Sunday, November 17, 2013

Blog Post #13

Kakenya Ntaiya: A Girl Who Demanded School
Caitlin Hinton
kakenya ntaiya
    In this TED talk given by Kakenya Ntaiya we learn of a girl who demanded school. Kakenya is a woman who grew up in Kenya and she belongs to the Maasai’s. When Kakenya was a young girl was told that she had a man who was waiting to marry her, but she would have to be older. Kakenya went to school as a young girl and she dreamt of being a teacher. When she was 12 she went through a female right of passage within her community. In the Maasai tradition young girls who have reached puberty are subjected to female genital mutilation. Most of the girls who go through this die from loss of blood. Kakenya, who did not want to quit going to school, made a deal with her father. Kakenya asked her father if she went through with the Maasai ritual if he would allow her to go to high school and he agreed. At the age of 12 Kakenya and other girls went through what was probably one of the most painful experiences of their lives. Thankfully Kakenya survived and continued on to high school. In the mind of the Maasai what they subject these young girls to is just a part of their culture and in order for a girl to become a wife she must go through this or it will bring tremendous shame on her family. When Kakenya applied to college in America and started school, it was then that she learned that female genital mutilation was against the law in Kenya. It was from that point on that Kakenya decided she had to do something about this. She decided that she would start a school for girls in her community. The girls who attend this school are not subjected to the horrific act of female genital mutilation and they have a future that is attainable and bright. When I watched this video I honestly felt guilty. How many times do I take my education for granted? In America we are truly blessed not only with education but with education that is full of technological advantages. We are given the opportunity to be whatever we dream of being. In other parts of the world, such as Kenya, children are not encouraged to dream and become the person they want to be, but instead are told what their roles are within their communities and they must follow them. Our children are given stable environments to learn and flourish in. An education is something that should never be taken away from a child or anyone for that matter. I feel as educators we should always encourage our students to dream and challenge them to become whatever it is that they want to be. It is important to remember that our education is important because there are people all around the world who would love to sit in a classroom and be given the opportunity to learn. We must never take our education for granted. Kakenya Ntaiya’s story is a story of hope and inspiration and I think that we could all take something away from the story of the girl who demanded school.

Alison Gopnik: What Do Babies Think
Ashley Railey
Alison Gopnik

    As I looked through the list of TED talks, my mind was fixed on the first listed. What do babies think? Since I have three kids, I’ve often asked myself the same thing. Alison Gopnik explains in her lecture that a baby or young child’s mind is a lot more complex than we have thought in the past. Children are constantly observing and learning behavior from adults. She explains that because they are taken care of for so long, their brains can focus on learning rather than surviving. Gopnik compares human babies to those of other animals. She says that the longer a baby is nurtured by it’s mother, the smarter the species is. For example, some crows and ravens feed their young for up to two years. This is a very long time in the life span of a bird. On the other hand, the domestic chicken matures in a couple of months. Gopnik explains that childhood is the reason why crows end up on the cover of science magazines while the chicken ends up as lunch. Gopnik states,”Another way of thinking about it is instead of thinking of babies and children as being like defective grownups, we should think about them as being a different developmental stage of the same species, kind of like caterpillars and butterflies. Except that they're actually the brilliant butterflies who are flitting around the garden and exploring, and we're the caterpillars who are inching along our narrow, grownup, adult path.” Division of labor between the adults and children are what helps us survive as humans. Babies and young children are completely helpless and rely on their mother’s care for the first decade of their lives. This way the children can spend all of their time learning and not on sheer survival. Once we reach adulthood, we can take all the things we learned as children and apply them to our daily lives. Gopnik suggests that babies are like scientist. They develop a hypothesis and go out and test it. Depending on the outcome they may change that hypothesis. To test her theory, she used a machine called the Blicket Detector. The Blicket Detector is a machine that lights up when you put some things on it and not others. Gopnik explains:
“If I showed you this detector, you would be likely to think, to begin with, that the way to make the detector go would be to put a block on top of the detector. But actually, this detector works in a bit of a strange way. Because if you wave a block over the top of the detector, something you wouldn't ever think of to begin with, the detector will actually activate two out of three times. Whereas, if you do the likely thing, put the block on the detector, it will only activate two out of six times. So the unlikely hypothesis actually has stronger evidence. It looks as if the waving is a more effective strategy than the other strategy. So we did just this; we gave four year-olds this pattern of evidence, and we just asked them to make it go . And sure enough, the four year-olds used the evidence to wave the object on the top of the detector.”
    At four years old children are just learning to count, but these kids were doing complicated calculations to discover the probability. The kids were forming ideas from the Blicket Detector and coming up with a hypothesis. I thought Alison Gopnik’s lecture was remarkable. I had never realized how complex a young child’s mind really is. My youngest daughter is 14 months old. When she is mumbling and rattling to me, as if she is having a full conversation in baby talk, I wonder what is going through her mind. I think now, that maybe she is trying to convey to me everything she already knows but cannot voice. Gopnik ends her lecture by saying, “ If what we want is to be like those butterflies, to have open-mindedness, open learning, imagination, creativity, innovation, maybe at least some of the time we should be getting the adults to start thinking more like children.”

Charles Leadbeater: Education Innovation In The Slums
Laura Crawford
Charles Leadbeater
    In this presentation, Mr. Leadbeater summarizes the effects of varying programs worldwide that have successfully integrated technology into “slums” for education’s sake. Leadbeater begins his presentation with this intriguing thought: “Your vantage point determines what you can see…The question that you ask will determine much of the answer that you get”. The question that follows is: “Where do we look to see what education will become?” Leadbeater seems to regret that most educators answer with “go to Finland.” However, he spent time studying over a hundred case studies of how education has improved in the most impoverished regions of the world.
“Radical innovation does sometimes come from the very best [i.e. Finland]. But it often comes from places where you have huge need, unmet latent demands and not enough resources for traditional [high-cost] solutions to work which depend on professionals.”
    The aforementioned quotation best summarizes Mr. Leadbeater’s endeavor. The prevalent theme in all the programs he studied seemed to be the integration of technology. As he stated, the most successful programs used “technology for learning that made learning fun and accessible”. This is because “education in these settings works by pull, not push.” Leadbeater laments that “most of our education works by push” and has since the early 19th century when the Bismarckian structure of the educational system was created. However, in today’s times, it becomes clearer every day that this system is entirely obsolete. In the words of Mr. Leadbeater, “education needs to work by pull, not push.” Leadbeater suggests that the key to educating students successfully is by motivating them to pursue knowledge on their own. This motivation may be either extrinsic or intrinsic. Leadbeater defines extrinsic motivation as the “pay off” (in our culture, it would be a potential job). However, Mr. Leadbeater also notes that the extrinsic motivators prevalent in our culture are often too far away (i.e. ten years) which does not coincide with the immediate gratification mindset of kids today. Leadbeater then invites his audience to “imagine an educational system that started from a question, not imposed knowledge” and the consequences of a system set around this type of learning. Leadbeater emphasizes that “you have to engage people first in order to teach them”. An interesting comparison that Leadbeater makes is between Chinese restaurants and the McDonald’s chain. He encourages that schools be like Chinese restaurants, in that—there is no chain (standardization) but you can still easily identify a Chinese restaurant when you see one. McDonald’s, however, is held to a standard. Every McDonald’s in every city in every country in the world has the exact same standard and menu. Leadbeater enunciates that this absolutely should not be the case in schools. Schools need to meet the curriculum of the community attending them. Leadbeater then invites his audience to consider the alternative to the way schools are enforced today (by sustaining innovation in a formal setting) to disruptive innovation in an informal setting. Leadbeater encourages the latter which advocates “high collaboration, personalized [attention to students], high [standard of] technology[…]where learning starts from questions not from curriculum” Mr. Leadbeater concludes by reiterating that “the 19th century Bismarckian [model]schools lay waste to imagination, to appetite” and “stratify society as much as it benefits it”. His closing line is a powerful one as he concludes: “We are bequeathing to the developing world school systems that they will now spend a century trying to reform.”

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