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robertogreco : progressiveeducation   21

The History of Ed-Tech: What Went Wrong?
"There’s a popular origin story about education technology: that, it was first developed and adopted by progressive educators, those interested in “learning by doing” and committed to schools as democratic institutions. Then, something changed in the 1980s (or so): computers became commonplace, and ed-tech became commodified – built and sold by corporations, not by professors or by universities. Thus the responsibility for acquiring classroom technology and for determining how it would be used shifted from a handful of innovative educators (often buying hardware and software with their own money) to school administration; once computers were networked, the responsibility shifted to IT. The purpose of ed-tech shifted as well – from creative computing to keyboarding, from projects to “productivity.” (And I’ll admit. I’m guilty of having repeated some form of this narrative myself.)

[tweet: "What if the decentralized, open web was a historical aberration, an accident between broadcast models, not an ideal that was won then lost?" ]

But what if, to borrow from Ian Bogost, “progressive education technology” – the work of Seymour Papert, for example – was a historical aberration, an accident between broadcast models, not an ideal that was won then lost?

There’s always a danger in nostalgia, when one invents a romanticized past – in this case, a once-upon-a-time when education technology was oriented towards justice and inquiry before it was re-oriented towards test scores and flash cards. But rather than think about “what went wrong,” it might be useful to think about what was wrong all along.

Although Papert was no doubt a pioneer, he wasn’t the first person to recognize the potential for computers in education. And he was hardly alone in the 1960s and 1970s in theorizing or developing educational technologies. There was Patrick Suppes at Stanford, for example, who developed math instruction software for IBM mainframes and who popularized what became known as “computer-assisted instruction.” (Arguably, Papert refers to Suppes’ work in Mindstorms when he refers to “the computer being used to program the child” rather than his own vision of the child programming the computer.)

Indeed, as I’ve argued repeatedly, the history of ed-tech dates at least as far back as the turn of the twentieth century and the foundation of the field of educational psychology. Much of we see in ed-tech today reflects those origins – the work of psychologist Sidney Pressey, the work of psychologist B. F. Skinner, the work of psychologist Edward Thorndike. It reflects those origins because, as historian Ellen Condliffe Lagemann has astutely observed, “One cannot understand the history of education in the United States during the twentieth century unless one realizes that Edward L. Thorndike won and John Dewey lost.”

Ed-tech has always been more Thorndike than Dewey because education has been more Thorndike than Dewey. That means more instructivism than constructionism. That means more multiple choice tests than projects. That means more surveillance than justice.
(How Thorndike's ed-tech is now being rebranded as “personalization” (and by extension, as progressive education) – now that's an interesting story..."

[via: ""Edward L. Thorndike won and John Dewey lost" is pretty much the perfect tl;dr version of the history of education."

See also: "Or David Snedden won. People forget about him." ]
audreywatters  ianbogost  johndewey  seymourpapert  edtech  computers  technology  education  ellencondliffe  edwardthorndike  bfskinner  sidneypressey  psychology  management  administration  it  patricksuppes  constructivism  constructionism  progressive  mindstorms  progressiveeducation  standardization  personalization  instructivism  testing  davidsnedden  history 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Conversations with Jessica Howard of the Hiland Hall School on Vimeo
"Hiland Hall is a small progressive school of about 28 students on the border of Shaftsbury and Bennington in Vermont.

The Hiland Hall School creates a learning environment where students of different ages can interact with each other. They support what's known as an "emergent curriculum"; the curriculum emerges from the thoughts, interests and needs of the students. An overall framework guides them through the year.

The methods are founded upon practice developed over the last thirty years by other progressive institutions such as the Prospect School and Bank Street School.

Principal and founder Jessica Howard has been a teacher for more than three decades. After graduating from Bennington College, she went on to graduate studies at Bank Street College. She taught at the Prospect School from 1965-1991, where she was Coordinator of Curriculum, and was responsible for staff development and supervision of classroom practice. She is regularly asked to speak at seminars and conferences for adults and other teaching professionals, and has served as consultant to several university projects. Jessica is an enthusiastic gardener and is keenly interested in the teaching of math, science and literature."
education  progressive  progressiveeducation  schools  learning  children  parenting  sfsh  tcsnmy  jessicahoward  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  pedagogy  curriculum  emergentcurriculum  canon  hilandhall  vermont 
february 2017 by robertogreco
The Failure of Failure
"Alas, the fundamental difference between approaching success and avoiding failure will be missed by anyone who tends to focus only on behaviors — what can be observed and measured — rather than on how an individual interprets what happened. The good news is that not every goof in setting up a math problem will register in the child’s mind as a spirit-crushing Failure.

The bad news is that coming up short may indeed be experienced by children as debilitating, particularly under certain circumstances. As Deborah Stipek of Stanford University explains, that experience may change kids’ understanding of why they succeed or fail. Unlike “children who have a history of good performance,” those who have learned to see themselves as failures are “more likely to attribute success [when it does happen] to external causes, and failure to a lack of ability.” A kid who doesn’t do well assumes that if he does succeed, he must have just gotten lucky — or that the task was easy. And he assumes that if he fails again, which he regards as more likely, it’s because he doesn’t have what it takes.

This quickly becomes a vicious circle because attributing results to causes outside of one’s control makes people feel even more helpless, even less likely to do well in the future. The more they fail, the more they construct an image of themselves that leads to still more failure. That’s particularly true when students are deliberately given overly difficult tasks in the name of “rigor.” Or when the failure occurs in the context of intense pressure to succeed — or, worse, to defeat other students who are also trying to succeed. (If little evidence demonstrates the value of failing, no evidence has ever found any value in losing — or in pitting children against one another in general.)

Under certain circumstances, yes, it’s possible for a child to pick herself up and try again, just as we might hope. But it’s simply not the most likely outcome. The experience of having failed is a uniquely poor bet for anyone who wants to maximize the probability of future success. Moreover, it’s not just achievement that suffers. Kids who fail also tend to (1) lose interest in whatever they’re doing (say, learning), and (2) prefer easier tasks. It’s hard for someone to stay excited about something she has reason to think she can’t do well, and it’s even harder for her to welcome a more difficult version of whatever she was doing. In fact, failure often leads kids to engage in what psychologists call “self-handicapping”: They deliberately make less of an effort in order to create an excuse for not succeeding. They’re able to tell themselves that if they had tried, they might have done much better.

Even someone who really does buckle down and try harder when he fails may be doing so out of an anxious, compulsive pressure to feel better about himself rather than because he takes pleasure from what he’s doing. (This is only one of many possible concerns about the idea of “grit” that has taken the field of education by storm.) To that extent, anyone concerned about children’s mental health, not just how well they do in school, has even more reason to be skeptical about the tendency to romanticize failure.

All these findings are sobering — or at least they should be. But as with many similar claims about what’s good for children, I’ve noticed that assertions about the value of failure aren’t always based on its actual effects. People who believe it’s good for children to fail tend not to back down when presented with contrary evidence. Instead, they insist that “kids these days” are overprotected and have things too easy. Thus, what was originally offered as an empirical claim (about the allegedly positive impact of failure) is revealed to be a matter of ideology: Children ought to have to struggle, regardless of its effects.

One last point: What’s so powerful about making structural changes — adopting the kind of curriculum and pedagogy described in that Singapore study, for example — is that they really can help students to be more successful (and excited) learners. But to reframe the issue as “productive failure” may distract us from the need for such changes and lead us instead to accept the misleading idea that what kids mostly need is more opportunities to fail. This is closely related to the “fix the kid, not the schools” narrative lurking in the grit fad that I mentioned a moment ago — and also in the closely related enthusiasm for promoting a “growth mindset.”

Maybe someone just figured that the language of productive failure is a clever way to sell valuable progressive practices to a wider audience, rather like rebranding them as “21st-century skills” or “brain-based education.” But that just raises the question: How in the world did this come to be a selling point? Why have so many people accepted the idea that kids need to fail more?"
alfiekohn  education  struggle  failure  progressiveeducation  progressive  2016  psychology  children  curriculum  teaching  learning  howweteach  howwelearn  via:willrichardson  grit  misreadingings  sfsh 
june 2016 by robertogreco
No. 225: Helen Molesworth, Jennifer Raab | The Modern Art Notes Podcast
"Episode No. 225 of The Modern Art Notes Podcast features curator Helen Molesworth and art historian Jennifer Raab.

Molesworth’s “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957” is on view at the Hammer Museum through May 15. It is the first exhibition to examine Black Mountain College, an experimental, inter-disciplinary and immensely influential liberal arts college in the mountains of western North Carolina. The school attracted faculty and students from all over the world at a time when World War II was forcing significant global emigration, and thus provided a place where questions of globalism and the role of the artist in society were considered and furthered. Among the artists who spent time at Black Mountain and who are included in Molesworth’s exhibition are Ruth Asawa, Willem de Kooning, Josef and Anni Albers, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Ray Johnson, Jess and plenty more. Ninety artists are included in Molesworth’s show. The show’s outstanding, must-own catalogue was published by Yale University Press.

Molesworth is the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Her previous exhibitions include “This Will Have Been,” which examined the impact of feminism on the art of the 1980s, and “Work Ethic,” which looked at how mostly 1960s artists merged everyday life with art-making.

On the second segment, art historian Jennifer Raab discusses her new book, “Frederic Church: The Art and Science of Detail.” The book examines how and why Church used unusually detailed passages in enormous paintings to engage contemporary debates about Union, nation and science. Raab teaches at Yale University."

[Direct link to SoundCloud: ]
helenmolesworth  jenniferraab  leapbeforeyoulook  bmc  blackmountaincollege  2016  art  curation  history  education  artseducation  liberalarts  diversity  highered  highereducation  progressive  progressiveeducation  learning  howwelearn  pedagogy  teaching  howeteach  inquiry  modernism  postmodernism  form  process  materials  via:jarrettfuller  interdisciplinary  interdisciplinarity  collaboration  disciplines  ruthasawa  mercecunningham  josefalbers  theastergates  rebuildfoundation  lowresidencymfas  bardcollege  oberlincollege  vermontcollege  bhqfu  noahdavis  undergroundmuseum  mountainschoolofarts  andreazittel  greggbordowitz  artinstituteofchicago 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Marco Rubio Disaster, rote learning and getting the answer right – Dave's Educational Blog
"I believe that our education system is a society building machine. I believe that the way we build it, the practices we foster, the underlying concepts in it make citizens a certain way. I totally understand that people want our schools to be accountable, but the choices we have made for accountability have created a society where people believe that repetition is true. We believe that there are correct answers to all questions. That’s how tests work isn’t it? Don’t we represent power in our classrooms through teachers who present and test for correct answers?

It is MUCH easier to check and see if a teacher is doing their work if ‘doing their work’ is the same as getting students to deliver the right answer. We’ve always recognized this. We turn to ‘project based learning’ to give people a chance to do explore, to deal with uncertainty, to make their own answers. Super inconvenient though, PBL. I mean, the students have 6 hours to get something done so… it’s much easier to provide some structure so that they can get there in that time. Teachers change, people start to realize that that structure is way easier to measure than the random things that students think… and then we start to measure the structure.

I’ve come to realize that rhizomatic learning (and many other, similar projects – see connectivism, heutagogy etc…) is about creating a different kind of citizen in our little society building machine. I’m hoping to encourage citizens who can, among other things, see what Rubio is doing not just when he so majestically did it in a five minute span, but when he repeats for truth over the course of a campaign. I would love to be part of encouraging citizens who get MORE suspicious as things are repeated rather than less. To destabilize the brand message so that it was less effective. To make it so that we did not look for TRUTH but rather negotiated truths that included more people.

I think certainty in schools is a key battleground. We need to stop getting the answer right."
davecormier  marcorubio  education  rhizomaticlearning  howwelearn  howweteach  measurement  assessment  certainty  learning  schools  connectivism  heutagogycitizenship  society  democracy  memorization  rote  rorelearning  projectbasedlearning  structure  unschooling  deschooling  progressive  progressiveeducation  uncertainty  teachers  pedagogy 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Setting the record straight on early literacy instruction - The Washington Post
"By Diane E. Levin and Nancy Carlsson-Paige

There has been much well-deserved criticism of the increase in direct instruction in reading skills to young children, resulting from the demands of the Common Core State Standards. However, when we and others argue for abandoning the current one-size-fits-all approach to early literacy, we are not proposing “natural learning environments,” where children learn to read on their own with little teacher intervention.

Yet this is the only alternative to direct, skills-based instruction that Peter Gray describes in “The Reading Wars: Why Natural Learning Fails in Classrooms,” a 2013 post at Psychology Today that he recently published on his Facebook page.

In his essay, Gray argues that learning to read in and out of classrooms is different, by its very nature. This is true. But we do not agree with his assumption that the progressive alternative to direct teaching of phonics and reading skills is to set up natural conditions that allow children to learn to read on their own. He is creating a dichotomy that illustrates an enduring misconception of progressive practice.

Decades ago, in the Harvard Education Review, Lawrence Kohlberg, an American psychologist known for his theory of moral development, and Rochelle Mayer, now a professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, astutely described a “romantic” view of learning which grows out of psychological theories that promote inner growth and development. They argue that Romantic educators create an environment where children are free to flourish and grow based on their innate and inner needs, through self-discovery.

Kohlberg and Mayer contrast this view with progressive education—the outgrowth of cognitive theory, as seen in the work of Jean Piaget, and the educational philosophy of John Dewey. In the progressive approach, the main focus is not on the skills to be learned or on the individual child, but on the interaction between the two. It’s a dynamic and complex process in which the teacher has a vital role to play.

With respect to reading, the teacher must understand the developmental progression of skills in oral language, reading and writing. The teacher must know the level of each child’s skills, as well as understand his or her unique learning needs and abilities, culture and linguistic background. With this knowledge, the teacher can purposefully build curriculum for every child that is developmentally appropriate, meaningful, and lasting.

In “Lively Minds,” a short paper that Lillian Katz wrote for Defending the Early Years, this beloved professor emerita at the University of Illinois draws a distinction between academic goals and making meaning through learning. Education, she argues, must “provide a wide range of experiences, opportunities, resources, and contexts that will provoke, stimulate, and support children’s innate intellectual dispositions.”

[Report debunks ‘earlier is better’ academic instruction for young children]

Teachers in progressive classrooms are intentional about literacy education and employ many strategies to expose children to rich oral language and print. Among them are telling and enacting stories; reading picture and chapter books; singing, reciting, and reading from posted charts (teachers using pointers to read along and helping children isolate specific letters and sounds); drawing and writing with invented and conventional spellings; taking dictation from children; and helping children write their own stories.

In organic and meaningful ways, teachers use print throughout the day—labeling block structures and interest areas, writing recipes, transcribing children’s stories, making charts for attendance and classroom jobs. Teachers tune these activities to the developmental skill levels of individual children, scaffolding new learning in ways that will build a strong foundation for lifelong success in reading.

In contrasting the whole-language and phonics skills-based approaches, or what he calls “training,” Gray ignores the complex role of the teacher in a progressive classroom. Good literacy programs integrate both phonics and meaning; for effective learning, skill-building must be connected to children’s interests and developmental levels in meaningful ways.

In these times of policy mandates and standardized education for even our youngest children, it is vital that critics be clear about the alternatives. And it’s equally important that critics not misrepresent appropriate practice, or what its proponents are advocating for. We hope that clarifying these issues will help us move forward toward best educational practice for all of our children."
literacy  children  pedagogy  progressive  progressiveeducation  reading  writing  teachingwriting  teaching  petergray  dianelevin  nancycarlsson-paige  howweteach  learning  education  schools  earlyliteracy  commoncore  johndewey 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Palimpsest of School Reform: Personalized Learning | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice
"There were two main ideas, anchored in what was then emerging as a “science of education,” that spurred and divided U.S. progressives. First, student-centered instruction, small group and individualized learning (adherents were sometimes called “pedagogical progressives“) and, second, business-oriented advocates of “scientific management” (sometimes called “administrative progressives”) who sought to prepare children and youth to fit into work and society far more efficiently than the traditional schooling of the day. Both wings of the progressive movement drew from the writings of John Dewey and his embrace of science."

"The pumped up language accompanying “personalized learning” resonates like the slap of high-fives between earlier Progressive educators and current reformers. Rhetoric aside, however, issues of research and accountability continue to bedevil those clanging the cymbals for “student-centered” instruction and learning. The research supporting “personalized” or “blended learning” is, at best thin. Then again, few innovators, past or present, seldom invoked research support for their initiatives.

But accountability in these years of Common Core standards and testing is another matter. As one report put it:
Personalized learning is rooted in the expectation that students should progress through content based on demonstrated learning instead of seat time. By contrast, standards-based accountability centers its ideas about what students should know, and when, on grade-level expectations and pacing. The result is that as personalized learning models become more widespread, practitioners are increasingly encountering tensions between personalized learning and state and federal accountability structures.

Tensions arise over end-of-year testing, meeting annual proficiency standards, and judging school performance on the basis of student scores. Few policymakers and present-day Progressive reformers eager to install “personalized learning” in their schools have yet taken note of these conflicts.

Current innovations such as “personalized instruction,” “student centered learning, and “blended learning” are written over the underlying, century-old text of Progressive education. Efficiency in teaching students (faster, better, and at less cost) while teachers individualize instruction combines anew the two wings of the century-old Progressive education movement."
education  larrycuban  history  progressive  progressives  pedagogy  personalization  2015  blendedlearning  student-centeredlearning  personalizedinstruction  openclassroom  progressiveeducation 
june 2015 by robertogreco
“Loving Learning” in Progressive Schools
"Pre-planned “playlists” for learning, cameras recording every move, data driving every decision…little of what AltSchool touts is aligned with progressivism in it’s truest sense, a sense that is captured well in a recent book titled, Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools by Tom Little, the former principal of the Park School in Oakland. Even so, as Little points out, “progressivism” has an image problem when it comes to public perception.
Unfortunately, however, the word “progressive” remains tangled up in the public’s perception with leftist politics, while progressive schools continue to be caricaturized as permissive, “loosey-goosey,” “touchy-feely,” and even “crunchy granola,” to the point that many of the minority of Americans who have heard of Progressive Education consider it passé, at best (Kindle 241).

But as it turns out, the effects of a progressive education may be just what we need given the realities of the connected world.
Abundant research shows that three core classroom strategies invented by progressive educators—namely, letting students pursue their own interests (now commonly referred to as “inquiry-based” education); using a multidisciplinary approach to teaching skills and content; and organizing material into student projects (“project-based learning”)—are extraordinarily effective ways to develop the skills we most need in the new global economy (Kindle 249).

Little identifies six core strategies to progressive schooling that have been passed down from John Dewey, Francis Parker, and other “pioneers” who framed the conversation in the early part of the 20th Century.
1. Attention to children’s emotions as well as their intellects
2. Reliance on students’ interests to guide their learning
3. Curtailment or outright bans on testing, grading, and ranking
4. Involvement of students in real-world endeavors, ranging from going on field trips to managing a farm
5. The study of topics in an integrated way, from a variety of different disciplines
6. Support for children to develop a sense of social justice and become active participants in America’s democracy (Kindle 571).

These would seem to be common sense approaches to learning and education, but they are rarely the focus of venture capitalists and businessmen promoting a new version of schooling. Problematically, however, relatively few in education have enough history or experience with the true progressive approach to manage a persuasive defense. And, as Little suggests, that’s exactly what we need to do, sooner rather than later.
We need to stop tolerating misinformed critics misdefining what we do, and instead, speak out about the benefits we see in our classrooms every day—benefits that should rightly be the legacy of millions of American children. Until we do, Progressive Education will continue to be the buried treasure of American education: the all but exclusive privilege of a tiny minority of our nation’s most wealthy and influential families (Kindle 255).

Before we engage in relevant conversations about classroom learning, we need to have at least a bit of the historic context and vision of progressive schools in our vocabulary. “Loving Learning” is a great place to start to acquire that."
willrichardson  2015  altschool  tomlittle  progressive  education  progressiveschools  learning  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  audreywatters  progressiveeducation  johndewey  francisparker 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Life and Work of an Institution of Progressive Higher Education: Towards a History of Black Mountain College, 1933-1949 by Jonathan Fisher | BMCS
"This ambitious new democratic structure for the administration of a college was unique to BMC, and to my knowledge has not been repeated on such a scale since. It would mean that teachers, in addition to their classroom and other responsibilities on campus, would also be taking on administrative tasks like bookkeeping, fundraising, hiring of new faculty and student admissions on a rotating basis. This commitment to a radically more democratic organizational structure for the new Black Mountain College would last until the bitter end, despite a list-ditch effort led by Dreier and Albers to alter it in the late 1940s. This attempt ultimately led to the Board of Fellows voting to remove Dreier, who had been on an extended leave of absence, in 1948. Josef and Anni Albers would leave the following year. But it was this radically democratic structure that would attract some of the world’s most visionary artists and teachers to this tiny town in rural Western North Carolina for more than two decades. It was also this structure which would allow the BMC community to move forward on issues of racial integration in the 1930s and ‘40s—decades before such attempts would be made at larger, more established colleges in the southeastern United States. It was ultimately John Dewey’s principles of progressive education that were at the foundation of these radical organizational structures, which were adopted by BMC’s founders.

During the first five years of Black Mountain College’s existence, things went remarkably smoothly. Of course finding enough money was always a problem. It was the height of the Great Depression in the United States and despite Rice, Dreier and Albers’ best efforts, BMC had never managed to secure more than minimal financial support for their new experimental progressive institution. A budget drawn up by Dreier in the first year of BMC totaled $32,000, with staff salaries totaling less than $2000, excluding Albers’ salary of $1000 annually, which was supported separately by an individual benefactor (Duberman, 1972, p.71). In these early years there were none of the scandals or disputes that would plague the community later on in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Furthermore, the college’s system of governance appeared to be working. And efforts at self-sustainability were taken on unflinchingly. A student-run cooperative store was set up on campus as well as a print shop and a cottage school for the community’s youngest members (ibid.). In addition to their academic work, students engaged in projects ranging from the staffing of the various cooperative enterprises set up on campus, to the manufacture of bookshelves, curtains and other furnishings for campus buildings. These activities helped supplement the goods available to them on the campus they were leasing from a Christian group, which used it for a summer camp for just a few months each year.

Among the highlights of these early years of the college were two visits by John Dewey, who in 1936 began serving officially as a member of BMC’s Advisory Council. Both of Dewey’s visits took place during the 1934-35 school year. It is unclear from the correspondence in the North Carolina Archives whether or not Dewey ever visited the campus again. But these two early visits set a precedent, which caused BMC faculty—especially Rice and Dreier— to request future visits, which always seem never to have quite worked out (e.g. Dreier [to Dewey] April 6, 1938; Dewey [to Dreier] April 13, 1938). In one of the oldest Dewey letters in the BMC General Collection of the North Carolina Archives, which is handwritten on Columbia University Department of Philosophy letterhead, Dewey expresses his regrets at not being able to pay Rice and the others at BMC a visit during the fall of 1936. He writes of postponing his planned visit until the spring, “when I hope to see the countryside and the flowers at their best” (Dewey [to John Rice] October 29, 1936)."

"Ultimately Dewey remained committed to his position on the Advisory council until the late 40s. A final lengthy unsent hand-written letter from Dreier addressed to Dewey provides a grim picture of the final days of Dreier’s involvement in college affairs (Dreier [unsent letter to John Dewey] 1947, July). Duberman has described in less sympathetic terms Dreier and Albers’ ploy to wrest control of BMC from the faculty and hand it over to a new Board of Trustees. At the root of Dreier’s decision, as usual, was a concern for the financial stability of the college. Black Mountain had never been officially accredited by the State of North Carolina, and student enrollment was too unreliable (Duberman p.484-5). But this was just one of many problems facing BMC in the late 40s. Dreier despairs in his unsent letter at the difficulty of finding good teachers who are also capable and willing college administrators:
Our program, a pretty real thing to [Albers] and me, was not much more than words to most new [faculty] members with one or two notable exceptions… One way of looking at the present difficulty is to say that we simply haven’t been able to get the staff we need. If we could get an adequate team that could pull together, then I think we could raise the money we need (Dreier [unsent letter to Dewey] 1947, July).

So, Dreier’s concerns are both immediate and practical, but no less frustrating for their immediacy or practicality. He is trying to escape a catch-22 of money and talent. But also, more tellingly, Dreier writes:
Another way of looking at our trouble is that our program has become unclear, conviction has sagged… Hardly anybody sees what’s wrong, but gradually the whole thing is sagging toward breaking (ibid.).

Dreier’s pain and frustration are palpable here. The emotion of this letter is even intensified by the fact that he decided not to send it to his mentor, Dewey. But this unsent letter to Dewey shows the philosophers’ influence as a guiding voice for Dreier, Albers and other faculty at BMC in the 1940s. Dreier, in writing this letter seems to be implicitly asking himself, “what would Dewey do?” not because John Dewey was some all-knowing being, capable of rescuing Black Mountain College from dire financial straits, but because Dewey’s pragmatist method of evaluating experience and taking action had been the basis for everything he had helped create at BMC over the course of the previous 15 years.

The changes in administrative structure that Dreier alludes to in his final unsent letter to Dewey, which he and Albers attempted to implement as a last-ditch effort at financial solvency for BMC, ultimately failed to stick. The ensuing crisis ended in Dreier and Albers being forced to leave. Ironically, strict adherence to the Deweyan progressive educational principle of professional autonomy, which was at the core of Rice’s idea for Black Mountain College, and which Dreier resigned from Rollins in support of, was the same issue that brought Dreier and Albers careers at BMC to an end when they switched sides. In other words, the same philosophical inclination that justified the founding of BMC in 1933 remained and kept BMC on its own radical trajectory in the late 40s, even when figures like Dreier and Albers stepped in to try to change the way the college was organized. So, on the one hand, Albers and Dreier failed at prolonging the life of BMC. But, on the other hand, even in this final failure on Dreier and Albers’s part— in their capitulation to the mainstream bureaucratic structure of higher education, the creation of a non-faculty Board of Trustees which would have had hiring and firing power for BMC— illustrates that the college retained that uniquely Deweyan pragmatist orientation and progressivism. When the community became aware of the changes that Dreier and Albers had gotten underway, they acted democratically to kick Dreier and Albers out!"
bmc  blackmountaincollege  education  progressive  progressiveeducation  johnndewey  johnandrewsrice  josefalbers  theodoredreier  democracy  tcsnmy  progressivism  compromise  annialbers  pragmatism  democratic  democraticschools  unschooling  deschooling  experience  complexity  cv  lcproject  openstudioproject 
august 2014 by robertogreco
What Does (and Doesn’t) Progressive Education Plus Technology Look Like? Thoughts on AltSchool
"What Does (and Doesn’t) Progressive Education Plus Technology Look Like? Thoughts on AltSchool
By Audrey Watters

What does it look like when a Silicon Valley engineer decides to reinvent primary school education? Former Google exec Max Ventilla has just raised $33 million to build AltSchool, which he says will be an updated version of Montessori, but a version that relies more heavily on technology R&D. The funding — and the philosophy — prompted EML editor Audrey Watters to ask what does progressive education plus Silicon Valley engineering look like? Does it look like progressive education at all?

In his keynote at the 2012 OpenEd conference, Gardner Campbell, an Associate Professor of English at Virginia Tech, talked about the “Ecologies of Yearning.” (Seriously: watch the video. [ ]) Campbell offered a powerful and poetic vision about the future of open learning, but noted too that there are competing visions for that future, particularly from the business and technology sectors. There are competing definitions of “open” as well, and pointing to the way in which “open” is used (and arguably misused) by education technology companies, Campbell’s keynote had a refrain, borrowed from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “That is not it at all. That is not what I meant, at all.”

“That is not it at all.” I’ve thought of that line again recently when reading about a new school that recently opened in San Francisco. AltSchool, according to headlines in the technology press, seeks to “reinvent” [ ] and “reimagine“ [ ] primary education. “Silicon Valley startup model meets progressive education,” KQED Mindshift describes the startup. [ ]

Progressive education plus progressive technology — that is, technology in the service of inquiry, computing in the hands of the learner, the Web and the world readily available to the student, and the reformulation of school that could come as a result — is something we want to explore here at Educating Modern Learners. But looking at AltSchool, all I hear is T.S. Eliot: ”That is not it at all. That is not what I meant, at all.”

Silicon Valley Startup Model Meets Progressive Education

AltSchool [ ] was founded in 2013 by Max Ventilla, a former Google executive (his Q&A company Aardvark was acquired by Google in 2010, but he’d worked at the tech giant previously too). When he departed Google last year, Techcrunch speculated [ ] that his next project would be education-related, based on a tweet from his wife — a photograph of a pile of education-related books. Embracing the Silicon Valley mantra of “fail fast and pivot,” Ventilla has taken that reading list and jumped headfirst into education, hiring engineers and teachers (as well as Richard Ludlow, the founder of the education video site Academic Earth) and starting a new, for-profit school. (The startup has started the process of becoming a “B corp,” [ ] meaning that profit isn’t its only goal).

It hasn’t officially opened its doors yet, but AltSchool is running a pilot program now with 20 students from age 5 to 12. Tuition currently runs $19,100 per year, but might be lower as the school plans to expand into multiple locations in the fall.

The students at AltSchool are not separated by grade; they’re in one large room that has various activity centers and space for solitary and group work. Mindshift writer Katrina Schwartz, who visited the school, writes [ ] that “There are times in the day when students are working on independent projects and skills tailored to their skill level, interests, and needs. ‘We expose them to a lot of different things and then sit back and observe, listen to what they say, watch what really excites them, and then build on that and ask questions that go deeper,’ [teacher Carolyn] Wilson said.”

“Personalization” and Playlists

There are elements of AltSchool that draw on progressive education, to be sure, and the startup says that it’s focused on helping students “drive their own education through their real-world motivations and interests.”

But the startup draws on a mishmash of educational theories and technologies, many of which undercut the claims of AltSchool being “progressive.” Although it touts the “personalization” of the program, it’s worth questioning here (as is often the case when that buzzword is used in education circles) what that actually means.

Ventilla describes [ ] the school’s “Personalized Learning Plan” as something “developed collaboratively with insights from teachers, family, and students. It prioritizes a set of learning objectives and milestones that are informed by a standards-based curriculum. It also includes goals for academic, social, and emotional development. The PLP maps from AltSchool’s global notion of what children should learn and how students generally learn best, as represented by their Learner Profile.”

And again, from the Mindshift description of the school:
Another borrowed idea applied to AltSchool is the School of One model in New York. Students at AltSchool work from an individual playlist the teacher puts together that’s keyed to his or her interests. The teacher can keep track of student progress on a dashboard, ensure the tasks have been completed, and adjust activities depending on how students are progressing. For example, recently, AltSchool teacher Carolyn Wilson assigned a video about California’s delta to one student, paired with questions about how water moves through the system.
“He moved it to the ‘done’ column, but it wasn’t done, so I told him he was turning me into a screaming monster,” Wilson said. When she checked his work and saw he hadn’t finished, Wilson tagged that assignment with a screaming monster icon and a note to the student telling him to go back and answer the questions and complete a reflection.

As a video filmed during a visit to the school by Techcrunch’s Leena Rao [ ] also highlights, the talk about “personalization” is translated into a “choice” about which assignments to do next, a “choice” of whether to watch a video or complete a digital worksheet.

Although students have access to tablets, their usage of technology hardly seems transformational. The tools are used to deliver content and quizzes and to track students. Indeed, that seems to be the major point of using technology: for data collection and analysis to be used by adults (parents, teachers, school engineers). The tracking doesn’t just happen through the tablets either; the schoolroom is equipped with video cameras [ ]
so that teachers can just press a button to document a moment. Ventilla says that teachers, parents and students who have been able to actually watch a breakthrough moment or a moment of breakdown have been able to help their children learn better. AltSchool has built audio hardware to better record in noisy settings, and video is uploaded to an online CMS that both parents and teachers can access.

Can we reconcile education as surveillance and education as a practice of freedom? I’m not so sure.

A New Model? An Old Model?

AltSchool recently raised [ ] $33 million from Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, Harrison Metal, John Doerr, Jonathan Sackler, Learn Capital, and Omidyar Network. (It had previously raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding. [ ]) As San Francisco Chronicle writer Jill Tucker remarked [ ] about the $33 million, “In the public school world, that much money would be enough to support a small school district for a year or pay the annual salaries of more than 400 experienced teachers. Ventilla plans to mostly spend it on engineers. The AltSchool computer whizzes will design software and applications that make payroll, hiring, admissions, facilities services, purchasing and other services — typically done by a school district’s central office staff — electronically seamless, Ventilla said.”

“We’re not trying to make existing schools work better. We are trying to actually advance a new model of a school.” – Max Ventilla
“We’re not trying to make existing schools work better,” Ventilla has said in several interviews. [ ] “We are trying to actually advance a new model of a school.”

AltSchool raises so many questions about what progressive education plus technology should or could look like; it certainly shows what I’d argue is the sort of superficial approach to “fixing education” that’s all too common from Silicon Valley technologists. Read a book or two; then start an education company. How hard can it be?

One of the things that I find particularly fascinating (and frightening) about this approach is how little it knows about the history of … [more]
audreywatters  2014  progressive  education  progressiveeducation  altschool  johndewey  gardnercampbell  freedom  surveillance  coercion  control  maxventilla  pedagogy  technology  google  montessori  learning  leadership  californianideology  comments  jalfredprufrock  tseliot 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Two-Headed Dragon of Education Policy | the becoming radical
"Recently, I posted a chart highlighting that current “No Excuses” Reform (NER) claims and policies are no different than traditional problems and policies in public education.*

The great ironies of NER include that NER perpetuates the inequities of society and the current education system and that NER does not seek a reformed and revolutionary public education system but a dismantling of public schools for private interests (See Ravitch, Flanagan, and Cody).

The problem in education reform parallels the problem in our two-party system: While the competing ideologies and policies have successfully masked their being different sides of the same corporate coin, the many and varied alternatives outside the either/or norm remain hidden and silenced.

Part of the success of NER, historically (before such a phrase as “no excuses” was in vogue) and currently, lies in falsely positioning progressive education as widely implemented and failed (see Kohn) and falsely positioning status quo policies as “reform.”

So let me offer another chart I use with my introductory education course that builds on the parallels (and minor differences) between traditional and progressive agendas** while including a critical alternative to the two-party education reform agenda. This chart examines the need to change theoretical and philosophical assumptions about a wide range of aspects in teaching, learning, and public education if our reform agendas seek to revitalize a public good (universal public education) for goals that include democracy, equity, and agency:

[chart comparing traditional practices (behaviorism), progressive suggestions (constructivism), and critical lens (critical pedagogy) here]

NER narratives argue that school-based reform alone can somehow revolutionize U.S. society, that social inequity can be overcome by the force of public education.

That narrative is false on two fronts: (1) We have no evidence public schools have ever been revolutionary (see Traub), (2) because public schools traditionally and currently have reflected and perpetuated the inequitable norms of the society they serve.

The privileged will never lead the revolution because the privileged benefit from the status quo."

[Also posted here: ]
education  inequality  inequity  2013  2012  paulthomas  criticalpedagogy  pedagogy  behaviorism  constructivism  progressive  progressiveeducation  teaching  learning  schools  history  power  control  publiceducation  democracy  edreform  policy  plthomas 
february 2014 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: Why we think 1970s Open Education failed, and considering what the truth really is...
"There are some of us who remember a time, both in the US and the UK, when education seemed to be in search for humanity. In this period test scores mattered less than accomplishments, students became far more involved in, and responsible for, educational decisions, responsibility was something it was assumed children and adolescents could handle, and pedagogy began to meet students where they were. It was a time when teachers and even administrators began to rebel against the American factory schools and the British Disraeli-designed colonial education system.

Today we are taught that this period was a chaotic failure, but the truth lies elsewhere, and the reason we are told of this "failure" can be keenly instructive.

We tend now, after years of political conservatism, to look back at the 1960s and 1970s as a time of dangerous and ineffective turmoil, of assassinations, riots, disruptions, inflation, and the decline of traditional values. Thus we rarely understand the accomplishments. But between 1960 and 1976 a vast number of Americans, including Women, African-Americans, and even some Latinos and Gays,were liberated from those traditional values, with earthshaking changes made in legal racial segregation, legal limitations of women's educational opportunities, job opportunities, and pay, legal exploitation of farm workers, legal arrests for consensual sexual activity between adults. The now much maligned War on Poverty lifted tens of millions of Americans - mostly white Americans to be clear - from "developing world" levels of poverty, by redistributing income from the Northeast and West Coast to states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. When Republicans now say that the American poor have a lot more than the poor elsewhere, that is only true because of The Great Society program, its welfare structures, Medicaid, Medicare, and rural electrification."

irsocolo  education  history  progressive  progressiveeducation  openclassroom  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  humanism  teaching  learning  unschooling  conservatism  1960s  19070s  1975  thegreatsociety  self-directedlearning  bankstreet  cuisinairerods  bankstreetreaders  newmath  wholelanguage  differentiation  howweteach  howwetaught  williamalcott  horacemann  henrybarnard  calvinism  johnholt  neilpostman  alfiekohn  johndewey  mariamontessori  factoryschools  class  poverty  control  newrochlle  alanshapiro  openeducation  open  robertmarzano  robertslavin  kipp  1971 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Riley School
"Riley's unique structure creates an active learning environment where children learn by doing,
by questioning and by discovery. Small, integrated classes provide opportunities for children to
express themselves and to build their self-esteem, thus helping them to develop the skills and
attitudes which will help them become lifelong learners and creative, independent thinkers.
As a Progressive Elementary School, we recognize the importance of educating the whole child.
The Head Teacher works with each child in preparing an individual schedule to fill the child's needs, intellectually, physically, emotionally, and socially. As the child grows and changes,so too, does his/her schedule.

Riley supports young children and adolescents in developing the skills which will empower them
to have control over their own lives and careers as adults. Riley supports young children and adolescents in developing the emotional, social and intellectual skills which will empower them to have control over their own lives and careers as adults. Riley has been nurturing these goals in young people since 1972.

• an environment which gives children the opportunity to be the creative, exciting, self motivated, individuals they really are.
• encouragement to make constructive choices in a structured environment.
• integrated experiences for intellectual, emotional and social growth.
• a loving and nurturing environment which enhances the whole child.
• individually biannual/written evaluations reflecting a true portrait of your child. (January and June) instead of “report cards.”"
maine  rockport  schools  progressive  progressiveeducation  midcoastmaine  via:steelemaley  independentschools  rileyschool 
january 2014 by robertogreco
“A Question of Silence”: Why We Don’t Read Or Write About Education
"The lack of imagination evident in these narratives reflects the lack of real-world alternatives. In the real-world fantasylands of schooling (e.g., Finland, Cuba, Massachusetts) education looks more or less the same as it does everywhere else. In short, the system is missing—or ignores—its real antithesis, its own real death. Without that counter-argument, educational writing loses focus. Educationalists present schooling as being in a constant state of crisis. Ignoring for a second the obvious fact that without a crisis most educationalists would be out of a job—i.e., closing our eyes to their vested interest in the problem’s persistence—what does this crisis consist of? Apparently, the failure of schools to do what they are supposed to do. But what are they supposed to do? What is their purpose? And why should we stand behind their purpose? This is the line of inquiry that—can you believe it—is ignored.

Of all the civic institutions that reproduce social relations, said Louis Althusser, “one… certainly has the dominant role, although hardly anyone lends an ear to its music: it is so silent! This is the School.” That statement was made in 1970, by which time school buses zigzagged the cities every working morning and afternoon, school bells rang across city and countryside, the words “dropout” and “failure” had become synonymous, education schools were in full swing, and school reform had gained its permanent nook on the prayer-wheel of electoral campaigns. In other words: what silence?

Althusser, of course, was referring to the absence of schooling as a topic in critical discourse. In this regard he was, and continues to be, accurate. The few paragraphs that he appended to the above-quoted statement may well be the only coherent critique of schooling in the upper echelons of critical theory. Critical theory, which has written volumes on Hollywood, television, the arts, madhouses, social science, the state, the novel, speech, space, and every other bulwark of control or resistance, has consistently avoided a direct gaze at schooling (see footnote). ((Here follows a cursory tally of what critical theorists (using the term very loosely to include some old favorite cultural critics) have written on education. I won’t be sad if readers find fault with it:

Horkheimer is silent. Barthes and Brecht, the same. Adorno has one essay and one lecture. Marcuse delivered a few perfunctory lectures on the role of university students in politics—but he makes it clear that you can’t build on them (university politics as well as the lectures, sadly). Derrida has some tantalizing pronouncements, particularly in Glas (“What is education? The death of the parents…”), but they are scattered and more relevant to the family setting than the school. Something similar, unfortunately, could be said of Bachelard—why was he not nostalgic about his education? Baudrillard, Lefebvre, and Foucault all seem interested in the question, if we judge by their interviews and lectures—and wouldn’t it be lovely to hear from them—but they never go into any depth. Even Althusser’s essay, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, which contains the above quote, quickly shies away from the topic: instead, he concentrates on the Church. In short, professional critical philosophy might have produced a more interesting study of Kung Fu Panda (see Žižek, who is also silent) than of the whole business of education. The one exception would be Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster, which I will discuss.)) Even Foucault, champion of enclosures, keeps out of the schoolhouse. ((Part III of Discipline and Punish includes a discussion, but his analysis there is mixed with all the other institutions that exercise punishment. The only direct references are in two lecture-discussions with students, both from 1971.)) The silence is particularly striking if we see radical philosophy itself as an educational endeavor, an enterprise concerned with ways of seeing and doing.

It’s not that there are no critical conversations within education—there are, and I will discuss them soon. But I think the silence of radical philosophers is emblematic of some special problems in the relationship between education and society."

"Progressive educators, who as a rule crave resources and ideas from outside their field, nonetheless did not seem bothered by the new seclusion. They even welcomed it. Today, every schoolteacher, admin, or researcher learns as part of her training to show open disdain for any opinion on education that doesn’t come from inside the field (“but has she taught?”). In American education schools, it’s possible to get a doctorate without having been assigned a single book from outside your field. Education is such an intensely social process (think of any classroom vignette, all the forces at play) that this intellectual swamp could only survive by a sheer will to isolation. Educationalists need this privacy partly because it allows them to ignore the core contradictions of their practice. The most important of these contradictions is that they have to uphold public schooling as a social good, and at the same time face up to the fact that schooling is one of the most oppressive institutions humanity has constructed. It has to be built up as much as it needs to be torn down brick by brick.

This dilemma bedevils the majority of writing by the most active educationalists. The redoubtable Deborah Meier is a good example—good, because she really is. Meier is the godmother of the small school movement in the United States. She has dedicated her life to making schools more humane and works with more energy than entire schools of education put together. Her philosophical base is one of Dewey’s pragmatism and American-style anarchism. She is also in a unique position to understand the contradictions of schooling, because she has built alternative schools and then watched them lose their momentum and revert to traditional models. What’s more, Meier can write. But when she writes, her books take titles like Keeping School and In Schools We Trust. In which schools, exactly? Not the same ones through which most of us suffered, I assume; rather, the progressive, semi-democratic ones on the fringes of the public system. The problem, apparently, is not schooling itself. It’s just that, inexplicably, the vast majority of schools fail to get it right. The “reformed school” is a sort of sublime object: something that does not quite exist, but whose potential existence justifies the continuation of what is actually there.

We are all familiar with this type of “we oppose the war but support the troops” liberal double-talk, a pernicious language game that divests all ground agents of responsibility—as if there could be a war without soldiers (though we seem to be moving that way) or bad classrooms without teachers. Now, it wouldn’t be fair to place the blame squarely on the teachers’ shoulders—considering the poor education they themselves receive in the first place—but we must also expose this kind of double-talk for what it really is: an easy out. And it is an easy out that abandons the oppressed: in this case, those students who actively resist teachers, those last few who have not been browbeaten or co-opted into submission. ((When Michelle Rhee, the (former) chancellor of public schools in Washington D.C., began shutting down schools, liberals tore their shirts and pulled their hair and finally ousted her. Very few people mentioned that those schools—a veritable prison system—should have been shut down. The problem was not the closures—the problem was that Rhee, like other Republican spawns of her generation, is a loudmouth opportunist who offered no plan beyond her PR campaign. What’s striking is that Rhee was using the exact same language of “crisis” and “reform” as progressives, and nothing in the language itself made her sound ridiculous. Since then, progressives have eased up a little on the crisis talk.))

Because the phenomenon of student resistance to education so blatantly flies in the face of the prevailing liberal mythology of schooling, it is a topic that continues to attract some genuine theorization. ((For a review of literature and some original thoughts, see Henry Giroux’s Resistance and Theory in Education (1983). For a more readable discussion of the same, see Herbert Kohl’s I Won’t Learn From You (1991).)) It’s also a topic that is closely tied to another intractable bugaboo of the discussion: the staggering dropout rate, in the US at least, among working class and immigrant students, and particularly among blacks and Latinos. Education is the civil rights issue of our time—Obama and Arne Duncan’s favorite slogan—was originally a rallying cry among black educationalists. ((The latter, in case you don’t know, is Obama’s Secretary of Education. A (very thin) volume could be written on the absolute lack of political and intellectual gumption that he epitomizes. To the Bush-era, bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act (a severe and ineffective set of testing requirements), Duncan added the Race to the Top initiative, thus bringing much unintentional clarity to the discourse: education reform is a race in which no one’s left behind.)) But if we understand a “civil rights struggle” to be, fundamentally, the story of the disenfranchised and the marginalized classes’ resistance to structural oppression, then this seemingly simple phrase is haunted by a kind of dramatic irony—since a great deal of research shows that what many black and working class students actively resist is schooling itself. Further studies showed that even those underserved students who succeed in schools persevere by dividing their identities; by cordoning off their critical impulses; by maintaining their disaffection even while they keep it well out of the teacher’s sight."

"A fundamental problem is that education demands a scientific foothold … [more]
education  unschooling  canon  houmanharouni  2013  criticaleducation  theory  eleanorduckworth  deborahmeier  jeanpiaget  paulofreire  ivanillich  karlmarx  society  schooling  oppression  class  liberals  progressive  progressives  theleft  paulgoodman  sartre  theodoreadorno  michellerhee  reform  edreform  nclb  rttt  radicalism  revolution  1968  herbertmarcuse  power  policy  politics  teaching  learning  jaquesrancière  arneduncan  foucault  louisalthusser  deschooling  frantzfanon  samuelbowles  herbertgintis  jenshoyrup  josephjacotot  praxis  johndewey  philosophy  criticaltheory  henrygiroux  herbertkohl  jeananyon  work  labor  capitalism  neoliberalism  liberalism  progressiveeducation  school  schooliness  crisis  democracy  untouchables  mythology  specialization  isolation  seclusion  piaget  michelfoucault  althusser  jean-paulsartre 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Born to think and learn | Deborah Meier on Education
"The real “crisis” within schools today is that we are in the process of literally throwing away the carefully constructed ideas that flowed from these (and other) giants’ work. The garden for children (kindergarten) was a late 19h century invention that we are fast abandoning. The ideas behind such “gardens” are not only wise, but critical to imagining that democracy needn’t be utopian—that it’s possible with “ordinary” people who are all really quite extraordinary. Reminder: democracy was “invented” as an answer to “who is accountable.” But “for what” faces each generation anew."
deborahmeier  education  learning  progressiveeducation  democracy  history  accountability  2013  stem  purpose  civics  garystager  seymourpapert  constructivism  kindergarten 
july 2013 by robertogreco
The Testing Obsession Widens the Gap - Bridging Differences - Education Week
"Once one concludes, as I did through 50 years of close observation, that the tests are measuring something other than "reading" skill—decoding and restating—our problem looks different. Yes, E.D. Hirsch is right: You can't measure reading qua reading. I not merely observed but ran little mini-focus groups to understand why some kids got "right" answers and others "wrong" ones. It had little to do with their reading skill."

"It's easier to guess the right answer if your perspective is similar to what the test-makers expect it to be, just as their forebears did when they invented IQ tests a century ago. We don't all have the same "common experience" upon which the tests are normed. Their "wrong" answers, in fact, were often far more logical and sensible than the "right" ones.

These facts also remind me of why teachers can be more powerful than TV or online schools if they use their time to build authentic relationships with their students—and join with rather than dictate to them. It's for the same reason that studies of how children learn their native language demonstrate that, even if kids spend far more time listening to TV than listening to the talk of adults at home, they will speak like their families. Schools must become second homes."

"Progressive preschools never rejected a rich reading culture or knowing facts as "developmentally inappropriate." They just didn't think you needed direct instruction to kick in this love of reading, of hobbies, of facts, of curiosity, of indefatigable and repetitive practice in subjects and skills they were fascinated by. The kids come to us with curiosity—and our job is to extend it. Progressives understood that the playful mindset that serious learning depends on is too often silenced in school. For example, I frequently step into classrooms where well-meaning teachers are doing as they are told: stopping at the end of every paragraph or page to ask didactic questions that turn great stories into "lessons" with "objectives" that can be "measured." That's hardly likely to whet children's appetite for "more, more."

Even "guided" discussions—another fad—at best lead the more teacher-pleasing kids to try to read what the teacher wants them to say, rather than discuss, argue, and maybe act out their own interpretations for each other. And indeed, you are also right that it was in low-poverty and "minority" schools like those I got to know so well in Chicago in the 1950s and 60s that the least "progressive" strategies have always been applied—even by educators who thought of themselves as "progressives." (Richer kids are sometimes getting some of this too now, under pressure to do well on tests.)

They've forgotten. Children are BORN experts at learning. Poor and rich. They couldn't survive a week if they weren't born intellectuals. They experiment over and over, until they find a pattern that "works." And then they find out that it's more complicated than that and start over again! In the first three years of life they are learning at a pace we never again achieve—unless we are, as you note, under so much stress and physical deprivation not typical of most of "the poor." Statistically, of course, it's more likely to impact those with the fewest resources—as you acknowledged.

But, Mike, it cannot be fixed by the common core. It can only be fixed by teachers who know how to join the "common core" of the children and the families they first meet, when children are 4 or 5, and use it wisely and creatively ever after."

"It is our job to use our precious public funds to increase the odds that democracy won't have to be reinvented. If the poor were less poor, their schools less poor, and bigotry less a part of our culture—it would be easier. But still not inevitable."

[via: ]
reading  education  deborahmeier  2013  teaching  progressive  progressiveeducation  objectives  testing  commoncore  democracy  canon  learning  children  poverty  curiosity  instruction  guideddiscussions  perspective  howwelearn  howweteach 
may 2013 by robertogreco
One Tiny College's Lessons for Higher Education - College, Reinvented - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"[T]he College of the Atlantic—330 students and 43 faculty members ensconced on Maine's remote Mount Desert Island—has resisted growth, seeing smallness as key to providing an unusual education that cuts across disciplines, rejects academic conventions, and takes a highly personalized approach to teaching and learning.

"What I learned is how to do more with less, and as someone who is now an entrepreneur, I find that extremely valuable," Mr. Motzkin says. "It's about really being able to adapt and change and apply knowledge. In the future, that's going to be critically important."

The emphasis on smallness runs counter to the national frenzy for reinvention in higher education, which seems fixated on going online and scaling up in an effort to mass-produce knowledge (or at least degrees). Offbeat and experimental colleges like COA—think of Bennington, Goddard, Hampshire, or Unity—are often overlooked and fragile. But they bring new perspectives and techniques to higher education, in part because they are small and nimble.

These colleges provide "a kind of biodiversity in the whole system of higher education," says L. Jackson Newell, an emeritus professor of educational leadership and policy at the University of Utah and a former president of Deep Springs College, a tiny work college in California. "Keeping these institutions alive and healthy is a way of keeping the ideas behind these institutions alive, which I would say is critically important for the health of higher education as a whole.""

"Certain ideas were baked into the College of the Atlantic at its founding, 43 years ago, and they seem to have found a currency in the discussion today over what to do about higher education. Critics talk about academics in silos, toiling on obscure research. At COA, there are no departments, and with only one degree—human ecology—students and faculty members form a culture that encourages teaching, interdisciplinarity, and pursuing one's intellectual interests."
collegeoftheatlantic  small  slow  education  unschooling  deschooling  progressive  progressiveeducation  size  fragility  hampshirecollege  goddardcollege  benningtoncollege  untycollege  maine  darroncollins  huamnecology  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  incubators  capitalism  industry  sustainability  exploration  learning  barharbor  edkaelber  franconiacollege  blackmountaincollege  antiochcollege  tedsizer  renédubos  elizabethrussell  mollyanderson  wofgangserbser  germany  2012  bmc 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Creating Distinctiveness: Lessons from Uncommon Colleges and Universities [PDF]
"Distinctive colleges and universities, as opposed to the great majority which fit into a more or less standardized mold, possess a unifying theme or vision which is expressed in all their activities. They often respond to newly emerging societal or community needs unmet by existing colleges and universities; they challenge conventional ideas about higher education and inspire greater engagement by students and faculty in undergraduate education. However, distinctiveness can also limit the institution to a very small market niche as well as sometimes making it more difficult for it to adapt to the changes necessary for survival. Strategic management models, such as the interpretive and adaptive models, need to be employed to aid distinctive colleges and universities to survive and grow. Recommendations for higher education leaders contemplating whether to pursue distinctiveness include: (1) identifying institutional values, followed by clarification, communication, and acting on unifying the values and themes found; (2) conducting a situation analysis to determine if the school is a likely candidate for distinctiveness; (3) selecting the desired level of market exposure; and (4) performing market research to uncover markets to which the college or university can appeal. Contains over 150 references and an index."
education  history  antiochcollege  blackmountaincollege  colleges  universities  learning  collegeoftheatlantic  evergreenstatecollege  stjohn'scollege  universityofchicago  universityofwisconsin  experiments  experimental  progressive  progressiveeducation  alternative  via:mayonissen  bereacollege  reed  reedcollege  ephemerality  change  ephemeral  popupschools  unschooling  deschooling  deepspringscollege  1992  barbaratownsend  ljacksonnewell  michaelwiese  gamechanging  distinctivecolleges  highered  highereducation  progressivism  bmc 
may 2013 by robertogreco
minimum force, corporeal anticipation |
“For it is Sennett’s contention that “nearly anyone can become a good craftsman” and that “learning to work well enables people to govern themselves and so become good citizens.” This line of thought depends, among other things, upon the Enlightenment assumption that craft abilities are innate and widely distributed, and that, when rightly stimulated and trained, they allow craftsmen to become knowledgeable public persons.

And what is it that such persons know? They know how to negotiate between autonomy and authority (as one must in any workshop); how to work not against resistant forces but with them (as did the engineers who first drilled tunnels beneath the Thames); how to complete their tasks using “minimum force” (as do all chefs who must chop vegetables); how to meet people and things with sympathetic imagination (as does the glassblower whose “corporeal anticipation” lets her stay one step ahead of the molten glass); and above all they know how to play, for it is in play that we find “the origin of the dialogue the craftsman conducts with materials like clay and glass.”

The assumption that craft abilities are widely diffused leads Sennett into a meditation on our love of those intelligence tests by which we supposedly single out the very smart and the very stupid so that some will go to college and others go to bagging groceries. Sennett points out that such sorting ignores the “densely populated middle ground” where most of the population is actually found. Rather than celebrating a “common ground of talents,” we tend to inflate “small differences in degree into large differences in kind” and so legitimate existing systems of privilege. Thinking of the median as the mediocre creates an excuse for neglect. This is one reason, Sennett argues, that “it proves so hard to find charitable contributions to vocational schools” while currently the wealth of the Ivy League schools is compounding at an astounding rate.”

[from ]
crafy  autonomy  craftsmanship  richardsennett  authority  resistance  force  forces  minimumforce  imagination  sympathy  play  materials  making  middleground  talent  talents  privilege  mediocrity  median  vocationalschools  wealth  knowing  knowledge  understanding  enlightenment  sarahendren  citizenship  openstudioproject  glvo  lcproject  cv  corporealanticipation  learning  work  tcsnmy  progressiveeducation  elitism  2008  lewishyde 
march 2013 by robertogreco

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