I attended the Kansas Art Education Conference last weekend. Daniel Pink was the keynote speaker and he gave an eye-opening presentation to an audience of several hundred art teachers, people from the community, patrons, and students. His ideas in a nutshell:
-Asia and Automation are replacing our jobs and our brains. Tasks, that Americans used to be paid well for, are being outsourced or done on-line. His examples included Turbo tax replacing accountants, routine legal issues solved on-line, and engineers being hired from overseas (because they cost at least half as much). He explained that communication is free thanks to things like Skype and that in a few short months, America will be the second largest English speaking country, not the first. With English becoming a world wide language and technology changing the way we communicate, we are no longer just competing for high paying jobs with our neighbors. We are competing with the world, and there are not that many of us!
-Abundance- We are now living in a world that people make money selling us things we didn't know we were missing. He asked the group to raise your hand if you have an refrigerator. Everyone's hand went up. He pointed out that just a few decades ago, a very small percentage would have raised their hands. He did the same with a TV, a computer, a phone, a cell phone, an iPod...etc. It clearly illustrated how the world has changed.
-These things made it clear that the economy of the future will depend on things we consider electives today. Creativity is the driving force in companies like Google, Apple, Nike, and so many others. At Google, they give employees Innovation Time, 20% of a work week. This is time they can work on anything they want. Any idea they want to explore, they can explore. At this point he asked the audience to raise their hand if they have a gmail account. Almost every hand went up. Gmail was created during the 20% time. He had many examples like that, where great ideas come from PLAY.
During a question and answer section one teacher explained that in his elementary school, he sees students lacking creativity. Little kids afraid to take risks, not wanting to get something "wrong." Mr. Pink asked how many other elementary art teachers had seen this. More than a hundred hands went up. It broke my heart a little. Mr. Pink's too. We discussed the importance of tests in these student's life, and what that is doing to their creativity. What it is doing to PLAY.
This experience reminded me of the IMPORTANCE of my JOB for your STUDENTS. Even in my class, students are expected to have a finished result that is "right." No they don't all look the same... but they are all graded on specific criteria. On following directions and doing a good job. This inspired me to provide students with an hour of innovation, every 5th class. 20% of their time in my room will be spent making what ever they want. Working with any material, any subject, no matter what the result. They are encouraged to explore the room, experiment with things they have never done. The only thing they are graded on is effort, not a finished result. This has happened once so far. Of course, some of the art was no good. But EVERYONE was engaged and excited about this freedom. They took risks. They finger painted. 2-D students worked with clay. 3-D students reached for paint brushes. They had success and failures. It was great.
I am grateful to this district for understanding the importance of art, for making art a requirement in high school, for helping to fund supplies for my class, for sponsoring art shows, and for allowing me to go to this conference.
What are your thoughts on 20% time... an hour of innovation?