Education: Thinking Beyond School

Seth Godin recently gave a thought-provoking TED talk that has been making its way across the web. He explains how the current school system, which hasn’t changed much since the Industrial Revolution, is optimized for generating interchangeable units of people, and is “the thing we built to indoctrinate them into obedience.” Godin pushes us all to ask, what is school for?

Inspirational talks like this get me fired up about my own work to help improve education, redesigning the future of teaching and learning to rethink what is possible in schools and communities. Here is another great short film, also featuring Seth Godin, that celebrates the potential of how technology will revolutionize education. (Note that this one is focuses more on specific mobile tech solutions as it was produced by Ericsson.)

While these videos definitely help bring awareness and energy to modern education reform efforts, I often feel that they skip over two very important aspects at the root of why there is such education inequality in the US: motivation and culture.

We’ve all heard the rationale behind the current school system’s batch-processing model designed for military and/or factory based models to create many of the same type of person/consumer. This message is not new. We know this model doesn’t align with our growing emphasis on innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. So, let’s assume for a minute that we actually can shift to a student-centered, project-based learning school system. Continuing this dream, let’s then assume that teachers and schools automagically have the tools and resources (money) to support this type of individualized system. Would this solve the problem?

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to get to this type of system, which I think is necessary, but I don’t believe we can have a conversation about true education reform without acknowledging what is happening outside of school. Seth is a genius and outlines an ambitious goal for all of us to ask ‘What is school really for?’ yet I wish he, and others who give talks like this (Ken Robinson, etc), would take it a step further and address the role that motivation and culture play in the learning process and how much that actually matters when we compare the US education system (mainly through test scores) to other nations.

Families and communities establish important cultural norms for kids, which directly influence their motivation and willingness to engage in school, no matter what that system looks like. We cannot talk about addressing comprehensive education solutions without talking about parents and what is happening at home and in neighborhoods.

People are motivated when they feel competent. They are motivated when they have more opportunities. I think the true role of education is to help learners discover ongoing opportunities and feel competent to pursue them. We must realize this goes beyond just what is happening in schools, and that it is our collective responsibility if we want an educated society.

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TeacherSquare takes Tech Talks on Air

As the TeacherSquare community continues to grow, I have been thinking about the best way to open our conversations to a larger audience. Last night we hosted our first Teacher Tech Talk on Air using Google Hangouts and despite minor tech issues on my end, we had a lively discussion on formative assessments and how some cloud-based tools are making this more of a reality in many classroom.

Thanks to Jack West (Braincandy), Tim Burke (Gooru) and Trenton Goble (Mastery Connect) for sharing their perspectives as educators and edtech entrepreneurs and leading this important discussion. Additional appreciation goes out to Andrew Coy (Digital Harbor Foundation) and Steve Taffe for their participation and for sharing their insights.

TeacherSquare plans to continue both on and offline discussions just like this so if you have any feedback or suggestions for future topics I’m all ears.

Go Go Games- Live in iTunes Store

Big congratulations to Joy, Heidi and Alexis, the Stanford LDT Alumni who created Go Go Games as their masters project and just launched in the iTunes store this week.  “Go Go Games is a suite of games on the iPad that helps preschool and elementary school children to learn to notice multiple features of the objects in the world around them – a specific perceptual skill that is essential to learning and comes naturally to most children, but is known to be a common difficulty for those with ASD.”

I wrote about these efforts in general after the LDT Expo back in August and it is really exciting to see these research based education games making their way to a consumer audience. The team has even outlined the process and science behind their product development on their website.

If you know students and families that would benefit from this, please spread the word and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Go Go LDT!

TeacherSquare On Air

For the past several months I’ve been working on my own initiative, TeacherSquare, exploring various ways that innovative educators can share their expertise and connect with each other, both on and offline, with the goal of co-creating a community to support better (& smarter) technology adoption in classrooms. One of our most successful and engaging events was our August Teacher Tech Talk at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation where Jack West (braincandy), Trenton Goble (MasteryConnect) and Tim Burke (Gooru Learning) shared their strategies on utilizing specific tools to bring formative assessment techniques to the classroom. During this interactive BYOD session participants broke into small groups to share their specific experience and best practices with each other and it was almost impossible to get the groups to stop talking when the event ended.

In thinking about how best to continue that conversation and include others from all over the world, TeacherSquare is talking it’s Tech Talks On Air via Google Hangout. Jack West will be leading our first Tech Talk on Air on Wed, Oct 24th at 7pm (PT) to share his story balancing multiple passions as an educator, edtech blogger and entrepreneur. I’m really excited to extend the energy and reach of TeacherSquare and I hope you’ll join the conversation, help spread the word and/or submit a question in advance.