Temple Grandin

Until recently, I had never heard of Dr. Temple Grandin, but a friend and colleague who had seen the HBO movie about her encouraged me to see it.  I was intrigued by the idea of the person who thinks in pictures and was credited with revolutionizing an entire industry with her ingenious designs.  I also had met some students over the years that had high-functioning autism or Aspergers that had taken one or more of my technology education classes.  At that time, I didn’t understand why the child study team and parents and students felt like my classes would be a good fit.

Dr. Grandin’s most well-known technological achievement is the ingenious design of sweeping curving corrals for animals being moved to slaughter.  Above all this design demonstrates her understanding of ethics and social responsibility, which is important for all young people to understand.  The design also demonstrates a high understanding of technological systems and how their component parts interact.

Dr. Grandin also understands her own strengths and challenges.  In light of her autism, she needed to learn how to communicate the great ideas that she was easily able to visualize (see her book Thinking In Pictures).  Actually drawing her ideas was something that she needed to work hard to learn and develop.  Further, as she was challenged to communicate verbally, she needed to learn how to sell and pitch her ideas in drawings much more than words.

I really appreciate what Dr. Grandin has to say in her TED talk about how we are losing the importance of hands on courses in our schools.  My feeling is that the pendulum has swung way too far in favor of traditional education and associated standardized testing that was designed for the turn of the 20th Century.

Our students can learn a lot from the ingenuity of Dr. Grandin and we need to work on developing the understandings she has of systems, ethics, and communication in our young people.  The movie is appropriate for a high school audience and our future teachers can take a lot from reading and viewing her materials.


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