The Global Search for Education: The Technology Connection

C. M. Rubin — “If you asked a parent they might call it intuitive, if you asked a musician they might call it inspiring…”

Will Apple’s iPad 2 change the way we watch a book or appreciate nature? (photo courtesy of Susan Leslie)

Will Apple’s iPad 2 change the way we watch a book or appreciate nature? (photo courtesy of Susan Leslie)

“If you asked a parent they might call it intuitive.

If you asked a musician they might call it inspiring.

To a doctor it’s groundbreaking.

To a CEO it’s powerful.

To a teacher it’s the future.

If you asked a child, she might call it magic.”

…And if you asked the producers of the Apple IPAD 2 new global advertising campaign, they’d probably tell you they’re just getting started…

So I asked Dr. Cornelia Hoogland (Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario), author of “The Land inside Coyote: Reconceptualizing human relationships to place through drama” and Woods Wolf Girl (her 6th book of poetry), and the founder and artistic director of Poetry London, this question:

Do you believe we need to change the way the arts are handled in academic curricula given the dramatic changes in technology in today’s world?  If so, how do you believe this should be addressed?

Coyote has some thinking to do. In this story, Coyote goes down to the creek and then into the water.  He sinks into the mud and sits there until he has an idea. For Coyote, thinking means immersing himself in the earth, quietly sitting and listening until something occurs to him.  He doesn’t separate knowledge into the disciplines; rather, he puts things into the holistic context of the earth.  He’s not afraid to get dirty.

In another story, Coyote tries to learn another creature’s song and gets his teeth broken. But in the end, the desert that surrounds all the creatures becomes the landscape inside Coyote.  It’s as if he swallowed the mountain and grassland he now wears close to his heart.  Such integration contrasts with mainstream western approaches to education that isolate content in order to observe it.

Concern for place is important to many Canadian educators. On Canada’s west coast, the primary connection to place is captured in the life cycle of the salmon.  Salmon’s major role in the food chain sustains people and large mammals; as well, their decomposing bodies, when carried into the woods by wolves, fertilize the evergreen forests.  So when asked by a parent about her curriculum, Mi’kmaq teacher Susan Leslie’s reply that “We follow the fish,” implied an interconnected curriculum in which the arts – dancing, carving, painting, drawing, singing, drama, sewing, writing or storytelling – not only expresses students’ understandings but also provides the artistic methods of articulating (as well as of assessing) their understandings.

Children connect with the arts in a Canadian classroom (photo courtesy of Susan Leslie)

Children connect with the arts in a Canadian classroom (photo courtesy of Susan Leslie)

Canadians educators, who live in the same threatened and turbulent world as educators around the globe, are turning to native elders and teachers to help ground curriculum in aboriginal values which include the emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual and place-based components of learning.  Curriculum begins with children of diverse backgrounds valued for the strengths and resources they bring into the classroom. Aboriginal teachings are shown to be as contemporary as they are traditional.  For instance, cutting edge research into the human brain that shows such things as spending time in the natural world is hardwired (or not) at an early age, confirms similar wisdom passed on for generations in native communities.

But can ancient understandings address contemporary arts curricula’s growing dependence upon technology?  Dr. Janette Hughes, in speaking to the importance of updating the curricula to reflect shifts in society as the result of the proliferation of digital media, says that “Teachers are attending more closely to visual and multimodal literacies – students can express themselves through image, sound, and gesture to wider audiences because of the affordances of digital media.  The scope of the artist/designer is broadened and more accessible, particularly for students who cannot paint or draw with technical expertise, but who can create and design with attention to detail, color, line, light, and depth.”                

There’s no doubt that the interactive environments that Web 2.0 technologies provide (video games, websites, wikis) do and will change artistic practice and understanding.  Participants/students need to think about complex systems, webs of interconnectedness, and the complicated ways in which impulsive or short-term decisions can end in disaster.

As our awareness of human interconnectedness increases – not only connectedness within global commercial and security systems, but also within the context of our shared, blue planet – the tired chorus for standardized testing and accountability is moribund.  It’s time to join Coyote in the mud for a bit of clear thinking, to look to First Nations people for guidance in shaping the questions that science, industry and technology have failed to ask.  Recently, while I hurried from building to building, an Elder asked me, “Where are your feet?”  For the first in a long time I looked down to the concrete under my feet, to the place in which I found myself.

World Wisdom

  1. Deepening human connections to the natural world leads to significant educational gain.
  2. These connections also expand students’ grounding for the complex web of relationships between technology and the arts.
  3. Areas of knowledge are highly interconnected and should be viewed holistically and not just as separate disciplines.
  4. As our awareness of human interconnectedness increases,  the tired chorus for standardized testing and accountability is moribund.
Dr. Cornelia Hoogland and C. M. Rubin

Dr. Cornelia Hoogland and C. M. Rubin

In The Global Search for Education, join C. M. Rubin and globally renowned thought leaders including Sir Michael Barber (UK), Dr. Leon Botstein (US), Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond (US), Dr. Madhav Chavan (India), Professor Michael Fullan (Canada), Professor Howard Gardner (US), Professor Yvonne Hellman (The Netherlands), Professor Kristin Helstad (Norway), Professor Rose Hipkins (New Zealand), Professor Cornelia Hoogland (Canada), Mme. Chantal Kaufmann (Belgium), Professor Dominique Lafontaine (Belgium), Professor Hugh Lauder (UK), Professor Ben Levin (Canada), Professor Barry McGaw (Australia), Professor R. Natarajan (India), Sridhar Rajagopalan (India), Sir Ken Robinson (UK), Professor Pasi Sahlberg (Finland), Andreas Schleicher (PISA, OECD), Dr. David Shaffer (US), Dr. Kirsten Sivesind (Norway), Chancellor Stephen Spahn (US), Yves Theze (Lycee Francais US), Professor Charles Ungerleider (Canada), Professor Tony Wagner (US), Professor Dylan Wiliam (UK), Professor Theo Wubbels (The Netherlands), Professor Michael Young (UK), and Professor Minxuan Zhang (China) as they explore the big picture education questions that all nations face today.


  1. Ralph

    Setting a curriculum has become too much of a science, when really it is an art. All the different parts complement each other to various degrees and getting this to all balance correctly is, in fact, an art.

    • KPW

      I think that’s a fair point. Knowledge itself is a very abstract idea so to pin it down in a scientific fashion is obviously going to be tricky.

      • john mark

        The bringing together of the disciplines will lead to accomplishments that are not fathomable today.

        • Lisa T.

          It’s inspiring :)

    • john mark

      Stricter licensing requirements will be the impetus for teachers to become better prepared; better pay will attract more of the best and the brightest

      • Leslie J

        There are many types of incentives and rewards. Important to walk the walk.

      • Sam Ellis

        I think teaching is actually one of the few jobs where pay really isn’t everything. The best teachers are those who do it for the children, not for the money. That said, there is a lot of truth in your statement, but one or two caveats that are worth noting.

      • Helene

        Licensing is a state issue, as are many policy issues in education. It seems like a lot of ground to cover to change what appears to be a nationwide issue, but each state is like a separate country when it comes to education. This is decentralization at its worst.

    • Leslie J

      Let students be part of this process.

    • Ian Gordon

      It not only is an art, it requires seasoned and skillful teachers to construct it. It is one of the most important tools for providing an outstanding education to our children.

    • Cathy Rubin

      And then you add technology into the mix which is changing the way we do everything. Technology can enhance curriculum and learning – do you agree or not?

  2. KPW

    Modern culture is moving so fast now, particular­ly with regards to technology­, so education is understand­ably going to have to play catch up all the time.

    • martin

      And we do not really have a choice, except to be smart about obsolescence and about staying abreast of technological change.

    • Ian Gordon

      Yes, but one has to plunge in somewhere. There will be ways to stay close to the leading edge.

    • Helene

      And each state must have its own technology expertise. This is definitely something that should be centralized. We are talking about a lot of extra money spent on staff when this country needs to get efficient.

  3. Lisa T.

    Technology is going to play a pivotal role in education in the future and it should be embraced more fully by schools. The world in general is becoming more and more dominated by tech so it makes sense that schools should follow suit and teach students how to use it.

    • Ian Gordon

      Those professors who do not want to keep up should be severed. The tech guy should not only understand technology but be able to get teachers up to speed and also respond credibly to students.

  4. john mark

    The marriage of art and technology will enable the world to express themselves artistically without the traditional burden of execution by hand.

    • Leslie J

      The new opportunities are endless. This machine will handled as needed.

    • Helene

      The computer, or rather, microprocessor based systems, is where most artistic effort has gone to some extent. Whether it is graphic art, animation, film production, writing….those who are still in denial will soon be artifacts.

  5. martin

    The study of nature will only bring positive results for all involved. As we become more walled in, partly become of the effectiveness of technology, access to nature will become less fruitful.

    • Sam Ellis

      In a similar vein, what about urbanisation? The global trend is for people to move out of the countryside (full of nature) and into the city (almost entirely artificial). I wonder what effect this will have.

    • Ian Gordon

      The study of nature serves as a holistic experience by which to evaluate other uses of time at school.

    • Helene

      Our access to nature may simply be virtual reality.

  6. Dave Ziffer

    The only moribund, tired chorus in my opinion is this 1970s vague hippie educational blather, where every medium is referred to as a “literacy” and we’re all going to get ourselves back to the Garden. The only new thing here is that the techno spin is apparently now deemed acceptable so long as all the equipment is bought from oh-so-cool Apple, right?. My kids were exposed to this dreck in the 1990s and what they learned was NOTHING. We had to pull them out of “school” and educate them ourselves. EdNews … maybe next time you could publish something that contains either an original thought or some connection to reality? The only place in the world where this kind of stuff washes is in academia, where people don’t actually have to produce anything of practical significance in order to remain employed forever.

    • martin

      I would say that you should take your kids to Finland so that you can see what happens when you cut out the standardized tests, cut down the homework, and actually have teachers that teach your children how to think, approach complex problems, and enjoy learning. The views of the thought leaders in education today are not blather; they are attempts to fix a system that is too big and too fragmented to easily change. But step by step, the US educational system will be improved with hard work, some risk taking, and the support of politicians for making the needed improvements.

    • Carol

      I think that home schooling is for children who are pursuing a particular field that can not mesh with a normal school schedule, such as seeking to become a concert violinist, a world class tennis player, a global chess champion. It is not an alternative from a knowledge or social point of view to school, unless the home school sponsor can hire the best teachers in all areas of study.

      • Leslie J

        I agree. Home schooling must have specific purposes that can not be pursued at school.

    • Dave Ziffer

      Sorry guys but you’re speaking to the voice of experience. I was once an ordinary trusting parent who believed that teachers knew what they were doing, until I had a daughter of mine experience two years of “progressive” education. In the spring of 1995 the result was that my fourth-grader had forgotten her second-grade skills. Her penmanship and grammar had devolved into nothingness, and she was utterly incapable of writing a coherent paragraph. I remember sitting her down at a table (at my wife’s insistence) and asking her to write a paragraph on any topic of her choice (a progressive’s dream assignment, no?) and then trying to explain to her what a paragraph and a sentence were, showing her examples from a book. I also asked her some simple geographical stuff, like what a “city”, “state” and “country” were and what city, state and country she lived in, and she had no clue. But her self-esteem was great – she had no idea how incapacitated she was. Thus began my 10-year exploratory descent into the depths of inane mainstream educational philosophy, where I discovered, among other things, an endless series of articles like this one.

      • Leslie J

        The world is not perfect but as a parent, I know that my children would not as knowledgeable, confident, and articulate if they had been homeschooled or attended a large public school. Education is perhaps the greatest gift one can impart, but there are rocky patches along the way.

        • Trish

          one of the most important parts of school, especially at a younger age, is the fact that you are learning how to socialise with other children in your age group. these social skills will be kept throughout life and are compulsory for the rounded development of a child. homeschooling takes this opportunity away and for that reason I, like you, am sceptical about it.

          • Alejandro

            100% correct. school isn’t just about learning science or math or whatever, it’s about developing as a human, able to interact with the people and the world around them. The phrase “well rounded student” is often used and covers this.

        • No name

          Leslie -
          correct, the world isnt a perfect place. Does that not also include the possibility that not all students are ‘cut out’ for normal school? Everyone is unique, just like everyone else, but it will never be posible to cater for all of the people all of the time

          • Cathy Rubin

            No Name – Home schooling was never for me as a parent. I have however heard positive comments about home schooling from parents who have opted to take that track – in one case where the child had a unique artistic gift and a passion to pursue it. The parents felt it was their only option and actually it worked out fine…

      • Ian Gordon

        I hear your complaints about the progressive school you chose. What alternatives are available instead of home schooling? Did you evaluate any?

    • Helene

      It does come down to what happens at the local level. That is where we need to fix things. But what are your credentials to provide a high quality education to your children or any children?

  7. Hugh C

    Interesting, Cornelia. I have to tell you that one of the reasons I took somewhat early retirement from teaching (besides wanting to focus more on my novel) was that I felt recent developments in technology in education were leaving me somewhat behind, and with two or three years to go I didn’t feel the urge to make the effort to get up to speed. Ironically, I now use power point in the presentations I make at writers’ conferences, whereas I’d never used it in my teaching. I refuse to start on Facebook and twitter or blogging, however, in the theory that I have better things to do with my time. It’s entirely possible that I’m missing out on an effective medium to promote my writing, however. Your research on technology’s role in education strikes at the heart of how children best learn. A good topic for a conversation some time. Thanks for sending this.
    > Hugh

    • MST

      I don’t believe that children learn better by any method in particular, it is more about delivering the knowledge that needs to be learnt in as many ways as is effectively possible. The use of technology adds one more method of knowledge delivery and thus enhances the overall experience.

      • Alejandro

        And also remember everyone learns in a different way. Some are kinaesthetic learners whilst others can grasp complex theories just by reading a book. Technology can still enhance all these areas.

    • Cathy Rubin

      I helped my children’s school develop its first website. Long process – the toughest part of the process was getting certain members of the faculty to use the technology which the community believed (overall) enhanced communications and I would argue learning. What is interesting is that the kids in my both my children’s classes knew and respected those teachers who embraced the new technology versus those that stood on the sidelines refusing to take the risk.

    • Helene

      It’s not just the loss of a promotional medium, which I gather is all you see in it. It is a medium of expression, of human connection, and of sharing experience with people who you would otherwise never share much with.

  8. The Global Search for Education: The Technology Connection | International Education News | Renascence School International | Panama City | private preschool, elementary school, middle school

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August 9th, 2011

C.M. Rubin Contributor

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aboriginal knowledge apple ipad 2 Art and Technology C. M. Rubin canadian educators Canadian schools Cornelia Hoogland educational reform Land Inside Coyote music and technology Standardized Testing The Global Search for Education

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