We were down in the States a few weeks ago. My wife took me to Borders bookstore because she wanted to show me this book that she thought I might be interested in. It was a weird looking book. It was black and orange with this stylized stain on the outside. Without even really looking at the cover, I started leafing through the pages. At first, I had trouble reading it because the page I turned to had enormous writing that filled the entire page (think 72 point font in orange on a black page). Sure, I am all for cool design, and maybe I need glasses, but in order to get the page in focus, I had to back up into the next section (Sensuality; I know, odd to put by the Parenting/Educational section. By the way, never back into the Sensuality section.).
When I settled down and actually started to read the book, I saw what my wife saw in it for me. It was called The Third Teacher, and it talked about how classroom design is the Third Teacher. The more I read, the more I liked. It is written by designers and theorists about how they think education should be, and it is a refreshing change from most educational books I read. There is very little educationese. Basically, the book is a series of 79 concepts (like #8: Let the Sunshine In; or #15: Display Learning), each on a page, and then the following pages explain the concept or give examples.
I got as far as #3: Cherish Children's Spaces, and knew I had to have the book. My wife must have seen the look in my eye and offered to buy it for me as an early Father's Day present. Bonus! I picked it up and thought I would read it cover to cover. And then, I wanted to keep for when I had time to read it with due care and attention. As it turns out, the book makes for an excellent bathroom read: flip open randomly to a concept page, and then it you have time, continue to read the exploration of that concept. So my journey through the book has been fairly random.
I've Lost My Palm, but Gained the Touch
The day before I went down to the States, I bought an iPod Touch. Why? Because my Palm PDA that I've used for years died suddenly. I thought I could get away with going without, but as I forgot where I was supposed to be, could not jot notes (that I could successfully find later), could not access the plans I had stored, etc., I realized that because of my failing memory, I could no longer rely on non-electronic means. They don't even manufacture PDAs, so the next best thing was the iPod Touch. I used my niece's for a few minutes last Christmas and was not impressed, and I was even less impressed when I bought mine and it wouldn't sync. The day I got back from the States, I took my iPod to my niece's and was able to get it working. Talk about Love at Second Sight!
Okay, what does this have to do with education?
One of the things I love about the Touch is how easily it shows YouTube videos, and one of the videos that popped up in iTunes U was the TedTalk by Sir Ken Robinson (Think: Michael Caine has a child with Kenneth Branagh). I'd seen his talk four years ago about trying to put creativity back in education, and I took it to heart. His latest TedTalk is about how schools are in need of a drastic transformation from "an industrial model to an agricultural model." I was so excited when I heard this! It was the exact idea I am exploring with the transformation of my classroom; I wanted to take the factory-ness out of education and try to create better, more organic conditions for learning. I just never thought of it in terms of agriculture.
The next time I opened The Third Teacher (in "the Reading Room"), I found a piece by who else? Sir Ken Robinson. It seems like all the planets are lining up. I wouldn't be surprised now if I saw Ken lined up at the local Starbucks holding The Third Teacher.
By the way, once in a while, I even use my iPod to play music.
The Third Teacher website: