Excited to be here for this session,  but trying to catch up from coming in several minutes late. Have to say it here: 30 minutes for lunch, and also for moving to lunch, and from lunch to the next session, is simply uncivilized.  IMHO, I’d suggest a schedule tweak for this problem next year. 

 This session was an easy choice for me, because I have spent the year trying to learn about and better understand 21st century learning, and in particular how to develop essential 21st c. skills, creative and critical thinking among them.    Our speaker is from the College Board; his presentation style is a bit dry, but he has important messages for us, with a valuable accompanying powerpoint.  (will the powerpoint be made available? If and when it does, I will try to link it back in.)     

Our speaker makes references to Robinson and Pink, which I think are a bit old-hat to most of us attending this workshop.   That is ok, Pink was hugely inspirational to me 3 years ago, but citing him is not really adding value to this session.   Summarizing Pink’s Six Senses is also a bit too much preaching to the choir here; the self-selected audience that arrives for a session with this title doesn’t need these points advocated.

Keying off of Pink’s advocacy of story-telling, we pair up to tell each other “our stories.”  Susan from Memphis tells me a charming story of being a rambunctious 6th grader, and being sent by the teacher to the first grade classroom in order to tutor a child there.   She began helping this little boy to read, and she quickly became hooked– being a first grade teacher was what she knew she wanted to be. 

A new book reference, new to me:  Robert Frank’s Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas.   The book poses lots of interesting questions, inducing, it would seem, better questioning skills for our students.  Why did Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?  Why doesn’t Starbucks offer a small size for its coffee?   The books sounds great, I want to read it. 

Turning now to Ethics, using Randy Cohen’s column, our presenter shares an ethical question for us to discuss– but the one selected is not the richest of questions, imho.

After a break, we reconvene in groups, to do a rhythmic clapping experience, replicating and improvising, in a way that doesn’t really work for me, but that may be just me.   

One of the presenters now, from the Scarsdale school district, is speaking of teaching creavity, in a music collaboration with Lincoln Center called Fandango.  She tells us she had a presentation for us, but the computer is down, which I am here to tell you is disappointing.   

A third presenter comes on, also from Scarsdale, and telling us about the emphasis they are placing on web 2.0 tools to communicate to her public the value and richness of their 21st c.  program.   Nice.   She also tells about her district’s interdependence institute, a professional learning community for teachers and staff; the site documents the work being done in the district by teachers, including the research, resources, and assessment, in this direction.  This is better, re-energizing the room a bit, although the video she shows misses its mark a bit. 

Our College Board presenter returns, and is asking us to take dictation, and underline words which jump out at us:  

“The pupils of the Tandai school used to study meditation before zen entered Japan. Four of them who were intimate friends promised one another to observe seven days of silence.

Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but…[make a prediction for what is next]…when night came and the oil lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help [again, asking us to predict] exclaiming to a servant: [prediction?] “Fix those lamps.” 

The second pupil is surprised to hear the first one talk.  “We are not supposed to say a word.” [Laughter, discussion of irony]

“You two are stupid; why did you talk?” asked the third. 

“I am the only one who has not talked,” concluded the fourth. 

The intent of the activity here is to model lessons which have students slow down, to get inside a text, to really inhabit it to think about it better.  Could be an effective way for close reading.   he now assigns us to write one sentence in which you encapsulate the lesson of the story:   It is difficult to honor our vows absolutely in the course of seeking to collaborate and communicate with others. Then, he asks us to find another moral– see it another way.  Whew.  Um.  It is hard to practice what we preach, especially when we preach against preaching.   Now volunteers from the audience offer the moral: silence requires everyone participate.   We don’t observe ourselves.  Silence is golden, eloquence is silver. Silence is best practiced alone.  People shouldn’t promise silence.  Friends should understand and respect each others’ differences.  He who lapses last lapses best.   Next assignment: Come up with a title for the piece; audience volunteers: Domino effect. Four friends conquered by silence.    Silence of the Lamps.  Dim Light.  The Ultimate Challenge of the Dim Light.  A Failed Experiment.  The Silent Conversation. 

A nice lesson demonstration in critical and creative thinking.