catholic primary school in Canberra is Learning Technologies Coordinator. This is a role he has been in for a few years. Follow Luke on Twitter @Edumooney

He says:

Image on Luke Mooney’s Twitter handle

“The work that is most interesting to me is seeing how students use technology and space to collaborate and leverage their own learning. Technology is always evolving. It encompasses much more than just computers. If wasn’t doing this kind of work I would be visiting schools, speaking with teachers and assisting with technology and space integration”.

Here is Luke’s book review post:

I have just finished reading Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution that is Transforming Education by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica. It prompted me to think about how teachers, while using technology, can adapt their teaching to individualize student learning. Much of the book discusses the challenges of ‘standardized testing’ and the idea of factory schooling. The authors mention a range of ideals throughout their book. While it may be difficult to achieve some of them without significant education reform, it is important for schools to try to do what they can to promote the best learning opportunities for all students.

hqdefaultTeaching today is challenging. Teachers and schools are under increased pressure from standardized tests such as NAPLAN. While these tests do provide a snapshot of information about schools and students, they don’t address all aspects of education. This issue is significant to millions of people across the globe, as Ken Robinson’s Do School’s Kill Creativity TED talk demonstrates – an estimated 300 million people have viewed the talk worldwide.

Many teachers recognise creativity is important and design their teaching and learning skilfully so as to provide the best possible education experience for their students. Part of this is recognising when and how much to let go of teacher control and let students guide their own learning. When this is done, choice is enabled. It allows students to opt into their own learning.

The authors state right at the beginning of the book that the aims of education are to “enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they can become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens” (p. xxiv). This can be addressed if teachers work cleverly within the curriculum using a range of technologies.

download (27)Technology allows students to present their work in a variety of ways. It enables increased collaboration, global partnerships and it provides students with other way to create. This is ideal. However it soon loses its appeal if students’ tasks are not designed in such a way that stimulates questioning and encourages exploration that solves authentic real life challenges. It is important for teachers to recognise this and realize that just because technology is at their fingertips – it isn’t a fix-all.

Curriculum is content based and it’s often just easier to ‘deliver’ it in traditional ways. Even when students use technology in the classroom, the tasks can often be only at a simple substitution level. This is fine if it is a ‘one-off’. However, learning tasks should be designed to achieve much more than that.

showIn Chapter 5: The Art of Teaching the authors make some valuable points. The first is that the key to “transforming education is the quality of teaching” (p. 100). Part of this is what great teachers do – they inspire students to learn. These teachers have a repertoire of skills from which to draw and they know when to draw on them “this is what great teaching is all about” (106). I love the quote in this chapter that says: “Good teachers know that however much they have learned in the past, today is a different day and you cannot ride yesterday’s horse” (p. 107). This is particularly true with technology. Teachers need to continue to explore the different options available to them so that they can plan and deliver dynamic lessons to suit today’s students. The saying: “We’ve always done it this way” can limit the possibilities for greatness in the classroom. This chapter is smattered with ‘gold nuggets’ about teaching and it sums up the art of teaching as fulfilling three essential purposes for students: inspiration, confidence and creativity.

Creativity-definition-1The remaining five chapters discuss the need for a curriculum that is diverse, deep and dynamic. This must be reflected with assessment that motivates through constructive feedback, provides information on what students have done and achieved, and has clear, reachable standards. Dynamic, supportive school leaders and community partnerships help provide the environment and culture for this to occur. The book finishes with a call for change in education to set a vision for the future and to act upon it.

Creative Schools is a must read for educators. It is easy to read and provides many real life examples. There were aspects in each chapter of the book that made me reflect upon my own teaching and how I can continue to reach all of the students in my classroom.

*Robinson, R. & Aronica, L. (2015). Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution that is Transforming Education. New York: Penguin.

Postscript: I would like to thank Luke Mooney for making time to write this book review post and for sharing his ideas.