Has the educational system become obsolete?

I first heard of Sir Ken Robinson two years ago. He is a specialist in education, creativity, and innovation. In response to the question “Why don’t we get the best out of people?” Robinson argues,  “It is because we have been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. We are educating people out of their creativity.” You can hear and view Robinson discuss education, creativity, and innovation at the following website:

Last December, a friend of mine introduced me to two other influential educators. One is Dr. Sugata Mitra. He is the educational researcher who did the “Hole in the Wall” experiment. In this experiment, Mitra showed that in the absence of supervision or formal teaching, children can teach themselves and each other if they are motivated by curiosity and peer interest. Mitra dream is “to build the ultimate ‘School in the Cloud’ where children, no matter how rich or poor, can engage and connect with information and mentoring online.” You can listen to Mitra at the following website:

The second educator my friend introduced me to is Cristobal Cobo, who is a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute. Cobo proposes an invisible learning concept that works to integrate diverse perspectives on a new paradigm of learning human capital development that is especially relevant in the context of the 21st century. According to Cobo,“Invisible Learning is not a single idea. It is composed of many ideas. Rethinking the formal institutions of education should lead us to more openness.” He believes that schools need to teach techniques to develop skills for globalization, and they have to be focused on how to learn, not what to learn. You can listen to Cobo at the following website:

I find the ideas of Robinson, Mitra, and Cobo very interesting. They believe that our educational system has become obsolete. Robinson says, “So many kids are disengaged from education and there’s a tendency to confuse testing with learning,” “What drives learning is curiosity, questioning … What fires people up to learn is having their mind opened up by possibilities. ” I have some thoughts to add to theirs. I think higher education is also part of this crisis. How can universities and colleges prepare students to face the real world? What happens with technology in the classroom? How is it integrated? How can we, the students, develop our critical thinking? How can schools at all levels prepare students to face this global village that is today’s world? I am living in fascinated times. I love the energy and passion in Robinson, Mitra, and Cobo’s presentations about the importance and power of education. I enjoy talking with my friend about what is coming next in education.

I hope you enjoy these conversations and can take something from them.

Becoming an explore

For one of my courses, I had to do a presentation on a piece of writing that has changed the way I think.

My presentation was based on a book titled How to Be an Explorer of the World. The book describes how artists and scientists analyze the world around them in unexpected yet similar ways, by observing, collecting, documenting, analyzing, and comparing.

Why did this book attract my attention? I already had a lot of preconceptions about what makes a person creative. It showed me that there are many ways to be creative.

It showed me that creativity is much more than having the ability to write or paint or invent. My creativity comes from exploring the world, discovering little places or things to share with friends, family, and myself.

Since I’ve started this course, I have spent a lot of time on the Internet searching information for my assignments. My searches have taken me to interesting websites that are opening my world in so many different ways.

One website that I enjoy reading is www.brainpickings.org, written by Maria Popova. To me, this site has the perfect balance of good design, good content, and inspirational images and quotes – in other words, a little bit of everything. This quote from the website says it all: “Brain Pickings is a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why, bringing you things you didn’t know you were interested in — until you are.” I also like the sites definition of creativity: “Because creativity, after all, is a combinatorial force. It’s our ability to tap into the mental pool of resources — ideas, insights, knowledge, inspiration — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways.”

As a student, I have learned that everybody can find his/her own voice. Just as there are many ways to be creative, there is not one way to do things; reinvention is necessary. This discovery has allowed me to accept who I am and given me the energy to explore my own type of creativity.

I hope you enjoy.

Exams

The big day has arrived, the first mid-term exam.  I’m the kind of person who is always taking a course, studying this and that, but I did not go to university because I am terrified of exams. I remember studying for finals in high school. I’d read and read and read, but nothing stayed in my mind. And now, here I am. I’ve studied hard for this mid-term. I’ve got that same sick feeling – decades later. Well, what can I do? As I sit down to write the exam, I feel as if I’ve just been given the death penalty. I haven’t even seen the exam and yet I haven’t any hope that I will pass.  When I finish, I realize that I’ve done it. I have written an exam, and I feel pretty good about it.  A week later, I get my results – I’ve passed!

I’m learning to take one thing at the time.  This week, however, I have two exams, three assignments, and an evening wedding to attend. So much for taking one thing at a time. I’m not sure how I will manage to do all of this.  I will see how the week goes – one day at a time.

©Holstee

School begins

My first day as a student was both one of the most terrifying and one of the most exciting days of my life. I drove to school with a big question mark in my mind and butterflies in my stomach. I was worried that because I was an older student and an immigrant I would not fit in. When I walked into the classroom and I saw two women who looked about the same age as me, I began to relax. The instructor had us all introduce ourselves and explain why we wanted to enrol in the program. I found out then that I was not the only student for whom English is not the first language. I could relax even more! One day during break, everybody was chatting, and someone asked, “Who is from the 90s?” I thought to myself, “Almost everyone here was born in the 1990s. My son is from the 90s.” And so, while I was relatively comfortable around these people, for the first few weeks – as an immigrant and as the oldest student in the course – I felt that I didn’t have too many things in common with the others in my class, and it bothered me. I didn’t know how to move forward. For many weeks, I carried those feelings around in my backpack. Then, one day, I realized that this is who I am. Suddenly, my differences from everyone else didn’t matter.
After three months of school, I love to be there. I love the feeling of being a student again. I love the stress that I have some days. I like the people with whom I am sharing this journey. I love the exercise of thinking. I love to feel that my life is in my hands. And for the first time, I’m enjoying what I’m doing now without any pressure of the future.
Last summer I saw the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” This movie was such an inspiration. There was a line in the movie that I am trying to live my life by: “Everything will be alright at the end, if it’s not right it is not the end.”

Trying to figure it out

When I was trying to figure out what to study, I discovered the Public Relations and Marketing certificate. It was difficult to think myself in this program. Too many preconceived notions popped into my mind. I spent a long time wondering if this was the program for me. One day, when I was talking with my husband about the pros and cons of this program, he said, “Marcela, you didn’t choose to work with books, the books chose you. Why you don’t go with the flow this time, too.”

Sometimes life shows you what to do – you just need to keep your eyes open and follow the signs. This has been my style. For example, I never thought about working with books until the day someone offered me a job in a publishing company. I fell in love with the job.

As I thought about this, I decided to register in Public Relations and Marketing program. I wrote the statement of purpose, filled in the forms and, when I was accepted, sent an email confirming that I would be enrolling in the program. I’m certain that this year will provide me with the perfect opportunity to expand my knowledge, learn new skills, and gain new experience. This time next year, I’m looking forward to falling in love with my new job!

Things that inspire me

Many things have inspired me in this journey of being full-time student. Some of them were books, some were quotes, and some were other people.

1-   The Element by Sir Ken Robinson
“Sir Ken Robinson describes the element as the point at which talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels.” This is a book about talent, passion, and achievement, words that are important in my life.

2-   Quotes that my friend Christine sent at the end of every email.
“It is never too late to be who might have been.” ― George Elliot
“Beauty will save the world.”  ― Fyodor Dostoevsky
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficult.” ― Winston Churchill
“The person interested in success has to learn to view failure as a healthy, inevitable part of the process of getting to the top” ― Dr. Joyce Brothers

3-   When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön
In 2005, a friend told me about this book and how it helped her to overcome difficult times. Some quotes from the book.
“We can spend our whole lives escaping from the monsters of our minds.” ― Pema Chödrön
“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give to ourselves.” ― Pema Chödrön
“Everything is fresh, the essence of realization.” ― Pema Chödrön

4- Yo Yo Ma playing Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 – Prelude

5- Last time I was in New York, I’ve found this magnet that is on my fridge now.

6- My friend Saul who is almost 96 years old.

The comfort zone was killing me

CHANGE.  I needed a change, but I didn’t want to change my husband, my family, and my friends because I love them. So what was I to change?
I’m 52 years old, living in Winnipeg, with a nice job, but the meaning and feeling of “nice” is killing me. The comfort zone of working with  nice people, having plenty of holidays,

“The Holstee Manifest” ©2009

and working reasonable hours are not enough.  I ask myself, “Do I see myself doing the same over and over and over for the next 10 years?” My answer is no.  I really want to work at something that challenges me. What am I to do? I make the decision to go back to school, to become a full-time student.
To arrive to my decision was a long journey:  I had to figure out what I wanted to study, feel confident about probably being the eldest student in the classroom, and have the courage to study in a language that is not my first language.  I sought help, worked with a coach, and learned that I needed to look for something that suits who I am..

I’m energetic.
I’m passionate.
I’m self demanding.
I’m supportive of others.
I’m eager to learn.
I love having projects.
I’m confident, yet I’m insecure.
I’m friendly.
I have a family that supports me.
I have friends who support me.

I have many questions that I don’t have the answers for. What else do I need? What will I do when I finish studying? What kind of job do I want? Will I find the job I want? Will my memory work in the same way it used to? Do I need to be successful? What is the meaning of being successful?  Am I too old to go back to school? For months, these questions haunt me day and night. Then, one day I realize that leaving my comfort zone and experiencing something new  will be nurturing. By enjoying the present, I know that in the end everything will be right.
A few years ago, when I put together my portfolio, I wrote, “When you love what you do, it is not difficult to put your best forward.” My wish is to have this feeling in my next job. My journey has begun…