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This is How Youth (& YOU) Learn

Imagine if we acted on these insights?

Are We Putting the (Knowledge) Cart Before the (Emotional) Horse?

What would you say if I told you that all of our current national efforts to improve public education were blind to the actual way people learned and interacted with the world? Depressing, right? But it’s true. To prove it, watch this short video — just 100 seconds long — and be prepared to describe to yourself what you see: You just watched a short film about bullying, didn’t you? The larger triangle was harassing the smaller triangle, until the two smaller shapes banded together and outwitted their aggressor. Except that’s not really what happened; all you saw were shapes and lines moving around on a piece of paper. And although it’s true the subject is in the air thanks to this month’s release of the new feature film Bully, I can assure you that what you saw had nothing to do with the zeitgeist. In fact, people have been seeing that same story in that video now for more than 60 years. Why? According to Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner and the author of the current bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow, we all see the same story because our brains seek instant explanations, and the quickest way to

Digging For Education

I remember once when I was little, trying to dig a hole in the yard deep enough to stand in and look around me at ground-level. Silly and odd, I know. But I wanted to. So I started digging and soon I did have a pretty deep hole, but I was tired and my muscles had begun hurting so I went inside to get some water and relax. I was planning on going back outside to finish my project after I rested up some, but then I got side tracked by this and that… The point is, I never finished digging the little pit. This was probably the first time I fully realized that I have a bad tendency to leave a project when I get bored with it. I hadn’t started writing at that time (though I did draw a little) however, since then I’ve seen this bad habit of mine even more. The point of this is, I learned an important thing about myself through simple observation and clear-thinking. There was no school I was confined to when I learned this, nor any teacher pounding how to learn this into my head, or even any curriculum telling me

The Many Faces of Thea

It wasn’t until the end of her tragically short life that Thea Leopoulos first discovered the depth of her talent as an artist. A buoyant, beautiful girl with dark eyebrows and sharp brown eyes, Thea spent her childhood believing the experts who first told her, back in third grade, she was unworthy of acceptance to the local program for “gifted and talented” children. Since then, Thea had struggled in her coursework and felt uninspired by a stream of classes that focused too much on academics, and not enough on other forms of learning, like the arts. Then, in her junior year of high school, she produced a finger-painted portrait of B.B. King and removed any doubt of whether or not she was talented. Soon after, her capacity to excel in every area of her life changed dramatically. She had discovered a new source of confidence and calm. She had found her path. A few months later, she was killed by a drunk driver. Along with 400 others last week, I learned about Thea’s story at a statewide conference of Oklahoma educators titled Faces of Learning: The Power and Impact of Engaging Curious Minds. On hand was Thea’s father, Paul, who

The Three Most Important Questions in Education

It’s graduation season again – yet nobody seems to be celebrating. On college campuses, graduates are entering an economy in which the stable career paths of yesteryear are disappearing – and the specialized job opportunities of tomorrow have yet to appear. And in communities across the country, parents and young people are left wondering what exactly those past four years of high school were in service of – and how much, if any, truly transformational learning occurred. Something’s gotta give. The Industrial-Age model of schooling, which benefited 20th-century generations by serving as a legitimate ticket to the middle class, has clearly run its course. In its place, we need a model for a new age – the Democratic Age. And we need strategies for ensuring that young people learn how to be successful in the 21st-century world of work, life, and our democratic society. We can get there, but to do so we need to start asking – and answering – the three most essential questions in education reform:   1. How do people learn best? Over the past several years, a slew of research from a range of fields has helped illuminate a much deeper understanding of what powerful

Let’s Scrap the High School Diploma

This month, schools across the country are hard at work preparing auditoriums, printing programs, checking commencement speeches, and readying for the arrival of one of our society’s most cherished rites of passage – the high school graduation ceremony. Perhaps by this time next year, we can do our students an even greater service and scrap the high school diploma altogether. OK, maybe not next year, but soon. After all, almost every component of today’s traditional diploma reflects yesterday’s traditional thinking – if by yesterday we mean the 19th century. It was 1893, to be precise. That’s when the first blue-ribbon commission was assembled to study the nation’s schools, which, at that point, were still largely decentralized. Among its findings, the ten-person committee recommended that “every subject which is taught at all in a secondary school should be taught in the same way and to the same extent to every pupil.” Not long thereafter, the College Entrance Examination Board was established in order to create a common assessment and set uniform standards for each academic subject. Couple those developments with the rise of the Industrial Era, the exponential growth of immigration, and the need to move an unprecedented number of students

Those Who Can Teach; Life Lessons Learned

He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches ~ George Bernard Shaw [Man and Superman, 1903] "A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education." ~ George Bernard Shaw I heard the words for as long as I recall. The meaning was intricately woven into my mind. I, as all little children since George Bernard Shaw scribed his belief, "He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches," was taught to believe that teachers could choose no other career. Educators, entrusted with children's lives were indeed, incapable beings. These individuals had tried and failed to perform well in professions that required intellect and, or dexterity. Because the incompetent were inept, they fled to schools and identified themselves as "Teachers." In classrooms, less than sage scholars could teach with little authentic expertise. Today, as a culture, Americans choose to prove this erroneous truth. Grading the Teachers: Value-Added Analysis. Happily, our fellow citizens dismiss the "scientific" evidence that amasses. In our stupor we embrace Value-Added Analysis, disregard the research revealed in a 2010 Department of Education report, Error Rates in Measuring Teacher and School Performance. "Consideration of error rates is especially important when evaluating whether

How to piss the world off!!!

Almost two, I stand there watching and listening, trying to learn to talk. It’s like I knew what was being said but could not say it. Frustrated as people would tease, say mama or dada I would try, but it always came out wrong. Over and over, the tongue twisters made me madder and madder until some days I just would not even try. I knew what I wanted which would make things only worse. I would cry scream and kick and just piss everyone off till I got in trouble. I would walk around the big world; being so little made things much harder on a little guy like me. Every task was ten times harder for me and would get me all upset, especially when I wanted my juice. Seeing how I was only two, I couldn’t get it myself, so I would have to try to get someone to do it for me. Not being able to talk was a big problem because I had no way of telling my dad or mom what it was I wanted. I would try and say juice but it only came out a word that I even thought was strange.

What Joel Klein Doesn’t Understand About Teaching — and What We Should Do Instead

In case you missed it, former NYC Schools Chief Joel Klein had an Op-Ed in this weekend’s Washington Post in which he, rightly, urges us to do what it takes to establish a true long-term teaching profession. His recipe for doing so, however, reveals the extent to which he has misdiagnosed both the problem and its potential solutions. Klein begins by noting the ways teachers have become “unfairly vilified” in the current conversations about education reform, and then, after celebrating the heroic few in the profession who are “America’s heroes,” dedicates equal space to calling out the teachers who “work by the clock.” According to Klein, “the problem is that our discussion too often fails to distinguish between these very different types of teachers, treating them all the same.” I would counter that the bigger problem is when we speak of any profession in such binary terms — are you a hero or a laggard? — and expect that such rhetoric will do anything other than alienate the core constituency we are trying to support and celebrate. Let me be clear: there are teachers who work by the clock, and who need to be in a different line of work.

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