Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘education’

21 OCTOBER, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson on Creativity and Changing Educational Paradigms


What’s not to love about RSA Animate? Here’s their animated adaptation of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk about changing educational paradigms, based on one of the best TED talks of all time, in which Sir Ken makes a compelling case for how schools are killing creativity:

We have a system of education that is modeled on the interest of industrialism and in the image of it. School are still pretty much organized on factory lines — ringing bells, separate facilities, specialized into separate subjects. We still educate children by batches.

With his signature soundbite-ready cadence and perfectly timed wit, Sir Ken — always the intellectual showman — once again manages to ruffle some academic feathers while raising some important questions. I’m particularly on board with his emphasis on the role of divergent thinking:

Divergent thinking isn’t the same thing as creativity. I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. Divergent thinking isn’t a synonym but is an essential capacity for creativity. It’s the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question, lots of possible ways to interpret a question, to think laterally, to think not just in linear or convergent ways, to see multiple answers, not one.

The full talk is well worth watching:

Robinson’s most recent book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, is an absolute must-read, wherever you may stand on education.

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21 OCTOBER, 2010

Project Interaction: Design as an Education Curriculum


What existential epiphanies have to do with New York high schoolers and The Clash.

We agree with Paola Antonelli in that “design is the highest form of expression people have, period.” And for it to be a truly transformative force of social change, it has to be woven into a society’s most deep-seated cultural sensibility. What better place to begin than the ripening young mind, whose design sensibility remains unaddressed, if not assaulted, by traditional academia?

Project Interaction is a 10-week afterschool program teaching high school students how to use design to change their communities. From storytelling to critical thinking to interaction design, the curriculum takes a holistic approach to design as a social problem-solving tool and encourages students to tackle issues that matter to them with solutions that are both thoughtful and practically viable.

One of our favorite aspects of the project is the series of interviews with established designers, who share how they got their first a-ha! moment about what design means and the turning point in their self-discovery at which they recognized design as a lifelong calling.

Design is something with a sense of history, something that you can riff off of, flip to the past, tweak it, make it your own, and just kind of keep moving forward and just playing with the world around you and reassembling it.” ~ Bill DeRouchey

[Design] helps you think. It’s assistive to all other disciplines. Whether or not you end up becoming a designer or an artist in the strictest sense, the skills are just valuable aross the board.” ~ Jason Santa Maria

The project, which reminds us of Emily Pilloton‘s wonderful Studio H initiative, just finished raising funds on Kickstarter, successfully, and is about to kick off the fall curriculum in partnership with the Urban Assembly Institute of Math & Science for Young Women. Follow them on Twitter for updates and help spread the word about an admirable effort we hope to see replicated in public schools everywhere.

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13 OCTOBER, 2010

60-Second Lectures: A Tapas Bar of Academic Insight


Consciousness, the unknown and why your childhood aversion to math is finally validated.

Last week, we featured BBC’s 60-Second Ideas to Improve the World podcast and it reminded us of a fantastic project from the University of Pennsylvania, our alma mater, called The 60-Second Lectures. Every semester for the past four years, the university has been inviting leading faculty to share their ideas on topics as far-ranging as poetry, pottery and political science in one-minute microlectures.

From obvious but necessary reality checks to aha!-inducing , the lectures offer a tapas bar of academia’s most compelling cultural insight. Today, we’re inviting you to sample them with five of our favorites.


Hope, fear, hubris and humility, after all, are aftereffects of the unknown. And if I need to face fear in order to make hope possible, I’ll take that bargain any day. In short: Give me ignorance, please, let me not know!”


We have killed each other because of differences of religion, race, class, geography, wealth, education, to mention a few of the more contemporary justifications. These justifications are all based on ideas that we create.”


I have a simple suggestion when it comes to teaching fractions in elementary school: Don’t. Imposing the study of fractions on kids does much more harm than good by replacing confidence and understanding with confusion and memorization.”


The important thing about writing a nonfiction book is you have to choose your story carefully and make sure it has good characters in it because you’re going to be spending a couple of years, at least, with these characters — and you better like them, you better be interested in them. Otherwise, it’s really a drag.”


An explanation of consciousness cannot literally be that there’s a mind’s eye in the brain watching the show. And there’s no evidence that there’s a singular time or place in the brain where consciousness congeals — thoughts seem highly distributed throughout the cortex. So what, and when, and where is consciousness? And, for that matter, why are we conscious at all?”

(While we’re big proponents of asking the right questions, if you, like us, were a little disappointed that Schneider didn’t actually define consciousness, we have you covered with three people who did — see our recent troika on what it means to be human.)

For more micro-interestingness, explore the 60-second lecture archives or sample some more recent talks on YouTube.

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22 SEPTEMBER, 2010

PICKED: The Girl Effect, The Sequel


More than two years ago, the first Girl Effect video swept the web, making a powerful case for the importance of girls’ education in solving global poverty. This week, The Girl Effect is back with an even more powerful sequel, which premiered at the Clinton Global Initiative summit in New York City. Watch, internalize and pass along — it’s important.


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