Brainstorming a learning platform

Jerry —  September 27, 2013 — 4 Comments

In August I spoke at Catalyst Week, a terrific brain- and heart-blending series of talks and events that are part of the Downtown Project in Las Vegas (more here). The topic for August’s Catalyst Week — they do these pretty much monthly — was education, so I decided to give a speech that would build on the TEDxCopenhagen talk I gave a year ago (here’s a full-text transcript).

Half my Vegas talk summarizes and crystallizes the talks that went before, in order to clear the decks enough to do some serious brainstorming. Of course, there was precious little time left for that brainstorming, so I’d love to continue it here.

On to the new talk:

Jerry Michalski visits Downtown Project Las Vegas from Downtown Project LV on Vimeo.



4 responses to Brainstorming a learning platform

  1. nice.

  2. got a summary?

    I assume the presenter has something beyond the norm e.g. recognizes that teacher is a dysfunctional concept

  3. What do we lose by schooling? What do we lose by unschooling? How are the experiences of young people with brains that are still forming different from those of adults, and what does that imply for learning? Why do we need teachers?

    Your Copenhagen talk made one of the most salient points, I think – that once we are ready/eager/hungry to know something, learning it is as quick, painless (if effortful), and likely to invite a state of flow as is possible. At other times, using extrinsic motivators to invite compliance in the name of learning reduces students’ capacity for real learning.

    One of the things teachers do very, very well and that some passionate enthusiasts can also do well is to create the interest and excitement that ignite the curiosity that makes learning joyful. Of course, this is more or less impossible to do when students are chronically hungry, stressed, and don’t feel safe. It is poorly done when, as you point out in this talk, we cut off curiosity and flow and authentic learning in service of schedules and classroom management.

    For those who have spent much time in this area, it is hard to disagree with ideas such as first, help students be safe, fed, rested, and help them then recover from the effects of chronic stress. Next remove seat-time and grade-based cohorts and move to mastery-based systems, as are available from virtual schools. But then….then the real questions start.

    What are courses of study to make available? What environments will spark curiosity? If you are not yet at then point of being passionate about something, what kinds of resources, people, information accessible to the novice can help nurture that interest? Bad teaching, bad resources, bad environments can certainly shut down intrinsic motivators, but what are the elements that help engage them? Or do we even need to – does it happen automatically as what unschoolers seem to see?

    I’ve been experimenting with a weird blend of “taking your medicine” using todays immature resources to ask my kids to complete (in a mastery-based environment) the coursework that they are expected to have taken before college while providing lots of time every day for boredom, projects, play, and other parts of life. Recently I have begun to see the magic happen – agency and curiosity becoming more prominent, deep engagement and perseverance becoming more “sticky” and the “medicine” becoming low-drama, with less emotional energy spent on what we’ve identified as the necessities akin to brushing your teeth. But its also like life – erratic and messy and always changing.

    So, a platform. On the tech side, there are plenty of folks trying to connect people with each other and have people develop classes and content for each other. There are great just-in-time things like Instructables where you can learn to do just about anything when you are ready for (and really need) that knowledge. But education is a slightly different animal – as though the purpose is to inspire curiosity and be a source of tools and resources to indulge that curiosity. I am beginning to think that the new pedagogy is just the asking of great questions. So maybe that’s a part of it.

    Also, introducing science, math, humanities, history, and so on in ways that inspire our curiosity and help us see the organizing principles of the field and making us struggle with great questions rather than giving us the answers to questions we don’t yet care about. Is this the job of teachers? Of stories? Of apps where you win when you can tune forces so that the gyroscope precesses, etc.? If part of schooling is to give us an appreciation for and the skills to use the great achievements of humanity, how do we make this learning “real”? Perhaps the new assessment is skilled peer review? The technology exists to create digital tools to make learning more real, but instead it gets turned towards a direct instruction and summative testing pedagogy which is flawed on all levels.

    So maybe, in part, a platform is about access AND community. Great questions and a peer group within which to assess when you have gone far enough with the answers. Digital tools to fan the flames of mild curiosity and remove the hurdles to learning – stuff to help young people be curious about the things that society today deems necessary for college and resumes. Space to pursue interests and passions and the connections to accelerate that learning. Time for more than the three R’s in life and more life and play within the three R’s. So, also the platform is social – a society where real learning about anything is normal and not truant.

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  1. April and Jerry » Holiday letter 2013! - December 28, 2013

    […] after returning from the Rockies, we both headed to Las Vegas, where Jerry gave a talk about education as part of Catalyst Week, which itself is part of the Downtown Project (DPLV) a huge investment in […]

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