Archive for May, 2010

WSJ: Humans: Why They Triumphed

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Came across an interesting article in the WSJ Weekend Journal (May 22-23, 2010) titled “Humans: Why They Triumphed” by Matt Ridley. It mentions the idea of “collective intelligence” where innovation is part of evolution and its rate of change is affected by shifts of cultures and populations, often energized by trade and urbanization. A particularly stimulating remark was how “nobody” knows how a pencil is made – despite it being so widely used (so I went and looked – I recommend this Science Channel video). Anyway, back to youth creativity…with the belief that youth are an untapped creativity resource, it makes sense therefore to put them in groups formed from different unfamiliar sub-groups and encourage invention through their discovery and exchange of each others’ cultural backgrounds.

2010 Intel ISEF

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Spent two days this week as a Grand Awards Judge in the Environmental Sciences area of the Intel ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) that was in San Jose, CA this year. It was my first Intel ISEF experience. The main theme of this event is “innovation”, and the finalist students and projects represented the current best. I am most impressed by the broad representation. However, I am left feeling that there is a lack of tools to assist the students to focus their energy and maximize the potential of their creativity. From problem definition to experimental design to data analysis and interpretation, and to managing the project, the students need clear guidance in these areas to help them focus their independent creative and critical thinking. For an event such as Intel ISEF, I believe an age-appropriate definition of “innovation” is also needed. Innovation for these students should be based on the elements (knowledge, tools) ┬áin their “sandbox” and be a personal statement to their peers.

WSJ: The Case for Saturday School

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Appearing in the Saturday/Sunday, March 20-21, 2010 issue of the Wall Street Journal (pages W1 and W2), this article, “The Case for Saturday School”, by Chester E. Finn, Jr. argues for additional time spent learning in school including more hours per day, more days per week and year. This essentially amounts to extended daycare. In particular, the comparison to education systems in other countries such as Singapore is weak. Students from Singapore fair better in the US standardized tests because they have a superior examination-based system that preps them over the course of two years, and includes timely “mock” examinations and a sabbatical to study for the exams. Further, students in Singapore typically have private tuition after-school and on weekends. The result has been students who have no opportunity to think creatively or critically, and who shy away from the challenges of leadership because of social and academic risks. In the US, an innovative model for educational reform is needed, and more time in school may be a great part of the plan, but it should be dedicated to creative and critical thinking, and not to out-compete students from other countries.