Children and Cardboard Boxes

In addition to this blog I have been posting a few times at the Cooperative Catalyst blog, which is a fantastic forum to read various opinions on how we can transform education. The educators have vast experience and pour their hearts out in every post. This post I originally posted on the Cooperative Catalyst blog and wanted to share with you.

Give a child a cardboard box and magic happens.

The ratty, old box becomes an airplane and the child the pilot or a hospital and the child the doctor. The cardboard box takes them on adventures and helps them explore imaginary places in their minds. The cardboard box brings them joy and inspires creativity and imagination. With a few tools, they are inspired to build upon, transform, and reinvent their cardboard boxes.

Then our children are sent to schools….

which replace the former boxes. They are taught that learning happens within walls. They are taught to learn a certain way. They must sit in uncomfortable desks for long periods of time. They must remain silent and do work. They must follow the rules and stay away from the Internet. They must stop playing and daydreaming and listen to their teachers. They must sit for hours and fill out the bubbles of a test and if they don’t do it correctly then they’re forced to repeat the gruesome cycle for another year. This type of education prepares them to work in cubicles. The children who are unfortunate to be born in bad neighborhoods suffer the worst of schooling. Their schools often look like prisons. This type of education prepares them to be in prisons. In general, most of our students are learning to follow the rules, listen to authority, and forget the imagination and creativity they had as children with cardboard boxes.
Many of us have heard Sir Ken Robinson’s message, “Schools kill creativity.” This is the problem, but what is the solution?
We want our children to be creative and create. We shouldn’t want them to think outside the cardboard box; we should want them to transform and revolutionize the box just like they used to do with cardboard boxes. See, we inherently are gifted with the ability to dream. When we are children even in the worst conditions we still come out dreaming and seeing the world as it should be. Our imaginations take us to better worlds and we dream idealistically. We don’t see the barriers of reality placed by others. We don’t just see ratty, old boxes.
This is the problem, but what is the solution? So how do we as educators ensure our schools don’t kill creativity? How do we become catalysts for change?

How do we begin to reverse the damage of schooling?

We need to find ways to convince teachers not on this forum to use technology not because our students use it or will be expected to in their careers. We need to convince teachers to use technology to tear down our classroom walls. Use technology to show students that their voices can travel the world just like ours voices do when we tweet, update a status on Facebook, share a blog post, or collaborate on a ning. We need to convince teachers to use technology to motivate students to continuously research and to show them that their work transcends beyond the class bulletin board.
We need to convince teachers to develop Personal/Passionate Learning Networks (PLNs) so they hear these messages and learn to reflect and evolve their instructional practices.
These aren’t the only solutions, just the beginning.

Yet, how do we inspire teachers to react and act?

How do we go beyond spreading the word through blogs, conferences, and workshops and get teachers to act?
I believe we have educator leaders in our Personal Learning Networks (PLN) who get buy-in. Here are things I have seen them do:

  • They are passionate in their writing and presentations.
  • They show real examples of how these ideas impact students.
  • They commit personal time to ensuring the educators they speak to have the resources to carry out the action. Often this is in a wiki or posted on their blogs.
  • They record their presentations and spread them. We should never be embarrassed to be viral. I don’t see this as self-promotion. We need to be louder and not worry about offending others. In fact, we will offend others, because anyone changing a system does. We want our messages spread. Celebrities and even our youth do not find any shame in putting up their videos on Youtube, etc. That is why they go viral or become trending topics.
  • They research the art of giving presentations. They watch the TED Talks and read books and blogs on this subject.
  • They read books and blogs by revolutionary thinkers.

Does this describe you? Were you a bit embarrassed to think it did? Don’t be! We need educator leaders to be fed up, stand up, and begin spreading a message of change. We need the goal to inspire reaction and action. So now how do we as educator leaders begin to collaborate and add power to this message?


Let’s collaborate to find a way to change the system.

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