Envisioning the Future of Learning

School’s out for the Summer! I had the pleasure of advising a class in the Learning, Design and Technology (LDT) program through the School of Ed at Stanford this spring quarter, Ed 333B: Envisioning the Future of Learning. The course was co-taught by two of my favorite LDT Alumni, Dan Gilbert and Ami Mehta, who framed the class around two key questions “What should every 11-year-old girl in the world know?  How might we make that happen?” taking into consideration how technology will evolve over the next ten years.

To provide real world context for applying business, design and learning approaches to these questions, we conducted three 2-week long design challenges with real clients from Castilleja Girls School, Khan Academy and TeachAIDS. I was excited to bring some of my experiences from Khan Academy into this class, leading a challenge focused on rethinking how to distribute digital content to empower learners all over the world. The students came up with some creative yet practical approaches and I’m looking forward to piloting this project in partnership with Teach-A-Class and Living Values in Nigeria in the coming months. (Stay tuned for a future post on the launch of my next endeavor.)

The last class held this past Thursday night was a true culmination of the previous exercises exploring business, design and learning approaches, where the students lead the group in their own unique design challenges. What made the process even more special was the presence of some inspiring LDT alumni like Kim Jacobsen, co-founder of Junyo and local edtech community members, like Neeru Khosla, founder of CK12. However, the guests who really contributed the most were Shivali and Sahil, two Bay Area teenagers who not only provided useful perspective on teens going through the education system today but were energetic and vocal participants in the challenges.

I would love to see more classes like this in the School of Ed that are applying learning & design theories to real-world problems and engaging alumni and community members in the process. I’m glad I was able to be a part of this course and hope to stay connected to these students and projects in the future.

Making the Classroom of the Future

The Maker Movement is rocking the education world in a big way.

Kudos to EdSurge for organizing all the activities in the Education Pavilion during this year’s Maker Faire, modeling the classroom of the future. From Thursday’s educator meetup to Saturday’s ongoing interviews with Steve Hargadon, that team and extended community of volunteers really kept the Maker-Education conversation buzzing. The several hours I spent there this morning flew by and I have a feeling that even if I were there the whole weekend, I wouldn’t have had the chance to absorb all the amazing creativity, art and energy flowing in this community. While I spent most of my time in the DIY Learning: The New School area with usual edtech suspects like Motion MathRoot-1 & Educreations, I’m glad I got to catch a glimpse of some of my favorite new tinker toys in action, especially LittleBits and Roominate.

As amazing as this weekend was, the dream is to figure out how to truly make classrooms of the future that embody all the making, doing and learning that is at the essence of Maker Faire. Of course, for me the highlights were initiatives that are trying to bring these types of experiences to communities beyond our own.

SparkLab was there showing off their newly suped-up SparkTruck, channeling the energy from their Stanford d.school class and successful Kickstarter campaign. They are kicking off their summer road trip over the next few weeks, on a mission to spread “the fun of hands-on learning and encouraging kids to find their inner maker.”

Friend and current Harvard Ed Doctoral Fellow, Karl Wendt, was demonstrating some of his creations from his newly launched non-profit, Discover-Create-Advance (DCA), trying to bring project-based learning (PBL) to all students. They are “currently focused on building a library of highly motivating projects, providing alternative funding for great projects, and posting a series of videos that assist teachers and students in facilitating project based learning.” By empowering teachers, through instructional videos and funding, this effort gets at the core of what makes it so difficult to really bring PBL to every classroom. His video deconstructing a hair dryer is one of my favorites and I cannot wait to see what comes next from DCA.

Ideally, newly launched efforts like the Maker Education Initiative will help channel all the inspiring energy from Maker Faire and other DIY/PBL initiatives to bring these learning opportunities to kids all over the world. The classroom of the future will be whatever we as a society want… so we just have to Make It Happen!

Design Thinking for 5 year olds

Last Friday I attended the Innovative Learning Conference, hosted by the Nueva School every other year, and the whole experience just blew me away. The school itself is a beautiful collection of older and newer buildings sprinkled on lush hill side in Hillsborough. Choosing the highlight of the day was almost as difficult as choosing which individual sessions to attend. I started off with listening to Dr. Dean Ornish share his thoughts on wellness and the motivation needed to make sustainable lifestyle changes. From there I moved on to Prasad Ram’s presentation of Gooru Learning and his vision for making a tool for teachers to easily incorporate online resources into their lesson plans and share them with others. The day continued to get better as I had the pleasure of meeting Sal Khan and hearing him share a more intimate version of how the Khan Academy sprouted from his first videos into the rapidly growing library it is today. I ended the day with a brief guided meditation from Shauna Shapiro and then a conversation with Neeru Khosla on how CK-12 has quietly and consistently been working to disrupt the textbook industry. And these were just the speakers that I got a chance to see!

However, my favorite part of the day was learning about the iLab, which is a product of collaboration between Nueva and The Institute of Design at Stanford, and very closely resembles some d.school workspaces. Through sessions with Kim Saxe and Susie Wise I learned how kids as young as 5 are introduced to the basics of design-thinking, by brainstorming needs statements and then applying the 3e’s: Empathy, Experiment, Environment to come up with solutions that address those needs. The open space itself as well as the practices of the iLab illustrate the shift from STEM->STEAM, bringing the much-needed focus on arts and creative thinking back into the classroom.

One of the most important messages (especially to the educators in the audience) is that these practices don’t require significant resources but rather a shift in how problems and the brainstorming processes are presented to kids. Grab some post-its, put wheels on the bottom of a few Ikea desks and you are ready to build a design-thinking workshop at any school!  You can read more about explicitly teaching design-thinking to students (and teachers through Stanford’s K-12 Lab) in this recent WSJ piece on David Kelly, founder of IDEO.

Susie shared her experiences in creating a ‘culture of design’ and how they are applying learnings from the iLab to the Urban Montessori School they are establishing in Oakland (Fall 2012,) of which she is a founding team member. I’d love to visit this school soon and am sure I won’t be able to wait 2 years for the next ILC before visiting Nueva again too!