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TED Talk Tuesday: Bring on the Learning Revolution

Since I won’t be with the CHC staff hosting Webspiration Wednesday lunches, I thought I would institute TED Talk Tuesday and share an inspiring TED Talk each Tuesday with all of you.  TED has a great tag line “ideas worth spreading”.  This non-profit brings together people from Technology, Entertainment, and Design.  (The scope of the talks is actually much, much wider.) is a free collection of the very best talks with new talks are being added all the time.  TED believes “passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world.”

Todays TED Talk Tuesday is dedicated to Sir Ken Robinson.  You may remember this Webspiration Wednesday sharing of Sir Ken’s Schools Kill Creativity.  This is Sir Ken Robinson’s newest TED Talk, Bring on the Learning Revolution.

Sir Ken Robinson has such a way with words, the message he shares is profound.  I agree with the summation that reform is of no use, the evolution of a broken model isn’t going to get us where we need to go.   We need a revolution where education is transformed into something else entirely.  I have watched this video several times since its release, about a month ago, and each time I am struck by something new.  This time what stood out most for me was the talk about innovation.   Innovation is hard because it means doing something that is challenging, it isn’t the easy or obvious solution.  It challenges what we take for granted, things that seem obvious.  Just before beginning this post, I read an excellent article by Blogging Alliance member Chris at EdTechSwami.  He writes: What Educators Can Learn From Steve Jobs.  I think Chris makes some excellent points in his post, it all comes back to innovation.  Apple doesn’t usually do the expected, in fact sometimes they purposefully step away from what is expected and what seems logical.  The reason is that they are finding new solutions and even creating new problems.  They are looking to the future and anticipating what is coming next.  Sir Ken helps us to see that innovation is difficult because there are so many things in this life that we take for granted.  We don’t even think about them any more because they are the way that we expect them to be.  It is only when someone comes along and points out a new way of doing something that we realize we have been taking it for granted.  In schools we take for granted that there is a linearity to education.  We start in kindergarten and move through until we reach the 12th grade, at which point we are encouraged to attend college.  What else do we take for granted in education?  Classrooms, grades, tests, desks, handwriting, curriculum, blackboards (IWB’s), policy makers, NCLB…

Today I was able to join in on the midday Twitter #edchat discussion.  The topic was reform in education and how teachers could be a louder voice.  The discussion was a great one with a number of good ideas.  I wonder if we are approaching the topic in an innovative enough way?  We tend to frame our answers with what we think might be possible. We frame our answers so as to play nice in the policy makers game.  What if we didn’t do things their way? What if we came up with a new way?  What if we taught kids how to be advocates for their education and learning and gave them a voice?  I threw this out there during the #edchat and @bliarteach reminded me of the big push there was for learning about recycling in school.  Kids became passionate about recycling and saving the earth, they took it home with them.  Soon families were recycling and changing their garbage habits.  This worked.  I was one of those kids who made my mom wash every piece of aluminum foil so that I could bring it to school and add it to our big ball of recycled foil.  I was the kid who was adamant about separating plastic, glass, and paper.  I became the adult who still does this.  Involving kids in advocating for their own education and learning has the added benefit of helping them to realize the importance of their education.  Suddenly they aren’t learning because we tell them to, they are learning because they believe in learning.  They have a pride and ownership in their own education.   The great thing about involving kids in the discussion is that they don’t take so much for granted.  They ask questions and challenge the way that we think.

So, lets figure out all the things we take for granted in education.  When we have a clear picture of those things, lets work together to find new solutions. Lets revolutionize education together, lets make the revolution viral.  If you can think of something that we take for granted, leave it in the comments below.

(Raise of hands, how many of you are wearing a wrist watch?) 🙂  Yeah, me too.

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  1. I haven’t worn a wrist watch for years because I prefer to drive people batty by asking them for the time!

    To me, the biggest thing we take for granted about education is that it’s what we need to get a good job. Some people think the higher the standard of education, the higher pay is likely.

    I wish we could look at education as a right for all citizens – to explore learning, find their own pathway, acquire skills. I wish we could have mentorships where we matched people to those they would learn from, something like apprentices of yore.

    Pie in the sky. Or is it?

  2. Yep I’m with you on this! I think however that like many other industries, it will take innovation from outside to get education to move.

  3. One idea that must be challenged is that students will only learn most of the required material during class time. If students had a reason to learn most of the required material outside of class time, a few just might do it.

    I have been kicking around ideas of how to get students passionate about their learning. In elementary school students want to learn, but many loose this desire as their schooling continues. Students’ attitudes towards science also takes a “nose dive” starting in middle school. This indicates that the school process should incorporate some structure to nurture the intrinsic desire to learn.

    Related to the intrinsic desire to learn, I was just reading an article in “Wired” magazine titled “Geek Power.” ( ) In this article Bill Gates says that the key period of his hackerhood came even earlier. “The hardcore years, the most fanatical years, are 13 to 16.” This quote got me thinking about how to engage a student’s passion in the learning process, so students will learn outside of school time.

    Research shows that the best way to predict a student’s success is to look at their “history of learning.” Take reading for example, students who read for pleasure also read science material well. So I started thinking on what would increase a student’s history of learning. The pleasure-reading/science-reading crossover got me thinking about a practice at Google. Google has their employees work on a “pet” project 20% of the time. They do this individually and in small groups. From this I got the idea of giving students a chance to earn time to apply their passion to a personal science project. To do this project, students would have to increase the learning they do outside of school time both on regular content and knowledge related to their project.

    To allow students time for a personal science project, they would have to demonstrate mastery of a given block of material before being given time to work on their project. They would also have to not be a management problem during project time. It is hard to imagine students learning five days of material in four days. Imagining students working on a project that isn’t highly structured is even harder to imagine. The key to learning five days of material in four would be for students to do one fifth of their learning outside of school time. The solution to the structure issue may come from strategies used in problem based learning.

    I guess this boils down to the following: Getting students to engage in a science related project at a passionate level. Structuring weekly assignments so students can demonstrate mastery of the material in four days. Using a PBL approach, allow students to work on a project in a group one day a week. Also having a regular assignment to involve the students not showing mastery of the based on a research based instructional strategy as usual.

    The above is fanciful thinking and just one thought to kick around. Hopefully fanciful thinking is the forerunner to innovation.

  4. Wow! Thanks for the great example of student advocacy!
    Just this morning I had decided to ask my UDL teams if they thought students (in addition to teachers) might become an important agent of change for UDL. I am going to propose that their students create portfolios next year that contain evidence for the following:
    1. What kind(s) of learner are you? What learning environments work best for you?
    2. What’s in your ever-expanding UDL toolkit? What tools work best for you? What tools do you know how to use to further and demonstrate your learning?
    3. What’s in your work portfolio? What are you capable of doing when you are able to use the tools that work best for you?

  5. Good post Kelly. I think you have a point in that changing the power to the students could have a profound impact on education. Students have more power than ever to be their own advocates. I have given up on trying to make change through stake holders because they are too invested in the status quo. Let’s do some rabble rousing in our classrooms and see if we can shake things up!

  6. That five periods of instruction is better than four is taken for granted. With the right structure, four periods of instruction and a period of “innovative time off” could be superior. This period of “innovative time off” could motivate students learn five periods worth of content in the first four days of the week. A period a week of “innovative time off” for student directed learning could increase the students passion for an area of study and make school a richer experience. Some thoughts on this idea are at the following link:
    I guess the idea of “innovative time off” did come from outside of the area of education.
    (If I write much more this comment might be deleted for being unfocused. Sorry for the unfocused comment.)

  7. I take GPS for granted now. I remember looking at maps in high school or writing down obscure landmarks to find a friends house. I wonder whether or not my HS students can even use a map effectively.

    I agree with having the kids be the advocates. We will find it difficult to change the adults who “know better”. Students on the other hand can take new ideas and even make them better. It’s a wonderful way to start.

  8. I agree, it is no use trying to change the minds of those who are perfectly happy with the status quo and don’t know how to look at a problem differently. Kids are so inventive, they haven’t been convinced their is only one way to do something yet.

  9. Mallory, that is a great proposal! The questions you have included are excellent. I hope that the proposal is met favorably, it is a great idea for reflecting on the learning process.

  10. James, your ideas are fantastic. I often look to Google and Pixar as models for the school system. They seems to have a real grasp on what environment people think and work best in. I think giving students time for a “pet” project is an excellent idea. It would really give us as teacher insight as to what makes them tick. We could capitalize on what we learn in that 20%. I’m going to keep thinking about how this could be made into a reality in schools. Great out-of the box thinking!

  11. I like the idea of apprenticeship. I have often thought about what might be different in education if we took on more of a discipleship role. Very interesting! I don’t think it is too pie in the sky.

  12. We think we know what motivates students, but we are taking this for granted. For most students to engage in higher order thinking, they will have to be given autonomy and opportunities to collaborate. This sketchcast summarizes what really motivates people and how this is contrary to what everyone thinks.
    Some recent research also has shown that merit pay isn’t producing results. This may give a hint as to why, be sides the background knowledge issue pointed out by Marzano.

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