This article is a follow-up to the Get Out & Go piece that Moonshine published in the September print edition in anticipation of the event. You can find the original story here.
Over 800 community members attended Squaw Valley Institute’s highly anticipated lecture and Q&A session with Sir Ken Robison on Oct. 10. As audience members, ranging from middle school students to retired teachers, found their seats in the Grand Sierra Ballroom at the Resort at Squaw Creek, the North Tahoe jazz band warmed up the crowd with their lively set. Robinson presented his views on how the current education system can be improved to engage more students and increase learning itself. Laced with British humor and personal anecdotes that kept his hour-plus speech engaging and relatable, and left many audience members excited and inspired about the education revolution.
Prior to the public lecture, Robinson attended two very special Q&A sessions. The first was an intimate conversation with the students of the Squaw Valley Institute Kids program. Each student presented Robinson with an intriguing question that related to his novel, “The Element” (the book discusses that people are productive and happy when they are in their element).
One student asked Robinson how she could explain her drive to be creative to people that don’t quite get it. “People think creativity is some exotic talent that only one or two people have,” Robinson said, explaining that while most people don’t think they are creative, they just haven’t discovered what makes their creative juices flow. Two brothers in the program told Robinson they worry that when their family moves to Spain, they will be separated from breakdancing, which is their passion. Robinson reminded them of Spain’s rich dance culture and told them, “Don’t look at it as moving away from something, but moving towards something.”
Robinson treated each student in the Q&A as an adult, and addressed their questions honestly and openly. “Sir Ken very much admired the SVI kids he met,” SVI Executive Director Renee Koijane said. “[He] wrote them the most lovely of thank you notes expressing his gratitude for their thorough research around his book ‘The Element’ and for asking him such insightful questions that really made him think.”
Following the session with the students, Robinson spoke to over 230 staff members of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. TTUSD Superintendent Dr. Rob Leri was ecstatic to have Robinson speak to his colleagues, especially because much of the work Leri has done in the school district — for example, giving teachers the flexibility to tailor their lessons to meet the diverse learning styles of their students — aligns with what Robinson preaches.
“I appreciated Sir Ken’s insights and humor when discussing the important work we are doing in TTUSD. I believe much of our efforts are reflective of the thinking of Sir Ken,” Leri said. “[We] had our first district-wide minimum day on Wednesday [Oct. 23]. I heard teachers quoting Sir Ken as they started the work of developing new units aligned to Common Core State Standards and the district’s vision of learning experiences and outcomes.”
Robinson defined education as “helping people understand what they’re capable of” and as “the relationship between teachers and learners,” and he was met with some challenging questions from TTUSD staff members. One teacher shared that while she has increased creativity and alternative teaching styles in her classroom, her standardized test scores have dropped. “Teaching is an art form; it’s a matter of judgment and intuition,” Robinson said.
Robinson’s main presentation was just as captivating as his TED Talks. He discussed everything from public education to the evolution of technology and society, and extended his lecture past his allotted time to share a trailer for the film, “Landfill Harmonic,” a moving example of applied creativity. Perhaps the most valuable part of his lecture was that he provided no solutions, but instead shared ideas and tools for educators to experiment with, and reminded us that the current shape of education does not dictate how it can be.
“Sir Ken did not come to handhold us and give us direct play by plays on how to educate in the classroom,” Koijane reflected on the speech. “He came to inspire us and guide from a higher level point of view. Teachers, parents, kids, members of the community are meant to create their own path to build greater creativity around them. I hope they do so!”