Tuesday, August 5, 2008

International Conference on Teaching and Learning with Technology (iCTLT 2008)

I am at the iCTLT conference at Suntec City today. It's always nice to come to conferences where folks get nice food, goodie bags and brochures, and listen to very intelligent people give speeches. Today's Keynote is by the incredibly funny Sir Ken Robinson. I don't know this at first, but Sir Ken was at a Ted.com event and I am just listening to it after discovering he was the guy who gave the famous 'Do schools kill creativity?' speech. There seems to be this idea that education today doesn't really meet the needs of students, or that it, in fact, hinders students in their quest for learning, which is deeply ironic. Coincidentally, I've touched upon similar issues here and here.

More on Robinson's speech later. But first, the new Education Minister Dr Eng is the guest of honour and he gives a great speech (much credit surely goes to the speech writers) to unveil the IT MasterPlan 3. This was the first time I am hearing Dr Eng speak, and I think he may be a candidate to be the next PM. He has a pleasant speaking voice, and his mannerism and speaking style uncannily resembles Lee Kuan Yew. Eng's speech is remarkably forward looking. The MOE HQ people really have some good ideas and they seem to understand that technology by itself doesn't make much sense unless it's integrated well with pedagogy, among other things. I'm not sure of the exact nature of MP3, but it seems that the overall plan is really quite progressive.
Picture by eschipul, taken in Feb 2008

Ken Robinson's speech is titled Creativity and Innovation in Teaching and Learning. The following is a summary/liberal paraphrase of what he said. Education is now at a crossroad; it's in sort of a transition but no one really knows what's going to happen in order for it to solve the problems that we now face. There are no precedents, the issues that we face have never been encountered before.

The worrying thing is this: education, nowdays, seems to squander the talents of students. And students may not be able to know or recognise their talents in class, much less their teachers. Robinson relates an interview he had with Paul McCartney of the Beetles. When asked to relate his experiences at music classes in school, McCartney said he hated them. He was considered too lousy for the school choir. Guitarist George Harrison was in the same class. Think about it: the music teacher had half of the Beetles in her class, and she completely missed it! We are terrible at recognising talent, maybe due to the fact that we only recognise certain intelligences and not more. We don't value 'imagination', but imagination is terribly important; it's the only thing that separates us from non-humans. It's the thing that is able to help us cope with the future, with all its uncertainties.

Robinsons' definition of creativity is the ability to come up with original ideas that have value. The next point is highly intriguing to me. He shows this survey where a longitudinal study of kindergarten kids was done to rate their level of 'divergent thinking', an important component of creativity.

From the age of 3 to 5, almost all of the kids were full of curiousity and unafraid to be bold in their attempts at creativity and coming out with new solutions to problems. By the time they get to ages 16 and above, they are 'dumbed down'. At 25, only 2% of the group show the same level of 'genius' they once possessed when they were much, much younger.

Robinson does an audience survey. Rate your level of creativity from 1 to 10, and then rate your intelligence. I rate mine as 4, and 6, respectively. There seems to be be a disconnect between how we view intelligence, and how we view creativity. He thinks that more educational systems should be tweaked so that creativity becomes something that school administrators will want to promote.

Here's a comparison between what is, and what should/might be. We need to change from the usual buzzwords of conformity and standardisation to a more flexible way of thinking. To be more diverse and customizable. More stuff can be found at John Connell's blog.
The next Keynote speaker is Mitchel Resnick whose talk is on 'Sowing the seeds for a more creative society. His team was behind the development of Lego Mindstorms.
He introduces this awesome Mindstorms-esque way of visual programming media elements such as graphics, sounds, and videos. It's called Scratch, and I've never heard of it until now! It's a really deep sandbox that just blows me away.

The picture belows shows some sort of interaction between Scratch and Second Life. Finally, visual programming in SL!
The name 'Scratch' comes from the way musicians sample music from other performers to incorporate into their own work. Rather than call it 'stealing', software like this emphasize collaborative work as the building works can easily be shared freely with others and modified.

Day 2 of the conference is tomorrow...

1 comment:

writing a term paper said...

As I know Resnick's group has developed a new programming language, called Scratch, that makes it easier for kids to create their own animated stories, video games, and interactive art.