Saturday, January 06, 2007

Say YES to creativity in 2007

David Thornberg's ideas are often like a draught of cold, pure spring water on a hot summer day after a five mile hike.

Jordan River source

Thanks to Miguel Guhlin, I found David's post "The Power of Yes" today. This is my favorite paragraph:
Enter Linux and OSS. Imagine a software world where the answer is YES, not NO. Yes, you CAN give a copy of your presentation software to a child who wants to finish a project at home. Yes, you CAN play DVD's from any region in the world on your computer. Yes, you CAN tweak a program to add a new feature, or even fix a bug yourself. Yes, you CAN use an operating system that takes less than a class period to boot up. Yes, you CAN have all your software updated automatically for free. Yes, you CAN make older computers behave like energetic teens by eliminating the software bloat associated with Windows. Yes, you CAN save enough money to bring even more technology into the hands of children. Yes, you CAN be part of a global community of educators who see technology as a tool of empowerment for ALL children, rich or poor.

As educators and parents, we SHOULD focus and emphasize more positive, empowering messages with the young people we interact with each day over negative, controlling messages. It amazes me to realize how so many people in our world seem to act like sheep rather than shepherds. When we talk about the purposes of education and the need to help students develop independent capacities for creative and critical thinking at conferences or in the blogosphere, I think we often return to school buildings and educational environments where these ideas are at-best paid lip service, and at-worst ignored in a high-stakes testing environment which places the highest value of the transmission of curriculum content into the brains of learners so they can score well on standardized tests.


We've got plenty of metaphorical "sheep" in educational circles, we need more visionary shepherds like David who can lead us into a land of opportunity. Among your resolutions for the new year, in addition to being constructively digitally disruptive and gaining new personal experiences with digital social networking sites, I'd encourage you to try out more open source operating systems and software solutions. Ubuntu, OpenOffice, Moodle, and Audacity are a few of my personal favorites. To understand a technology and form credible perspectives about it, you need to have sustained experiences using it. Thankfully, the financial cost of using open source tools is minimal or non-existant. What you DO need to be willing to trade is TIME. I have found my time investments in open source technologies to be extremely valuable to date.

For more on David and his refreshing ideas, I recommend his article "Pencils Down! How Decontextualized Standardized Testing Can Destroy Education" from 2001. I also have notes from his 2005 TCEA preso, "But Wait, There’s More: Redefining Education in a Light-Speed World," and a podcast recording of David's 2006 TCEA preso "March of the Penguins - Linux on the Student Desktop!" I missed NECC last summer and hearing David there in person, but he shared the same preso at NECC in San Diego. It is available as a NECC 2006 enhanced podcast.

Say "yes" to creativity in 2007!