Monday, December 5, 2016

Don't Go Back to School

Sharing highlights from Kio Stark's, Don't Go Back To School: A Handbook for Learning AnythingDon’t Go Back to School tells you how to learn what you need to learn in order to do what you need to do, without having to bend your life or your finances to fit into traditional schooling. This  guide provides concrete strategies and resources for getting started as an independent learner. 

My research revealed four facts shared by almost every successful form of learning outside of school: It isn’t done alone. For many professions, credentials aren’t necessary, and the processes for getting credentials are changing. The most effective, satisfying learning is learning that which is more likely to happen outside of school. People who are happiest with their learning process and at learning new things—in any educational environment—are people who are learning for the right reasons and who reflect on their own way of learning to figure out which processes and methods work best for

Learning your own way means finding the methods that work best for you and creating conditions that support sustained motivation. Perseverance, pleasure, and the ability to retain what you learn are among the wonderful byproducts of getting to learn using methods that suit you best and in contexts that keep you going 

Many people I interviewed described jumping in at the point of fascination and working their way in every direction to find what they needed to understand their subject. People who learn this about the value of connections they stumble into along the way—the purposeful feeling they bits and pieces in the context of an immediate need to understand something they are strongly motivated to understand, rather than because it’s the next chapter in the textbook

These are things such as grades, arbitrary deadlines, and test-based evaluation, with its “correct” answers. There’s artificially scarce rewards such as praise, attention, curve-based and diplomas—and for genuinely scarce resources such as scholarships. Often, this all has exactly the opposite effect that’s intended. To the people I spoke with who found school to be a poor learning environment, these motivational structures felt contrived, and pushed inherently smart, curious people to drop 

First, autonomy means that you follow your own path. You learn what you want to learn, when and how you want to learn it, for your own reasons. Your impetus to learn comes from within because you control the conditions of your learning rather than working within a structure that’s pre-made and inflexible

It’s about triangulating information. You have to go through a lot of different sources, trying to see what makes sense, asking people who might know, and compare what you find. See who agrees with whom and figure out why. It’s both the source and the voice of what you’re reading that tell you how to interpret it. You have to learn this by doing it. There’s no substitution for practice

It embodied everything about DIY ethics that I love: Nobody checking credentials, nobody asking if you have any real skills to do the things that you say you’re going to do, and instead really empowering people to do those things

You have these happy accidents where you do something the wrong way, but your work ends up having a different style or flavor by happenstance because you haven’t gone through the normal route of learning how to do it

Monday, November 28, 2016

Worth Reading

Sharing a few highlights from the past week.

1. Why Students Can’t Google Their Way to the Truth (Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew)- we and our kids need to get a lot smarter when it comes to conducting online research

True, many of our kids can flit between Facebook and Twitter while uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to using the Internet to get to the bottom of things, Junior’s no better than the rest of us. Often he’s worse.

2. The Reading Rules We Never Follow As Adult Readers (Ripp)- rules placed upon students in school in regards to reading and how these procedures contradict the way we read as adults

Yet, how often is this a reality for the students we teach?  How often, in our eagerness to be great teachers, do we remove or disallow the very things students yearn for to have meaningful literacy experiences?  How many of the things we do to students would we never put up with ourselves?  In our quest to create lifelong readers, we seem to be missing some very basic truths about what makes a reader.  So what are the rules we would probably not always follow ourselves?

3. Is Problem Solving Complicated or Complex (Kaplinsky)- discerning the difference between complicated and complex work and how this subtle difference impacts the way we mentor students to become effective problem-solvers.

To make this clearer, think about the differences between programming a TV remote control and learning how to drive a car.  Programming a remote control can certainly be a pain, but as long as you follow the instructions it can be completed.  Now think about what happens when someone learns how to drive a car.  While instructions on how to drive can teach you the basics, there are so many variables you can’t control, from icy roads to road construction to defensive driving.  This results in no instructions covering it all.

4. What Neuroscience Can Tell Us About Making Fractions Stick (Schwartz)- To improve a student’s information processing around fractions neuroscience tells us teachers should both present information and give students ways to interact with it, in a variety of ways

“Every time you are visualizing this in a different way, you are recruiting different neurons and neural connections,” Salimpoor said. And she says active learning through problem solving or manipulation is a whole different ballpark neurally than passively listening, partly because even if a student looks like she is listening she still may not be paying attention.

5. Getting Schools Ready for the World (Richardson)- schools must rethink what they do to produce global-ready citizens

Regardless of their educational path, students moving into adulthood today need more than anything else to be voracious, passionate learners, adept at creating their own personal learning curriculum, finding their own teachers to mentor and guide them in their efforts, and connecting with other learners with whom they can collaborate and create.


6. How Mindfulness Practices Are Changing An Inner-City School (St. George)- using practices to help student become aware of emotions is changing a school culture

As Thompson looked on with surprise, she said, the girl coached herself through breathing exercises. She told herself — speaking aloud — that she was not going to fight that day, she was not going to curse that day. She was 8 or 9 years old.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Education is the answer...

Sharing an excerpt from Seth Godin's post Education is the Answer.  The post talks to assuming ownership over one's learning and the need to connect with others to help build deeper meaning.  Seth Godin's post also reminds me of Kio Stark's book Don't Go Back to School (which I am in the middle of reading).  Both hit at informal pathways of learning that at times, contradict the types of formal learning promoted in schools.  

Everyone is an independent actor, now more than ever, with access to information, to tools, to the leverage to make a difference.
Instead of being a cog merely waiting for instructions, we get to make decisions and take action based on what we know and what we believe.
Change what you know, change what you believe, and you change the actions. Learn to see, to understand, to have patience, and you learn to be the kind of person who can make a difference.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Worth Reading.....

1. Why the Problem with Learning is Unlearning (Bonchek)- the biggest challenge is not learning something new, but unlearning what old ways of thinking.

Unlearning is not about forgetting. It’s about the ability to choose an alternative mental model or paradigm. When we learn, we add new skills or knowledge to what we already know. When we unlearn, we step outside the mental model in order to choose a different one.


2. Meaningful Making: Projects and Inspiration for Fab Labs and Makerspaces (Blikstein, Martinez and Pang)- A compilation of articles about making and fabrication as well as ideas for projects, assessment strategies and public exhibitions.


3. Terms We Need to Rethink in Education (Couros)- an attempt for clarity around educational buzzwords

Risk Taking
What a lot of people hear – Doing something crazy or dangerous with kids!
What I hope it means – Moving from something “known”, to an “unknown” in pursuit of doing something better for and with students.

4. The Key to Learner Agency is Ownership (Ferriter)- the difference between learning and schooling and how they are not the same thing.  Learning is about agency, and the individual owning the inquiry process.
When we strip away ownership over every learning experience and create highly scripted spaces where kids are never given the chance to set their own direction or examine their own interests or answer their own questions, we create passive students who are dependent on others for direction instead of active learners who are developing the skills and dispositions necessary to be the change agents that our world needs them to be.

5. From Deficiency to Strength: Shifting the Mindset about Education Inequity (Zhao)- discusses the failed model of remediating gaps through teaching around a student's deficiency as opposed to focusing on what kids do well.
Thus to shift the paradigm, we must start with rethinking about human differences and adopt the mindset that differences are not a deficit. Instead, education needs to assume that every child comes to school with strength, although their strength may not be aligned with prescribed standards and expectations. It is the school’s responsibility to help children discover and cultivate children’s strengths instead of fixing their deficits.


Monday, October 10, 2016

LAUNCH...

Sharing a few highlights from LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out The Maker In Every Student by John Spencer and A.J. Juliana.

We are now seeing a new divide emerge — a Creative Chasm between those who passively consume and those who actively create.

In our experience, when students are thinking creatively, they are fully engaged in their learning. This increased student engagement often leads to more buy-in from students and ultimately deeper learning.

There is no guarantee that creative thinking will increase test scores, but who would you rather have take a test: a disengaged trained test-taker or a fully engaged creative thinker?

Design thinking provides a way to think about creative work. It starts with empathy, working to really understand the problems people are facing before attempting to create solutions.

Launching our work into the real world and in front of an actual audience is what makes creative work so scary, but also so rewarding.

Every time your students get the chance to be authors, filmmakers, scientists, artists, and engineers, you are planting the seeds for a future you could have never imagined on your own.

how often they put their early thoughts and inklings out into the world, in sketches, dashed-off phrases and observations, bits of dialogue, and quick prototypes. Instead of arriving in one giant leap, great creations emerged by zigs and zags as their creators engaged over and over again with these externalized images.”

the Hacker is a little more subversive, actively working to tear down a broken system in order to create something better. In this sense, the Hacker is inherently destructive.

Hackers don’t always destroy systems. Often, they find new ways to use a system, idea, or resource. Think less “computer hacker” and more “life hacks.”

Everyone possesses important skills and talents, but it’s only when we honor and tap into those skills and talents that we, together, can do exceptional creative work.

Children are naturally fascinated by the wonder of their world. Hang out with a four-year-old and take a tally of all the questions they ask. Unfortunately, schools are more often designed to help students answer questions rather than question answers. Students rarely have the chance to ask whatever question they have and go off on a rabbit trail to find the answers.

A Few Highlights

Sharing a few highlights from The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande.

Faulty memory and distraction are a particular danger in what engineers call all-or-none processes: whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all

checklists seem able to defend anyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realized. They provide a kind of cognitive net. They catch mental flaws inherent in all of us—flaws of memory and attention and thoroughness. And because they do, they raise wide, unexpected possibilities

And this brings up another feature of complex problems: their outcomes remain highly uncertain. Yet we all know that it is possible to raise a child well. It’s complex, that’s all

In the face of the unknown—the always nagging uncertainty about whether, under complex circumstances, things will really be okay—the builders trusted in the power of communication. They didn’t believe in the wisdom of the single individual, of even an experienced engineer. They believed in the wisdom of the group

The philosophy is that you push the power of decision making out to the periphery and away from the center. You give people the room to adapt, based on their experience and expertise. All you ask is that they talk to one another and take responsibility. That is what works.

No, the real lesson is that under conditions of true complexity—where the knowledge required exceeds that of any individual and unpredictability reigns—efforts to dictate every step from the center will fail.

People need room to act and adapt. Yet they cannot succeed as isolated individuals, either—that is anarchy. Instead, they require a seemingly contradictory mix of freedom and expectation

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

An Incomplete manifesto for Growth

I was just moved to reread Bruce Mau's An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth.  There are so many impressionable statements, but right now, the following thought is grabbing my attention and in particular, the second sentence about growth.

Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.