Watching the video of Dr Robinson's talk on divergent thinking was a slightly eye opening experience for me. I had been exposed to the theory before and even attended discussions on it that have shaped my behavior and actions as an educator. It's sad that it sometimes takes watching a video like this to bring some perspective back.
At this time of the year, we get so focused on the realities of our system- the Tests. The State ELA and Math Exams are in the next couple of weeks. As the pressure mounts on the teachers and the kids, the focus has been on preparing for the test using Kaplan books, past tests, iPad apps, extra practice and much more. It pretty much all boils down to "Make sure you remember these tips for taking the test" and "Please don't leave this out" and the standard test prep fare. The simple fact is that no matter how they are learning in the classroom or how they thinking and developing, our students will be judged on their performance on that test. We will be judged on their performance on that test. Whether or not the test is an accurate way to measure student growth and thinking is a moot point. The test leaves very little space for divergent thinking or simply anything other than what it has to be right now. That's life in every middle school in NYC right now.
We want our kids to leave our halls and then go out and make their mark on the world, succeed in life and love, and to do well and do good. We hope they learn while with us and continue to learn and grow while making their way through life. So while we love to allow them to be free and clear and use all of their divergent thinking brain power,we must also prepare them for the world we see. What would be best would be a gradual change. An intensive study into exactly how our kids learn and what the merits of divergent thinking are versus the merits of the current system. A marriage of the two, a way to actually make multiple good ideas blend together harmoniously and for the benefit of all our kids would be the best. We should prepare them for the world they are going to enter. But not just prepare them to be a drone in that world, prepare them to challenge that world, work in and with that world, mold and shape that world, and to have an active say and decision in where their world and our world will go. It is those students who manage to maintain most of the "deteriorating capacity" that will shape our future.
The iPads help do that. They open doors previously unknown to our students. It allows access to those different answers to the same question. It allows for connection across cultures and ages and disciplines through the work of a simple app. Even watching kids compete over how to win in Angry Birds allows for chances for divergent thinking that they normally would not have in the classroom. It is still necessary to teach our students how to count money for example or how to figure out percentage benchmarks or what a simile is. But the iPads give teachers and students more options of learning how to get these skills. Not just more options, but more routes, maps, streets, alleys, and roads to get the skills and stop and smell (or create) the roses along the way