Sir Ken Robinson Inspires Innovative Thinking in Local Education Community
Last month over seven hundred local teachers, school administrators, university faculty, and community and business leaders came together for an inspiring event designed to open up dialogue about creativity, innovation and technology in our schools. The June 10 event started out with a panel discussion of leading North Bay entrepreneurs followed by a keynote by Sir Ken Robinson, a respected inspirational speaker, well-known for his TED talk entitled Schools Kill Creativity. Sonoma State University's School of Education was a major sponsor of the event which was held at Sonoma Country Day School and organized by ieSonoma (innovate + educate Sonoma), a new collaborative partnership between public and private educational institutions and the larger community spearheaded by the Sonoma County Office of Education. ieSonoma's collaborators hope to engage in projects which improve teaching and learning in local schools so that students will be prepared for life in a technology rich world.
Changes in information resources, educational technology and the national shift to the new Common Core Standards are helping fuel a growing interest in how to lead innovation in schools. According to Robinson, "Education is not a linear process of preparation for the future: it is about cultivating the talents and sensibilities through which we can live our best lives in the present and create the future for ourselves." In his talk he questioned assumptions in the education system and challenged listeners to make systematic changes that will foster, not inhibit student learning and creativity. He asserted that "creativity is as important now in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status."
Part of the audience formed teams representing 18 local schools and districts who spent the remainder of the week at an institute focused on how to implement some of these ideas in their schools this year. Participants examined how their schools can systematically support teachers and students to teach in a way that will foster creativity and infuse what have become known as 21st Century skills into the curriculum. This kind of learning, which has been regarded as essential for student success in college and careers, requires students to develop and practice their ability to think critically, communicate effectively, collaborate and be creative as they are studying core subjects and developing both cognitive and technical abilities. The teams worked together to form a strategic plan for implementation over the 2013-2014 school year.
A team of faculty from Sonoma State's School of Education participated as a team at the Institute this year too. While critical thinking, collaboration and communication are not new concepts in teaching and learning, their context is new with the adoption of the Common Core Standards and innovations in technology. The SSU team hopes to spend the year helping the credential program faculty infuse more technology in the teaching preparation program, find new ways to collaborate with local districts and schools, and look at ways the specific skills emphasized by the Common Core align with the School of Education's Conceptual Framework..
Dr. Karen Grady, Professor in the Single Subject Credential Program is on the SSU team. She noted "The ieSonoma institute provided me with the opportunity to spend a week talking with School of Education colleagues and other teachers and administrators from Sonoma County about curriculum, technology, and teaching and learning in general. That kind of focused time is such a luxury these days. I was able to make new connections, renew existing partnerships and hear many different perspectives on long-standing issues in education."
Dr. Susan Campbell, Program Director of the Multiple Subject Credential Program also found the experience at the institute worthwhile. She valued "the opportunity to connect with teachers and principals in the surrounding area, Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) resources, and my Sonoma State colleagues. During the week I was able to find support for future projects planned for the SSU Multiple Subject Program. For instance, I scheduled a meeting with a person who works at SCOE who collaborates with schools in maximizing resources in support of English language learners. We are going to meet with one of our faculty members who teaches our English language learner (ELL) credential course and discuss how we can better prepare student teachers to be innovators in classrooms with high ELL populations."
In addition to sending a team to the summer institute, the School of Education is continuing to find ways to work collaboratively in the community and contribute to this dialogue. The University setting provides a learning environment with unique resources and a faculty that is rich with knowledge, diverse teaching experience and valuable expertise. Sonoma State aims to provide opportunities for teachers and educational leaders to think deeply about both the practical and the theoretical issues embodied in the changes schools are facing. Continuing education offerings and events designed to build on the themes of creativity, innovation, communication, and educational technology will complement the teaching credential and graduate programs which provide space for research and reflection along with innovation.
Building on the momentum of the day with Ken Robinson, Sonoma State invited attendees to enroll in a short follow-up course, "Unleashing Entrepreneurial Spirit", geared to help educators and community members develop their own entrepreneurial spirit, stay relevant, challenge assumptions and take risks. In the course, participants will have an opportunity to take with innovators, engage in critical dialog about creativity and innovation and work on how to apply that in their own environment. For more information about the class, which starts on August 26, 6:30-8:00 PM and will meet on four Monday nights, visit www.sonoma.edu/education/ues/index.html.