Educating Potential


Ask WHY? – Why Classrooms?

Check out the second in the series of Ask WHY? videos being created in partnership with ATTN: and 180 Studio. Let’s ask ourselves why we buy into the idea that learning only happens (or at least counts for kids) when it happens in a classroom.

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My second TEDx talk: Re-thinking the 3Rs

It was a lot of fun to go back to Drew where so much of my interest in education and human development started and give my second TEDx talk, “Re-thinking the 3Rs.” Following on from “The Future of Smart” I was really trying to dig a bit more into what schools that take this kind of an approach do that makes them successful. So many of us in our work and lives focus on the WHAT. What solution, what product, what advice will help us to move forward? But what if the question is not about a “what” but about the HOW. How are we in relationship with one another, with ideas, with our communities? It is not as sexy or shiny. Not as easy because at the end of the day it requires a fundamental shift in one’s relationship to the work. And yet, the more I see, the more I speak with people about this work, the more I think we need to get away from the quick-fix, urgency of now sentiment that drives so much of the conversation around innovation, and move toward a metaphor that works better for the complexity of human beings. Slow cooking was one that came to mind – see how it works!

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Ask WHY? – Why Memorization?

In partnership with ATTN: and 180 Studio, Education Reimagined has been working on a series of videos designed to challenge some of the sacred cows in education. Check out the first in the series: Why Memorization? where we take on the difference between memorizing and deeper learning.

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My journey to learner-centered education

I’ve had the opportunity this fall to visit some amazing schools and connect with folks who have been thinking about and working in the field of learner-centered education for decades. It is always interesting to hear about how people come around to the idea of being more human-centered in our approach to education and young people. So it was fun to be asked to pen this piece, and do a bit of thinking about what my own journey has been.

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NPR Interview: Why Learning Is So Much Bigger Than School

For someone who listens incessantly to public radio today was a total treat! I’ve never been interviewed live on radio so to get to do that for the first time representing Education Reimagined and Convergence at the National Public Radio offices in DC was awesome! Thanks to Frank Stasio, host of The State of Things at WUNC (North Carolina Public Radio), for a fun and far too short conversation about some of the ways that parents, educators and students are trying to shift from our current school-centered system to one that is more learner-centered.

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Flossing and Why “Evidence-Based” is Such a Tricky Thing

This article makes such an important point and the flossing example is a perfect example to use because it is less politically and ideologically triggering than topics like education.  Flossing and the Art of Scientific Investigation One of the key ideas is captured in the following: “… the kind of long-term randomized controlled trial needed to properly evaluate flossing is hardly, if ever, conducted — because such studies are hard to implement … Yet the notion has taken hold that expertise is fatally subjective and that only randomized controlled trials provide real knowledge. Distrusting expertise makes it easy to confuse an absence of randomized evaluations with an absence of knowledge. And this leads to the false belief that knowledge of what works in social policy, education or fighting terrorism can come only from randomized evaluations. But by that logic (as a spoof scientific article claimed), we don’t know if parachutes really work because we have no randomized controlled trials of them.” I’ve written on this topic before but it’s worth coming back to. Education reform advocates have become infatuated with the idea of “evidence-based” interventions and for too many of them “evidence” is synonymous with some type of experimental evaluation. Funny enough, their evaluation dollars don’t flow towards longitudinal, mixed-method evaluations, but rather to short-term quantitative evaluations that rely on easy-to-measure and short-term metrics like test scores. Combine that with rhetoric and policy stances that undermine the value of expertise (something that, by definition, is developed over years of learning and practice and is lost when teachers exit the profession within 5-7 years) and you have a recipe for shallow, ultimately ineffective policy changes.

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The Oppressive Schools Letter – Take 2

I’ve had some hard conversations about my original post on the Oppressive Schools letter. A colleague posted a comment that captures a lot of the details of these conversations and it’s worth reading. I thought about editing my first post but I actually think the distinction in how I would communicate about these ideas in light of the conversations is worth preserving. These are hard subjects to address, these are hard conversations to have. That is the whole point. But it’s worth documenting that dialogue allows for growth. In that spirit, I’m posting here something that I think better captures what I’ve learned and where I stand. *********** I said it would be a week before I posted on the Oppressive Schools letter and it’s been longer than that. The honest truth is that I struggled about whether or not to sign my name to it; the back-and-forth in my mind and heart has led to lost sleep and moments of anxiety. It’s been hard to put my finger on exactly what the issue has been and I am thankful for the chance to talk with the authors of the letter, friends, and even strangers, about that question because it has helped me clarify my thinking around why signing onto this particular articulation of the problem is so troublesome for me. Anyone who knows me knows that I care deeply about words and how they are used. They also know I care about the intentions of leaders and educators, and the words “oppressive” and “dehumanizing” are strong words that seem, at first, to not leave much room for good intent. When spoken out loud or even written, these words feel like a judgment of character. They often serve to make people defensive and/or shut down. I struggled with signing my name to language that would make people disengage from the constructive conversation and action that can move us towards improving systems. Through my conversations, though, I have come to understand that the authors also care deeply about words and how they are used, and they chose their words deliberately. A[…]

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High school that works for all students

I just got back from a series of school visits for my book research. It is always re-invigorating to get back into schools, and these visits were particularly interesting because they were to schools that have instructional approaches which are fairly new to me. I was particularly struck by my visit to the MET Schools in Providence, RI, schools which approach learning in a very different way than traditional secondary schools.

The underlying philosophy is that human beings are situational learners, namely, that we learn things best when we learn them in the context in which we need to know them. Certainly, this makes sense. Young children learn by doing, and they learn to do whatever they need to do at any given moment in order to explore, navigate and master the environment they are in. If a child lives in a community where people speak only Mandarin, he learns Mandarin.

If she is in a household of people who are deaf-mute, she will learn to communicate in sign language. If children are provided with environments that require them to climb, read, weave baskets, ride bicycles, milk cows, or forage for food, they will learn these skills. This is how human beings have always learned.

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