I enjoyed being one of the over 500 people who attended the Elluminate session with Sir Ken Robinson tonight (Recording of Sir Ken Robinson's talk with Steve Hargadon in will be available at the LearnCentral website: http://bit.ly/bOUftj). More than 360 of the people in attendance are in the field of education. As Sir Ken talked about his book, the chat room was wheeling by with lots of questions about what schools can do to help students find their passion.


Many seemed to believe that including the arts, especially drama would be a step in the right direction. What do you think?


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Take a look at Clay Shirkey's book, Here Comes Everybody:

Following a passion means doing something (not necessarily artistic) that you choose, not something that someone else (a teacher giving an assignment/a school board setting a curriculum objective) chooses for you. Can schools stop telling kids what to learn? Given the institutional infrastructure, this seems highly unlikely.

What helps a student explore and learn independent of a set curriculum is a good set of meta-learning skills. See, for example, Reuven Feuerstein:


The examiner working from the perspective of dynamic assessment is thus able to reframe the critical assessment questions as following:

1. What is the person’s typical performance?
2. How much does this person know?
3. How well is the person likely to learn independently?
4. What areas of content have not been mastered?

But instead:
1. What is the person’s maximal performance?
2. How can the person learn?
3. What teaching is needed to enable the person to learn at an acceptable level?
4. What process deficiencies underlie pervious learning failure and how can these be corrected?

Or Donald B. Maudsley's (1979) ideas about Metalearning:

Five principles were enunciated to facilitate meta-learning.
Learners must:
(a) have a theory, however primitive;
(b) work in a safe supportive social and physical environment;
(c) discover their rules and assumptions;
(d) reconnect with reality-information from the environment; and
(e) reorganize themselves by changing their rules/assumptions.
Hi, John,
While I have read Clay Shirkey's book, I need to learn about Reuven Feuerstein and Donald B. Maudsley's (1979) ideas about Metalearning. I thank you for extending my learning and adding to the discussion.
This is a discussion that I think is worth having. I notice that Sir Ken wrote a book called Exploring Theatre and Education and another called The Arts in Schools: Principles, Practice and Provision. Since Theatre is a big part of my childrens' lives, I'm going to drill down on this a bit! My oldest daughter is majoring in Theatre Studies in college, and hopes to use her skills to help students with Autism. She also does a lot of improv work toward building good life skills.
I also enjoyed the interview last week but still haven't had the chance to read the whole of his book. However, I have a few comments. I know that the focus has been about schools, particularly what schools could do to ignite students' passions. I think that a curriculum based on enquiry helps here, where the students choose the directions (even topics) that they want to work on. But I also think that parents have an important role to play, and they have much more flexibility than schools...
I watched the Elluminate recording this afternoon. I am also reading the Google Book's preview of the book right now. The Art in Schools book would be another good read I think. I will look that one up as well.

I am probably biased about having a richer art environment in the schools since I am an artist. But one thing that I know about artists is that they have a very strong desire to be in control of their project, what they spend their time on not be a cookie cutter-project instead of following what inspires them, and there is a lot of vulnerability in the early phases of building skills that make you want to shelter what you throw your heart into from criticism. After many years, you gain internal confidence, so much of that does a 180 and you long for collaboration and can handle criticism pretty adeptly.

If I could go back in time and be my own teacher (kinda did that because my daughter is just like me, lol) I would let interest lead the way and pull everything in around that. I became an artist not because of the art classes I took. I became an artist because I had a consuming passion for horses, but I lived in the suburbs. I couldn't have one, but the passion drove me to draw them day in and day out. If I were my own teacher I would have run with that passion and brought in explorations of different media, field trips to horse farms to observe and photograph for source images that could be used for anatomy study and reference, and let the passion spill out across the curriculum. Not a very practical suggestion for a school since having two dozen different passions to keep fueled among all your students would be exhausting.

I don't even remember when the horse crazies started. My parents said that even as a toddler I would ride a spring horse until I was about to fall asleep and they would worry I would fall off only to wake up to ride more if they tried to remove me. I remember many a morning waking up sore from where my hard, plastic horse's feet would have been sticking in to be all night. The passion lasted all through childhood and by the time I was in my early twenties I was staff illustrator of South Carolina Equestrian Magazine.

But there were lots of detours along the way. My parents would not accept me becoming an artist because they felt that I would never make any money at it. I entered Bradley University in their pre-engineering program because it was the closest career area to getting to make something short of going into art. I was also in to computers by then and there was some potential in those pre-consumer computer days to get to work more with them. It was a terrible fit. It was all about numbers and math and theory - no feeling, no visual beauty. I switched to Pre-med in the second semester where at least I would get to work with living things and felt the heart that engineering seemed to lack. I volunteered at a hospital the following summer working in the physical therapy department with burn patients, knee replacement patients, and those suffering from arthritis. I would often drive home crying because of all the pain I saw and had to cause in the name of helping them get their lives back. I was adrift for a while after that. I didn't want to waste my parents money by going back to college. I got back into my art and picked up momentum again and once I got enough confidence to follow my own path I interviewed with the Equestrian magazine and landed the position easily and spent the next few years doing staff and freelance illustration. After the kids came along and I found that my passion for kids could actually overshadow my love for horses, I ran my own children's portraiture business. I never made much money, but I know that I have lead a more fulfilling life as an artist without much money versus what I would have had being rich and following another person's goals for my life.


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