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Posts Tagged ‘talent

I spotted this sign above a childcare centre.

Its owners probably mean to say that it helps develop the aptitudes of young children. But that is not all the sign means.

Another interpretation is that the centre is for kids low in flair or gifts. There is nothing wrong with that if they are truly providing a humble social service, but that is just how the meaning of language is negotiated.

My point is that you should get a second opinion on even the most innocuous of things. A different perspective might make all the difference in how you come across to others or how you implement an intervention.

I had mixed feelings when I watched these two videos of kids expressing their talents.

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I was in awe of their abilities and I could also see the time and effort they put in by way of practice.

I also wondered how many kids get the opportunity to let their talents shine. And not just the kids with outstanding or marketable talent.

They first need to be aware of their talents or be spotted with them. Then they need to be nurtured at considerable cost of time, effort, and money.

In an inequitable world, a few kids get those opportunities. Most do not and there is little one can do except try to change the world bit by bit.

But in a schooling world even kids with opportunities might have their talents squashed (along with their curiosity and creativity) all in the name of completing curricula and doing well in tests.

Dancers and musicians may not solve the world’s biggest problems. But neither are content that is irrelevant and testing that is meaningless.

The problem solvers are the ones we allow to be curious and creative by expressing their talents. Should we not be doing more to identify and nurture talent?

One of my newfound favourites on YouTube is Brett Domino. He and his partner form the Brett Domino Trio band (and yes, there are only two of them).

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BD appeared on my radar thanks to a Gizmodo post a short while ago. He spoof-taught us how to create a hit pop song. The video went viral, but I do not think that his channel has got as many new subscribers as he deserves.

I think that he is a rare combination of musical and comedic talent. But not everyone agrees.

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When the BD Trio appeared on Britain’s Got Talent five years ago, Simon Cowell did not appreciate his talent and was the first (and only) judge to buzz them out. He did not get what BD was trying to do. The audience seemed to get it. The other judges did and even had to explain it to Cowell.

There are many Cowells in the world today. They have narrow definitions of talent or worth. When they are the majority they drown out the views of the minority who think otherwise. Even if they are the minority, they have so much influence, possess veto powers, or claim to represent current norms that they get their way.

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Take BD’s video response to Airbnb’s recently redesigned logo for example (warning: Not for the prude or sensitive). BD was not the first to point of that the logo looked like genitalia. However, I think he quickly responded with a funny and catchy song. But how many people are going to laugh along and appreciate his talent?

Here is another example. Someone I know on Twitter expressed her frustration at having to show her O and A-level certificates as she moved to another job in the civil service. Most statutory boards and the civil service here prize paper qualifications seemingly at the exclusion of everything else. Almost two decades of teaching experience was not good enough.

That person was facing a Cowell form of evaluation. But I think that it is far more important to know what you are worth by your own reckoning, and if you find it necessary, find other measures.

The BD Trio has its likes and comments in YouTube. Owners of other forms of digital portfolios can collect and curate comments, critiques, and bouquets, and showcase them alongside processes and products of learning. I think these will be far more important and effective in the near future.

I have found this to be true for myself. I am leaving NIE at the end of the month. But I have found suitors despite not actively looking for a more permanent job. People know me from what I have shared at talks or online. My worth is not measured by my doctorate but by what value I bring to the table. That value is not theoretical in the form of school certificates but a living portfolio in the form of this blog and other digital artefacts.

So instead of waiting for the world to change, I suggest we see and be the change. We all have talent whether someone else values them or not.

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This YouTube video talent was a reminder to me that a decade ago:

  • I would never have known about him
  • He would not have been able to share his talent widely
  • He would not likely have been able to create in such a manner
  • I would not have been able to see him develop

But today I can. And he can.

The same could be said about our new opportunities for teaching and learning.

Our learners either already know this or they will embrace these opportunities quickly. Our teachers, well, not so much.

I don’t watch most reality TV shows because a) they are not about reality, b) I get enough reality from real life and c) they are dumb. Heck, I hardly watch TV in the conventional sense anymore.

But every now then, I watch TV thanks to YouTube.

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You can’t believe everything you watch, be it on TV or the Internet. But I am inclined to believe Sung-bong’s story.

I just marvel how talent can come in unexpected or plainly wrapped packages. All that talent needs is a chance. They should not be held back or be fenced in by fear (their own or imposed by someone else). Then only do they and the people they influence benefit from their talents.

I also liked what one of the hosts said at the end of the video clip. Sung-bong’s story could reach 50 million Koreans when the show aired there. But the rest of the Internet-connected world can hear his story too.

Sometimes some folks wonder how we operated BG (Before Google). They same could be asked BY (Before YouTube). Educators who leverage on YouTube for content consumption and creation will know what I am talking about.

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Yeah, I seem to have a thing for video where talented people perform with “copies” of themselves.

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Most neutrals might become skeptical on learning that the artist, Kyle Lambert, uses the iPhone and iPad to create his art.

Why should his tools of choice make his talent any less valuable? You might get over your skepticism by looking over Kyle Lambert’s portfolio.

So how do I link this to education?

First, there is a clear a need for people to learn how to fact check and not just take what they read, watch and hear at face value.

Second, we tend to recognize talent in limited ways, but talent can express itself in more broadly. With new tools come many more ways talent can be shown, discovered and showcased. We need to be open to these tools and methods instead of limiting learners to what we are used to.

Third, an e-portfolio like Kyle’s is not only a showcase; it also contains his processes and reflections. He has extended his portfolio to YouTube where he gets bouquets and bricks, but the fact of the matter is that he has opened himself up to a real audience. It is the experts and lay people, the informed and the ignorant, who will judge, be judged and learn in the process.

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This is a video from 2007 of Joshua Bell busking at a DC metro station. The background story is available at the Washington Post.

One of the questions that arose as a result of this social experiment was whether the environment played a role in people being able to recognize beauty or art. Yet another question was how often we stopped to appreciate these things in the course of our busy lives.

I have a slightly different takeaway: How do we recognize talent in our children, students or colleagues despite our rush to complete homework, syllabi or work so that we may nurture the Joshua Bells in them?

I think the image below offers a clue.

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I think that we need to look through a child’s eyes and see what a child sees. We need to start by seeing the possibilities, not the problems.


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