A train of Jewish prisoners is liberated. This marvellous picture was taken by Major Clarence L. Benjamin. He recounted: “At the instant a few of the train people saw our tanks and first realized they had been liberated. Many of those close to the train are not yet aware of their liberation.”
The past couple of Educon days at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia were, as always, packed with fun catching up with old friends (and meeting new ones) but, as always, also filled with conversations that have me thinking more about what “reform” looks like and what bold schools…
First, let me thank everyone who commented and Tweeted examples of “bold schools” over the last few days. Very much appreciated, and over the next few weeks I’m planning to dig into the list and make some connections and inquiries around the learning that’s going on in those places….
Learners have to construct understanding for themselves.
To appreciate the teaching-learning challenge, imagine trying to explain water to a fish. Success requires that the utterly familiar be made “strange enough to see.” A five-hour lecture to a fish on the subject of water wouldn’t match the memorable experience of being lifted out of the water for a five-second exposure to air.
The emphasis on personal achievement has done more than turn the admissions process into a race to rack up résumé points; more important, to the extent that elite colleges set the pace, it is turning the educational culture into one that stresses individual perfection instead of one that stresses social improvement. Because graduate schools and the best jobs often require extraordinary credentials, students must pour their energies into their own ambitions and accomplishments. And schools encourage it.
Some may see this obsession with perfection as the culmination of a long trend; tiger moms have been pushing their children to be intellectual decathletes for generations. But it may actually be a reversal of an even longer trend. At the turn of the last century, the influential philosopher John Dewey saw education as a democratizing force not just in its social consequences but in its very process. Dewey believed that education and life were inextricably bound, that they informed each other. Education wasn’t just something you did in a classroom to earn grades. It was something you lived.
There is a big difference between a culture that encourages engagement with the world and one that encourages developing one’s own superiority.
The former promotes a sense of commitment; the latter has the danger of rewarding students for collecting as many experiences as they can without stopping to explore — like tourists who pride themselves on how many stickers they can slap on their luggage.
Focus on community service has never been greater, and many of us know parents who boast that their teenagers helped build a clinic in Botswana or taught schoolchildren in Central America during spring vacation. But motives matter, and such casual experiences can be empty ones if they turn what could be real social involvement into personal aggrandizement. (Look what I did!)
More, 1 percent education may make students risk-averse. Though educators are fond of saying you learn from failure, with today’s stakes, the best students know you cannot really afford to fail. You can’t even afford minor missteps. That is one of the lessons of 1 percent education: 1 percenters must always succeed.
Finally, a culture that rewards big personal accomplishments over smaller social ones threatens to create a cohort of narcissists
Sometimes I can’t believe the impact that politics have on school curricula. This article talks about how Arizona’s public schools have eliminated “ethnic studies” and will not allow students to learn about Mexican-American history. Even further, they’ve eliminated Shakespeare’s The Tempest…
(Dedicated to Cleo and Cassa Palmer, of Andover, MA)
The Girls wake, stretch, and pad up to the door. They rub my leg and purr; One sniffs around my shoe, Rich with an outside smell, The other rolls back on the floor - White bib exposed, and stomach of soft fur.
Now, more awake, they re-enact Ben Hur Along the corridor, Wheel, gallop; as they do, Their noses get wild, their bodies tense, Their usual prudence seemingly withdraws.
And then they wrestle; parry, lock of paws, Blind hug of close defense, Tail-thump, and smothered mew. If either, though, feels claws, She abruptly rises, knowing well How to stalk off in wise indifference.
Can it be? Is it true? Yes, it’s true. The application season is nearly over. It has been a long process, and at times it has been hectic and nerve-wrecking. But before you sit back and take a well-deserved rest there are some things you still need to accomplish.
4 Lessons The Classroom Can Learn From The Design Studio
Maybe it’s the lexicon of education that is broken
Designers collaborate across disciplines, give and take constructive criticism, and embrace failure in the process of solving problems. Wouldn’t children benefit from developing the same skills in school?
In his interview with the Carnegie Foundation, John Seely Brown, scholar and co-author of A New Culture of Learning, suggests that we look for education lessons in the architectural studio. …
So let’s examine the architectural studio—where we design the places in which we learn, live, heal, and work—to find out what the classroom can learn from these creative environments.
1. A culture of critical collaboration
A culture of healthy critique, full of mature and multidirectional insights, inspires confident, analytical learners. Let’s cultivate a critical eye and language for constructive criticism in young students. They are, after all, our future designers, scientists, and businesspeople.
Image: Associated Press
2. Interdisciplinary problem solving, every day
3. Tinkering with solutions and reclaiming failure
A culture of critical collaboration reframes the concept of failure. In the design studio, mini “failures” are endemic—but they are known by less pejorative names: prototyping, modeling, tinkering, discovery. The real secret of design is that (shh!) we never get it right the first time. The road to the answer you intend to implement is laden with schemes tried, and tossed aside, in an attempt to discover a better solution. Solutions are continuously revisited and improved until it’s time to actually build something.
One problem with general education is that students are too often given assignments or projects that experience only one iteration. Our design practice thrives on making concepts tangible so that they can be rigorously studied, critiqued, and tweaked. Much of this tradition of critique comes from modern architecture’s origins in apprenticeship (before the advent of formal training in the 19th century). This has created a studio environment in which there is constant feedback and a necessary balance between formal learning and learning by doing.
The burgeoning trend in design-thinking education is embracing the F-word. One organization that embodies this empowering education model is Public Workshop. This June, we saw a group of Chicago Architecture Foundation “teen design heroes” work with Public Workshop to take over Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin and reclaim failure as a heroic feat. Described as a “summer design camp on steroids” and “a ‘doing’ boot-camp,” it challenged teenage designers to design and build a sensitive, functional structure in only five days. Chicago Public high-schoolers, typically bound by the formal pressures of “making the grade,” used large-scale rapid prototyping, exploration, and thoughtfully led play (mapping capture the flag, anyone?) to discover their design problem and reveal their solution. It was this freedom to test and scrap ideas that paved their path to a final product and empowered a new perspective on learning. In the words of a young designer, Jeisson Apolo: “Prepare yourself to build, tear down, build, tear down, and build again so that finally you can have what you may call your first draft. Sound tough? You’re telling me! Thankfully, while it is challenging, it’s also one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”
Image: Katie Koch
4. The shared power of the pencil and pixel
Just as the educational technology discussion heats up with compelling challenges and defenses, the architecture world has gone through its share of high-tech growing pains. But even as computer modeling evolves to support incredible feats of engineering and sustainability, the analog tools of the practice—the pencil, pen, trace paper, cardboard, glue, Exacto knives—are irreplaceable. Not just romantic, these tools of conceptualization, communication, and critique are integral to how a designer works through ideas individually and in groups.
The educational dialogue surrounding technology is often oversimplified. Digital solutions are frequently seen as a silver bullet for education challenges. But the true art of design (and teaching today) is the thoughtful balance between the digital and analog. An interactive whiteboard might as well be a regular whiteboard unless the mode of interaction is fundamentally rethought. The journey to that fancy iPad app senior project was probably paved in notebook sketches and sticky-note mind maps.
Conclusion: The tension of design and learning
Design is a beautiful collection of tensions. There is a constant pull between thinking and doing, the collective and individual, digital and analog, problems and solutions, artistry and engineering. At the heart of this lies creativity. The same is true in teaching and learning. It takes a teacher both artistic and exacting to navigate a diverse group of young minds through an “aha” breakthrough. It seems our policies and structures are forgetting that.
Perhaps the lexicon of education is broken. While the traditional construct of “classroom” may limit how we interact within our spaces, the labels of “teachers” and “students” (not to mention the conflation of authentic learning) may paralyze our progress as well. What would happen if classrooms operated more like studios? What if teachers were empowered to collaborate with one another as designers?
As designers, we believe that a much better education system is possible. And we think the inherently collaborative, critical, and empowering characteristics of the design professions offer lessons for this change. While we can help rethink the physical spaces of classrooms and campuses—infusing them with a studio ethic—the real change will happen when we rethink the system itself.
“Truth in Science has sent free resources to all secondary heads of science and to school librarians around the country that seek to undermine the theory of evolution and have intelligent design ideas portrayed as credible scientific viewpoints. Speakers from Creation Ministries International are touring the UK, presenting themselves as scientists and their creationist views as science at a number of schools.”
Free schools and academies were not obliged to teach the national curriculum and so were “under no obligation to teach evolution at all,” it added.
“I’d like 2012 to be the year the government tackles unmet social needs and what they mean for education. There’s too much emphasis on numeracy and literacy – what they’re not taking into account is how much effect poor social care and trauma have on children’s ability to achieve. These factors are the main driver of educational failure. Of course it requires investment, but if we don’t tackle it, these children cost a lot more later when they’re in pupil referral centres, or youth offender units, or the mental health services; and what’s more, in time, they generate more victims.”—
An education wishlist for 2012
A sabbatical for teachers; an end to student visa restrictions; and more Michael Gove? Some hopes for the new year
More and more US schools have police patrolling the corridors. Pupils are being arrested for throwing paper planes and failing to pick up crumbs from the canteen floor. Why is the state criminalising normal childhood behaviour?
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence. A Facebook for genes. These were just a few of the startling topics IFTF explored at our recent Technology Horizons Program conference on the “Future of Science.” More than a dozen scientists from UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, Scripps Research Institute, SETI, and private industry shared their edgiest research driving transformations in science. MythBusters’ Adam Savage weighed in on the future of science education. All of their presentations were signals supporting IFTF’s new “Future of Science” forecast, laid out in a new map titled “A Multiverse of Exploration: The Future of Science 2021.” The map focuses on six big stories of science that will play out over the next decade: Decrypting the Brain, Hacking Space, Massively Multiplayer Data, Sea the Future, Strange Matter, and Engineered Evolution. Those stories are emerging from a new ecology of science shifting toward openness, collaboration, reuse, and increased citizen engagement in scientific research.
“Progressive schools are the legacy of a long and proud tradition of thoughtful school practice stretching back for centuries” — including hands-on learning, multiage classrooms, and mentor-apprentice relationships — while what we generally refer to as traditional schooling “is largely the result of outdated policy changes that have calcified into conventions.”
Adopted by the NCTE Executive Committee February 15, 2008
Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies—from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms—are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Twenty-first century readers and writers need to
Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments
For lots of reasons, some of which I articulate here, 2012 feels like it’s shaping up to be a critical year in the conversation about schools. Politics and money are no doubt driving the mainstream conversation, but I sense an Occupy Wall Street-ish push back coming from a lot of parents and…
I thought this article was interesting today (tweeted by US News). I didn’t realize that there are four states who currently require high school students to take courses online. Why? Is it necessary to complete an entire course online rather than using the technological literacy that many high…
I had no idea that how you praise children can affect them so differently. Here’s a really interesting article about how telling kids that their strong performance is due to being smart can actually harm them.
Not long ago, Googler Vinay Bhargava (now 41) found himself at a career crossroads. So he asked for advice from teenagers at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ for short). “I want to make sure before I resign from Google that this is a good idea,” he asked the students of the Virginia magnet school.
The idea was Mytonomy.com, a hub for crowdsourced college counseling founded by Bhargava and Sean Burke, a TJ school counselor—
The desire in this country to make good decisions when applying to college is enormous. Some form of counseling is common at many schools; among wealthier metropolitan areas, some families have been known to spend up to $30,000 a year on private counseling (though a few thousand per year is the average figure). But a single college counselor can only know so much. On the other hand, the alumni network of given high schools can be a deep pool of specialized knowledge. Only, beyond the occasional coffee-and-donuts meet-and-greet, encounters with alumni have historically been hard to come by.
“I assumed the Internet had solved this problem,” Bhargava tells Fast Company. It hadn’t….
With the prevalence of companies like Pearson operating in Texas and many other states, the U.S. education system has become increasingly privatized. In some cases, the only part of education that remains public is the school itself….