Learning and nonlinearity

Posted by on Jan 5, 2011 in General | No Comments

This morning I had a quick, offhand conversation about literacy instruction with Mark Springer, the distinguished middle school teacher who founded Soundings, one of the more impressive experiments in democratic, student-centered education that I’ve ever seen. He commented that he’d had students who made huge jumps in reading ability in his classroom, despite the fact that the curriculum is thematic and integrated, and there is no set reading class.…

My quote of the year

Posted by on Dec 26, 2010 in General | No Comments

There are, to be sure, more erudite ways to learn about something H.L. Mencken said. And I suppose I could introduce the following out of context to make it seem like I just have stuff like this in my head. But the truth is I just came across this while reading The Wave, Susan Casey’s fascinating book about huge waves (like, as in 100 foot, tanker-snapping waves) told from the perspective of research scientists, ships’ captains, and big wave surfers.…

Learning as tool-making

Posted by on Dec 10, 2010 in General | No Comments

The other night I had dinner with a couple of friends. One is a farmer in Oregon.  He was on the east coast for a conference for small farmers held at the Stone Barns Center, where he was leading a session on tool-making.…

What about now?

Posted by on Dec 7, 2010 in General | No Comments

In previous posts (here and here) I’ve questioned the logic of reducing the goal of education to a small set of measures whose link to more tangible outcomes is tenuous. The evidence that goosing a kid’s reading scores in third grade, or even in a whole bunch of grades, is going to make a meaningful difference in outcomes that matter – whether they grow up to be secure, healthy, or happy – is, well, vaporous.…

When evidence isn’t

Posted by on Dec 3, 2010 in General | No Comments

Just read a fascinating article in last month’s Atlantic by David Freedman about the work of John Ioannidis, a physician and “meta-researcher” (he studies other people’s research) whose work has found that most published medical research – including a sizable portion of randomized, controlled trials – is sufficiently biased and error-prone that it should not be used to make clinical decisions.…

And for an encore…

Posted by on Nov 26, 2010 in General | No Comments

A lot of the folks who learn about the Workshop come to it by way of the EVX project. This makes sense; it’s inspirational and makes an amazing story. The question that these people always ask Simon and the team is: what are you going to do next?

The most obvious answer, and the one we typically offer, is that we want to start a school.…

TED and school

Posted by on Nov 22, 2010 in General | No Comments

Last Friday, Simon and I were debriefing his talk at TEDx Philly. These types of events are becoming increasingly common. The basic idea is to get a bunch of smart, dynamic, creative people in one place at the same time, have them share their work, and see what happens. The format varies a bit (TED is more presentation based, whereas events like the Aspen Ideas Festival offer more unstructured time for discussion), but what they have in common is the belief that this kind of cross-pollination of people and ideas is generative.…

The Ludic Fallacy

Posted by on Nov 10, 2010 in General | No Comments

I’ve been reading a lot of Nassim Nicholas Taleb of late, first Fooled by Randomness and now The Black Swan. The gist of both books is the same: we don’t know a lot more than we do know, yet we tend to think the opposite is true and behave accordingly.…

Wrong about everything, except what matters most

Posted by on Nov 4, 2010 in General | No Comments

It’s pretty hard to argue with Aiden’s criticism of Waiting for Superman. (As a nice complement, Diane Ravitch has written a less philosophical but very persuasive critique of the film’s claims about both what’s wrong with schools and how to fix it.)

Sitting here on November 4, however, two days after a major shift in who gets to make decisions about schools, I can’t help but feel that in the bigger debate, the one where we ask ourselves whether or not we care about poor kids, Guggenheim and Co.…