I’ve been reading a lot this summer. The more I read, the more I realise that I’m right to assume that there is no ‘the’ way to teach. I spotted Tom Barrett’s book on the No Tosh Facebook feed and ordered a copy having seen Tom speak at a couple of events and having read his blogs.
Can Computers Keep Secrets explores the links between curiosity and creativity.
The book (more of an extended essay) is quick and enjoyable to read that struck a chord with me as both a father, school leader and a geographer. There are some clear links to other books such as Mindset, The Elephant in the Classroom and How Children Succeed. That is to say, teachers need to move away from delivering knowledge toward allowing children to ask questions and driving their own enquiries. This links clearly to the geographical enquiry process that we used at Priory Geography:
The idea being that young people access the process at different rates as their learning goes through different stages. As pointed out in How Children Succeed, every young person can access the process, including fresh Year 7s. In particular, students at an earlier stage of learning have often made great discoveries by using enquiry. The questions can be generated by the teacher, students or others through social media or just explore silly, but serious questions linked to cheese on toast. But, enquiry needn't be stuck in geography, as all subjects can be driven through student-led enquiry.
The style of the book is great and I like the clear links to classroom experience. Tom offers some simple yet powerful ideas that can be used at home or in classrooms. I particularly like his advice on how to encourage creativity and discovery by following up questions to topics such as ‘What would it be like if you didn’t have a tongue?’
One activity that I enjoy with my four year old is to allow him to take me on an adventure. After reading Tom’s book, I was able to add another dimension to the exploration. Today we chased the wheat eating machine and explored the fields that had already been harvested. In a classroom and school context, it’s about never writing off questions, and (something that I always try to practice) never asking questions that you know the answer to.
Tom concludes that creativity and curiosity are closely linked, something that I can relate to and also links to other readings.
All in all, an enjoyable read and recommended.