IERG News & Updates November 2014

IERG News & Updates is our way to keep you informed about activities of the IERG, examples of Imaginative Education in action, interviews with practitioners, as well as short pieces giving in-depth insights into various aspects and programs of the Imaginative Education Research Group.

We welcome your feedback, and as always, please feel free to share this with your colleagues and students, so that everyone can stay connected.

Focus on IE educator: Ross Powell

I currently have the best teaching role in the world: I’m working with a fabulous IE colleague as a Faculty Associate, team-teaching the IE Cohort of pre-service teachers going through the Simon Fraser University Professional Development Program (PDP). Fabulous colleague Kelly Robinson and I are in our second year as FA’s leading the IE cohort.

We try our best to model as much IE as we can as we explore the ten goals of PDP. We’ve chosen a rainbow as the metaphor for our program overall and we teach about theory and practice within a meta-narrative of hope—the hope to educate every child. The initial community- building experience we take our student teachers on is an IE “walk in the (Tynehead) park” where we use change of context, rhyme, rhythm, jokes, metaphor, mystery and a few other tools, to introduce some of the theories, kinds of understandings, and cognitive tools of IE. Kelly helps the student teachers to understand assessment’s heroic quality of stewardship. My metaphor for exploring differentiated instruction is knobby handles. We guide our student teachers through a curriculum design and instruction planning process that starts with them establishing an imaginative context for their unit. They determine what kind of understandings the students will use to make sense of the content, and which cognitive tools will engage their imaginations.

Being an imaginative educator is always intriguing. It has to be. The cognitive tools ask us to think creatively about all aspects of our program and to draw our student teachers into their new understandings and roles. It’s a huge leap from being a student to becoming an educator “on the other side of the desk”, and IE is a natural foundation for this transition.

Focus on IE Board Member: Associate Director Sheri Dunton

  1. What milestones have shaped your educational interests?

Several years into my teaching career my interests were trending toward alternatives to standard educational methods and curriculum which left far too many students unaffected by their school experiences. I worked in alternative education, administration and special education at all ages.

Most educators recognize that students have a drive to learn about their world that is both powerful and does not match up with the school’s objectives.  This disparity kept me looking for a solution, until my principal introduced our professional book group to Kieran Egan’s The Educated Mind.  A small group of us attended the Imaginative Education Conference in Vancouver, BC in 2006.  That was the milestone.

I knew then my job was to see this thing done, played out in messy, complicated children.  Four years later, we were able to put together a K-12 charter school dedicated to Imaginative Education and I put myself back into the classroom. My hope was to see IE theory informing practice, and practice enriching my understanding of theory.  I never knew it would also be so much fun!  This is the kind of work that teachers live for.  So many of my colleagues here have testified to this.  I just wish more teachers had the chance to experience it.

  1. What are your hopes for education in the 21st century?

That’s pretty easy at this point.  I’d like to see more purely IE schools, K-12 private or public charter, offering examples to the educational community, satisfying work to great teachers, and the best possible education to lots and lots of kids!

  1. What direction(s) would you like to see IERG taking in the future?

I think the IERG website is developing beautifully and the IERG has begun some projects and initiatives that are critical steps toward, ultimately, bringing this work to greater numbers of students.  I’d like to see even more of this to the level of really specific, comprehensive elementary and middle level curricula, curriculum maps, outlines, lessons and units.

  1. What questions/projects are you currently pursuing?

I’m working with my family on starting another new IE school in Oregon.  We’re also continuing work on reviewing the US Common Core Curriculum to develop IE curricula that meets these requirements.  I’m still teaching full time and managing some of the school administration.  It’s been a busy fall.

Meeting of the Minds

On October 24th a core group of Imaginative Educators including MEd in IE students—alumni as well as current students—IE PDP students, practicing IE teachers, administrators and university professors, spent the morning together at K.B. Woodward elementary school in Surrey, B.C. Our session began with some “heroic” icebreaker activities and an interesting talk on the history of imagination from Dr. Kieran Egan. Next, our diverse group split in two. One group focused on imaginative education practice, shaping challenging topics using cognitive tools—a warm-up for the next NIET (Network of Imaginative Education Teachers) meeting scheduled for November 20, 2014*. A second group discussed issues of assessment and evaluation in the context of Imaginative Education. What an inspiring morning!

*Please contact Christa Rawlings—Queen of NIET — if you would like to attend our NIET meeting. We welcome “virtual” participation if you would like to Skype in!

Prof. Kieran Egan visits Jerusalem and Vilnius

Kieran Egan recently made presentations about IE and the “Learning in Depth” program to Efrata College (on their 75th. anniversary—congratulations!) in Jerusalem, and again at the Davidson Institute, which is part of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Tel Aviv. The combined total of those present was around 200, so with any luck, and help from our Associate Director in Israel, Gadi Alexander, and our long-time colleague Dr. Jen Glaser (also Co-Director of The Israel Centre for Philosophy in Education), we might see some sustained LiD classes begin soon.

From there Kieran went on to Vilnius, Lithuania, via Moscow (flying carefully around Ukraine), where he was pleased to speak at an event organized by Dr. Milda Bredikyte and Dr. Simona Plienaityte to celebrate the publication of Learning in Depth: A simple innovation that can transform schooling in Lithuanian. In addition he spoke at the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences, arranged by our long-term IERG colleague, Dr. Milda Bredikyte. He also was able, courtesy of the organizational work of Dr. Plienaityte, to speak to the Ministry of Education and Science for Lithuania. In Vilnius he also was able to discuss our Whole School Projects program, which seemed to stimulate some interest.

Here you can see Prof. Kieran Egan wait for the translator to improve his talk and make it sensible. We are also assured the Lithuanian translation of the LiD book is much superior to the English version.

Taiwanese Visit

The IERG was pleased to host a group of Taiwanese educators, administrators and professors from October 14-17. The group was led by Dr. I-heng Chen, Director of the Asia Pacific Human Resources Management (HRM) Research Center and principal investigator in the Program of Futures Imagination and Creativity in Education, which is funded by the Taiwanese Ministry of Education. Our energetic and impressive visitors spent the first 2 days of their stay in workshops learning about Imaginative Education in theory and practice. They then visited schools where imaginative educators demonstrated IE in action and where quite varied IE programs are being implemented—thank you Dario Demetlika, Pam Hagen, Jonathan Sclater, Stephanie Boileau, and Hannah Myles! One day was also spent on the Learning in Depth Program—introducing the program for some but also providing support for those already doing LiD in Taiwan.

Tommy Rosham

Trinity Grammar School, Kew, Melbourne, Australia

LiD topic: Codes and Sign Systems

Focus on a LiDKid: Trinity School, Australia

Hi LiD kid! What is your name?

Tommy Rosham

Where do you go to school?

Trinity Grammar School, Kew, Melbourne, Australia

What is your LiD topic?

Codes and Sign Systems

What is one thing that you think is amazing about your topic?

That you can program almost anything on a computer. For example, any video game you have ever played has been programmed by someone.

Can you share with others something about your topic that you think they probably don’t know?

You do not need to be the top of your class and the smartest human ever to code. For example, Steve Jobs was a college dropout.

What do you think of LiD?

I think that without LiD I would be nowhere near as good at coding.

Joke:    There are only 10 types of people in the world: those that understand binary and those that don’t. (10 is binary for 2)

New workshop connects IE to inclusion

Inclusion is a difficult concept and an even more difficult reality. Early childhood educators do struggle with “applying”, “adapting”, “designing” inclusion in their classrooms. Sometimes this struggle comes from the feelings of helplessness, loneliness, and lack of self-confidence. These feelings are fueled by the lack of time, lack of resources, and mostly… stress.

What if educators would let go of stress? What if inclusion could morph from a struggle into a fun, imaginative, and relaxed reality? What if early childhood educators could be given the opportunity to see the beauty of inclusion without the clouding and interfering shadows?

This workshop/presentation will walk the participants though a multitude of practical and theoretical aspects of inclusion that will try to shift some of the usual misconceptions and fears around this complex aspect of the ECCE everyday-pedagogy. Annabella will introduce the participants to the theory if Imaginative Education and will demonstrate and invite the audience to practice, along with her, some of applications of the somatic cognitive tools. These tools will help teachers see inclusion in a new way.

Be ready to move, create rhythms, build some tools and have a lot of fun!

The workshop is dedicated to EC and primary educators (K-4).

Visit ELIEP for more information.