Wednesday, January 28, 2009


'Its actually quite beautiful' Mollly aged 5

How do we come to appreciate the intrinsic nature of something? When can we name something as beautiful, not as a judgement but as an intrinsic quality? These questions were prompted as I observed my young friend Molly using a magnifying glass to look at a fly (yes a fly) and comment to herself, 'Its actually quite beautiful' as she saw the intricate pattern of its wings and the detail of its body. In this moment she was intrigued by this life form and able to see it for herself, as if seeing it for the first time. The fly was no longer a nuisance to be swotted and sprayed but beautiful!

Whose eyes do students learn through? Are we allowing students time and space to discover for themselves, to intimately connect with what it is they discovering or are they seeing through our eyes?

This I think resonates with what D’Arcy Norman calls 'mindful seeing'(thanks to Marie Salinger for bringing this to my attention through her blog Just in Time.

“Mindful seeing is the process of turning off the filters, of seeing your surroundings unfettered and unobstructed.

When viewing the world without filtering, even the most boring and banal subjects can become wondrous and interesting."

How do we create opportunities for 'mindful seeing' within in our places of learning? As teachers we need to be very aware of the filters that we apply through our curriculum design and pedagogical practices. Are opportunities created for students to really see their world without the imposition of our filters or perspectives?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tame and the Wild

If we want gain some sharper insights on our work or take a different perspective on what we do, where do we look? Perhaps we need to lift our gaze and look beyond our familiar terriority. This was the challenge David Perkins from Harvard University presented to us at last year's Project Zero Summer Insitute. He presented two constrasting images for us to grapple with; the tame and the wild and asked how and why do these ideas matter to education.

To my mind came the image of the par terre, a garden form with its ordered and sculptured appearance, trimmed and tranined; a top down order being imposed to create a tamed, but beautiful form. In contrast I imagined the overgrown, self seeded garden that has an emergent order, its own synergy where things find their place rather than being put in place.

Education tame or wild? Is what we offer today in education tame? Has it become an ordered and predictable venture that rarely strays from the plan? If so what is needed to 'wild the tame'? Conversely though we could ask what is good about 'tame', what does it illuminate for us that we may not discover in a wild environment?

These ideas are presented in the following presentation, Understanding Today & Tomorrow

Also see blog post at Contemporary Learning