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Changing Our Future: How Fast Can Education Adapt?

Ken Robinson on creativity

Ken Robinson on creativity (Photo credit: ecastro)

In yesterday’s post, we discussed an article by Dan Pink, where he replaced a fashionable question, “What’s your passion?”, with the more àpropos question, “What do you do?”

It’s a good question, particularly for those of us who are watching the changes in the workforce and worrying about what it means for our own, and our children’s, futures.

As an educator, I find it both exciting and frightening to read about how the world is changing. It’s exciting, because we–my husband and I–are seeing the change as it occurs. Working with kids and young adults affords us the opportunity to see how their thinking and world view differs from our own.

However, it’s also frightening for us all to consider these changes, because we’re used to the old way of doing things. Nobody is ready for a future that will be so different, nobody can even predict yet what it might look like.

People such as Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned expert in creativity and education, have argued that education cannot continue to be dominated by left-brain, organized, rote-memory thinking, where you study set information, then you regurgitate it on a test. This is part of the old rule-driven, “sit down, be quiet, and don’t question us” style, typical of what you might find in an American landscape dominated by factories.

Sir Robinson argues that the current educational model is not preparing our kids to think creatively, nor is it teaching them to solve problems. How can we compete with the world if our students are great at bubbling in answers, but terrible at thinking their way out of a problem that nobody has even so much as imagined before?

We’re seeing the transition happen, where companies are switching from a workaday world of left-brain, analytical, “sit in your cubicle” thinking to a more creative, right-brain artistic style. Creativity is more highly prized; lateral thinking is more often recognized–and rewarded.

Nowadays, instead of focusing on making light bulbs, a manufacturing job which has largely been outsourced to China anyway, our country is slowly turning to application, design and style. Everything, from your phone to your local store’s gift card, is design-driven. People have money to spend, even in our tough economy, and they want something that works well and looks “cool”. The only way to create these things is to think creatively.

Far-sighted people, such as Sir Robinson, have pushed for major changes in how we teach, how we assess, how we measure performance, and even what our expectations are. He feels that creativity is at least as important as literacy; both are critical to our students’ futures.

Colleges and universities are changing, with nontraditional online or weekend classes supplementing the usual semester-based, “Show up every Tuesday and Thursday” education coursework. Creative and hands-on work is more accepted, and is even expected in place of the traditional 10-page paper (although plenty of those are still being written).

Even traditional public schools are changing their methods as well. Schools are beginning to use a new method of teaching called “flipped”, or reverse, teaching. In flipped classes, instead of sitting through a lecture at school then doing the homework that night, kids now watch the lecture on YouTube at home, then come to class the next day, where they do the real work. What used to be homework is now classwork; lectures are now the homework.

In my opinion, it makes sense. Why not have the teacher, and your fellow students, with you in the classroom, where you can use their help when you do the work? It’s far easier to come up with solutions when you have other people to help you springboard ideas, as opposed to sitting at home by yourself, struggling over–and possibly doing totally wrong–a problem you just don’t “get”.

Changes are coming. Some of them are already here. Companies such as Facebook have been known to hire by posting work simulations or puzzles online, and then offering job interviews to those people who score highly in solving them. A college dropout from Maine named Evan Priestley solved one such puzzle, which was posted online by Facebook. His score was so high, he was flown to California to interview for Facebook. While answering a programming question during that interview, Evan offered to reframe the question so that it worked better. He became a Facebook engineer.

Preparing our kids to enter the workforce using the old methods may no longer be enough. We can no longer expect that a well-written resume’ will get anyone’s attention, not when someone may spend only 30 to 60 seconds in reviewing it, if it is even reviewed by a person at all. Some resumes are simply scanned for relevant words by computer–and the ones that don’t match up are kicked out, never to be seen by human eyes.

Even the time-honored tradition of sending a cover letter is becoming a thing of the past. Many companies no longer even want to see them, and specifically ask that you don’t send one.

How fast can we adjust, and how well can we prepare ourselves and our children, for the jobs of the future–particularly when there are many jobs which we cannot even now begin to imagine?

Tomorrow we will look at another view of creativity. We will see what happens when you combine a former shipyard worker with something that she likes to do: baking. The story is truly inspiring, and indicative of what sorts of changes we can expect, and maybe even make for ourselves.

For now, I leave you with the following “RSA Animate” video. It is an animated version of a lecture. If you’ve never seen one of these before, watch carefully; it’s an intriguing, and highly creative, way of expressing ideas.

The lecture audio is from a lecture by Sir Ken Robinson, the aforementioned expert in education and creativity. The RSA Animate was made from that lecture. The video is just under 12 minutes long, but you must actively watch it to truly “see” his ideas.

Have a great evening!

About AlohaKarina

AlohaKarina (aka Karina Chapman) is a Writer, Photographer, and Educator who teaches middle school Science and Social Studies in Southern Maine. A cohort of the Maine Governor's Academy for Science and Mathematics Education Leadership, and a National Endowment of the Humanities Scholar (Abolitionism studies), she is credentialed to teach K-8 (all subjects) in both Maine and California. Karina has worked as a photographer, weekly columnist, and reporter for the Eureka Times-Standard daily newspaper in Northern California. She has also written for both and (as K.M. Chapman). Karina's superpower is speed-pouring killer margaritas. If she had to choose where to live for the rest of her life, she would choose Kennebunkport, Hawaii Kai, and San Francisco.



  1. Pingback: Creative or “Wrong” Answers to Test Questions? | Creativity Workshop - February 18, 2012

  2. Pingback: Education Animated | Digital: Divide and Conquer - March 1, 2012

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