Rethinking Learning
conversations about the future of teaching and learning
Barbara Bray
be creative, innovate, take risks, unlearn to learn
Oakland, CA

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By Julie      January 26, 2010 -- 08:11 AM
I want that type of education for my sons...I want them to be able to be everything at that list! They are not going to get this in public school, I dont want them to be good little robots! My dream? My strong desire is to be able to hire a teacher with that kind of vision, and have that freedom to travel the world and see the great wall of china, not just look at it in a book. I have a lot of things that I gotta make happen..

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By small Sara Zimmerman      January 26, 2010 -- 12:02 PM
This is great to hear what "America's Best Marketer" who has such an audience has to say about education and its future. I am excited to hear him push the boundaries of what we know because that means the millions who follow Seth Godin will push too. BB- these are terrific questions and I  am so thrilled you got the experience to do this. Great job!

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By soultravelers3      January 26, 2010 -- 01:28 PM
I love this! Thanks for asking such great questions!
This excited me so much today that I wrote my own post on Seth, education and travel:

Julie- 70% of families dream of extended travel like you & my passion is to let them know that it’s a superb & cheap way to get the best education. We’ve been traveling the world as a family non-stop since 2006 and I think many more will be doing that soon!

Today, many can go to school and work from ANYwhere & that trend will continue.

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By small Barbara Bray      January 26, 2010 -- 01:50 PM
Thanks Soultraveler - what a wonderful website you have and an amazing life with all of your travelers. I'm sharing one of the YouTube videos here of an interview with Seth about how education needs to change.

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By Loretta: the leaders coach      January 27, 2010 -- 12:16 AM
Hi Barbara
Thank you for these video's they are fantastic. I am new to your site and loved this interview with Seth Godin. Marvelous!

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By small Barbara Bray      January 27, 2010 -- 07:38 AM
Thank you Loretta. I'd like to know more about the leaders coach.

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By small Janice Friesen      January 27, 2010 -- 04:35 AM

I am going to play Devil's Advocate and ask questions that I think my University Professor husband might ask. Keep in mind that I have not read the whole book. What makes us think that students will know and choose what is best for themselves? Look at the current flock of University students. A large number of them are more into partying than learning. Some of them can barely get to class and don't know how to write coherently. You can say that it is because of the current system. They are not going to University because they want to, but because their parents, or society, or something said they have to. But there are and have always been students who are awesome, self-motivated, interested, questioning. They go through our schools and excel. I teach in a wealthy area now and am amazed at the students. Why are they self-disciplined successful students? Maybe that variation is normal and not all students will have the drive and interest to pursue what is good for them.

What do you think?

Reply to Janice Friesen

By small Barbara Bray      January 27, 2010 -- 07:17 AM
I'm glad you asked this question and are the devil's advocate. You are right that students need guidance and probably don't always know what's good for them. That's where teachers ARE needed. In fact, I believe that students "need a village" to help them meet their learning goals. They need their parents involved, an adviser or counselor assigned to them that follows them over several years, and they need authentic tasks as part of their assessment. What I suggest is that students start with an individual learning or education plan and create ePortfolios that show them demonstrating understanding.

The whole system needs shaking up: from preschool to higher ed. The system is not working now. We can't just do a little of this or that to make a difference. Students are not being prepared for the workforce of today. How will we prepare them for the workforce of tomorrow?

I have some questions for you and your husband:
  • do you know of any studies that have followed students after high school to see if they are meeting their goals? actually went to the college of their choice? finished college?
  • do you know of any studies that follow students after college to see if they are working in the field they studied? if not, why? if so, where? and are they getting an adequate salary or compensation for their work?
  • are there any schools that have students create IEPs (other than special ed), provide the students a team of advisors, and have them create portfolios?
I'm looking for a K-12 district or charter school that wants to make change and take some pretty big risks to make a difference in their students lives. Teachers will need to work much harder in this environment. Parents will have to be involved and attend meetings and classes. I did. It made a difference. My husband and I had to attend classes and work at the school if we wanted our children in a certain preschool. We learned how to parent. We need to start there - actually earlier: right after birth. Any ideas?

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By small Janice Friesen      January 30, 2010 -- 09:06 AM
Barbara (and anyone else interested),

I, personally, don't think that studies are the answer. Most studies I read support whatever the author wants them to. I did ask "the professor" what he thought and he reminded me that these kids are in a certain part of their lives. They are away from home for the first time in their lives and are figuring out who they are. Many of them make mistakes that help them move on to do what they really want to do. So, it is hard to measure the success of college.

I am more moved by observation and by stories of real people. You are right that school is not working and that there are many students dropping out of HS who really could be doing great things. My own sons are both really bright, but neither of them liked HS at all. Part of that was that most of what they had to take was meaningless to them and seemed like a waste of their time.

Here is my "vision". It may not be very realistic, but I like the idea for now anyway. What if schools were still places where kids went every day from 8-3 or so, but what happened in school totally changed? Instead of having grades defined by ages of kids and classroom groups of 25 or so kids and one teacher there would be a checklist or rubric that would guide students in learning. Maybe teachers would have them too! Every student would have to learn the basics (reading, math, etc...) and the younger kids would be probably be in groups similar to our Kindergarten because they need more scaffolding. As kids were ready (as shown by the checklist or rubric) they could move on to do other things. Early teachers might have a group of students in one classroom to build security and early learning. By about what we call 3rd grade (kids know the basics-reading, basic math, etc...), but it would not have to  be defined by a certain age, kids would start deciding on projects to do and be guided by different teachers depending on what they were interested in. Classrooms would be places filled with rich resources where they could consult teachers and work on projects. There would continue to be a checklist of skills so that there was purpose in what they were learning, but they would be learning it in an authentic way for authentic purposes. Teachers would be learners too and would have time to consult with each other and research to help kids develop projects that would build their learning.

Teaching is already hard.  How can we ask teachers to work harder? I think we can ask them to collaborate more and to plan school in such a way that they have time to think and plan and develop meaningful projects.  This is not easy.  What do you think?

Reply to Janice Friesen

By small Barbara Bray      January 30, 2010 -- 12:54 PM
Janice - I am very intrigued by your "vision." The idea of that kids could decide on the project resonates with me. I just returned from being a judge for a 4H Presentation Day. It kind of reminds me of what you are talking about. Most of the presenters were from 9 to 18 years of age. About a third of the children were homeschooled.

I was a judge for the Interview Process - real world activity. Along with another judge I was interviewing prospective job candidates. The youngest was 5th grade who interviewed a job for arts and crafts helper. Each candidate chose a job and followed guidelines for the cover letter and resume. Judges used a rubric. It didn’t matter about the age because the rubric evaluated interview answers, position knowledge and coverage, organization, voice, manner and appearance, cover letter and resumé. This is not a competition. The rubric is to help the child improve and get feedback on their presentation.

One 9th grader that was homeschooled kept mentioning "creativity" and why she wants to either work in fashion design or environmental issues. She was very articulate. I later talked to her 4H leader who told me two years ago when she had started homeschool and 4H, she never looked you in the eye, felt confident, talked loud enough or to you.

Maybe we need to start looking at other organizations and opportunities that work for many of our students that fall through the cracks. Another 7th grader was very artistic, creative, and into theatre. What if the arts are cut from his school? My son is an actor and did not fit in a public school setting. He ended up in a private high school where performing arts was a big focus. He now teaches theatre workshops to middle schoolers.

Teachers should not have to work harder but smarter. Parents need to be involved. I'm going to rethink how this can work in school with your ideas and what I experienced today. Thanks!

Reply to Barbara Bray

By small Teresa Roebuck      January 31, 2010 -- 05:45 PM
Excellent interview!  Thank you so much for providing this to us.  I appreciate so much of what Seth has to say.  I especially like the idea of the linchpin... who are the linchpins in our society?  I say the most undervalued linchpins in our society are our passionate teachers and educators who never stop trying to make a difference in the life of a student.  Now if we could only get the proper "wheels" in place to move us forward into the 21st Century in education!

Thanks for the thoughts!

Teresa Roebuck, President
Global Association for Teaching Excellence

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By small Rachelle Wooten      April 21, 2010 -- 10:27 AM
I found Seth's responses on target in most areas.  I do feel like he left out the importance of communication/collaboration and ethics (character).  It's one thing to be a digital citizen and it's an entirely different thing to be a "responsible" digital citizen.  I believe the future of education and facilitation of learning for these "artists" will involve preparing teachers/facilitators that combine high-tech and high-touch.

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By small Barbara Bray      April 21, 2010 -- 06:32 PM
Rachelle - I am so glad you added ethics. Communication online is different than face-to-face. Becoming a responsible digital citizen means more than logging in and posting to a blog or commenting on someone's post. It is the quality of the posts and if that post enriches the conversations.

I added a post to my blog and received several comments that made me really think that I was going in the wrong direction. It is okay to learn from mistakes. Ask for help. Take some risks but own up to information that you may have misrepresented. A digital citizen needs to be okay about learning and unlearning to learn new things.

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By small Cheryl Vitali      June 24, 2010 -- 10:53 AM

Seth, Barbara, and All,

What fascinating dialogue.  I have been reading a book I need to for next year based on things our district is currently pushing.  I have mixed feelings about it and have seen nothing completely earth shaking yet, however I ran across some items that had me intrigued.  Unfortunately, a lot of the measure of the success of the schools highlighted was what is driving schools these days, test scores.  Again, I have mixed feelings.

Test scores does not prove a lot of things.  That said, I liked all the things one high school was doing to see that nearly all their students had opportunities and were encouraged to Raise the Bar.  The book is called, Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap: Whatever it takes. A high school they shared was Adlai Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois.    Another area they shared, and I haven't read this section yet, is a district near mine, Sanger Unified. Our district is basing its current drive on our neighbor's model, again some mixed feelings.  Adlai E. Stvenson High School had gotten performance of all students significantly improved by changing some functions and processes at the school that have continued across staff changes, administrative changes and so forth.  It was not a mindset of one-size-fits-all that I find extremely offensive both as an educator and a parent, they had developed significant changes in process that encouraged success in their students and did not make excuses.  I liked that.  There were a lot of interventions in place to help a student that might struggle. Some were provided for all the student population, others were brought in systematically, yet nothing was left to chance.  A foundation was set in place that began in middle school and carried over into the freshman year.  Many of the policies they established were similar to ones that were set in the private high school all three of my children attended.  That said, my children's high school was not without faults (the two oldest attended public school prior to this), and I teach in public school (and attended public schools).   All three of my children have gone on to attend top public universities (two advanced degrees, one still in college).  The policies this high school established impressed me, because of the staff commitment to reach ALL students and not push a large population into remedial classes.  I discussed them with my daughter this morning, who takes nothing at face value and can be quite critical, and she was impressed.  She is able to look at any of her teachers since kindergarten and objectively list positive and negative things about any of them, however she also knows she is in the one in charge of how she takes her learning and knowledge at this point. This digital native fluidly crosses lines with ease even though I have some technical skills she has yet to bother mastering (I have no doubt she could easily do so if the need arose).

I have spent the majority of my career (over 30 years) working with children that struggle and have strived to either keep them out of Special Education through some type of intervention program or worked with them within Special Education.  Always, I had the mindset that I wanted for each of my studnets they same type of goals and dreams that I wanted for my own children.  Moving toward inclusionary practices and so forth was normally my intent and I tried to get my students to strive for that. In high school, I sometimes had students come back dismayed because they were not receiving the same push and encouragement I had given them and were not always allowed the opportunity for the curriculum they wanted and needed to strive toward goals they had.  So I am excited to see a high school that is moving in that direction and has managed to get their staff involved in a way to make opportunities available to more students in advanced classes.  The biggest problem schools have is having staff committed to the team effort that it takes to help the students that struggle or exceed expectations the most (that is also what this book was advocating, finding ways to address those that already have the skills many students are still acquiring). 

There are a lot of new approaches available these days, and how we learn is definitely more flexible and fluid in access and approach.  That said there are many practical applications that are not always online and sometimes many adults have failed to acquire these skills.  Parents need to realize they are also their children's first teacher, longest teacher, and most important teacher in life.  To advocate that responsiblity or expect someone else to do that every step of the way is missing a great deal of what is learned by being a parent.   

It is not only teachers that need to work harder. I am not sure that it is possible for me to work harder than I have, smarter perhaps, I am always learning and never set in my way or approach to how I help students succeed.  I started something this summer to help my students and address a need I saw based on limited summer school and the tendency of some students to dramatically slide in their skills during the time off (even though it is shorter every year in our district as they push in more days off during the school year instead).  I'll let the group know how it works when school resumes in mid-August. 

All I know is I had one student knocking at my classroom door early and eager yesterday morning.   Several of my students and parents took advantage of it yesterday, and it is not costing a dime other than my own dedication and time.  Some sent their child with a grandparent or sibling, another parent and I seamlessly stepped across language barriers in presenting an idea to another.   I am basing it out of what I advocated as a parent with my own children. That said, it disconnects children from computers, game boys, and other technical devices and connects them to books and print because the amount that children read these days is appalling.  If a child becomes literate enough, they will be capable of learning in almost any situation.  Also, if we make literacy something that no longer requires real reading skills, we may lose something else that we are not even aware of.  Sustained focus and energy to read, comprehend, write, edit and revise have value in helping design, create, and envision the tools, inventions, and innovations we have yet to imagine.  It is absolutely amazing what keeps on evolving in technology. It is also absolutely astonishing how some factors in humanity stubbornly resist real change. 

So this summer I am taking time to meet with students to make sure they keep reading, make sure they have suitable materials to read that interest them, and keep that connection and sense that what they do is vital for their own growth and development. It is something that any parent can easily to with their own child yet it is not always easy for all parents to do this.  I am giving brief tips and reminders on how to sustain and make this happen and encouraging them to take ownership of the process.  If it is successful, I will offer the same next year only I am one teacher.  If it works well, hopefully more will try implementing something similar or mor parents will make the concerted effort to really stay involved in their child's learning at certain fundamental stages.  Each parent, each teacher, each individual needs to look at what do we do that impacts change and growth.   

There is no one solution, even as there is no one test or measure that fits every situation.

To the journey and discovery along the way,

Cheryl Vitali

Resource Specialist



Reply to Cheryl Vitali

By small Cheryl Vitali      June 24, 2010 -- 03:20 PM

School of One

This article really applies well to the discussion.  The link to the article came from ASCD Smartbrief (a wonderful way to stay abreast of research, articles, and the latest information in education) free online subscription that is well worth it.

Cheryl Vitali 

Can School of One model be used to close the achievement gap?
New York City's School of One program aims to make the student -- rather than the classroom -- the focus of its educational mission, using technology to tailor instruction to the learning pace and style of each individual student. Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates considers in this article whether the School of One model -- now being tested as an approach to closing the achievement gap at an economically disadvantaged school with large percentages of black and Hispanic students -- could have helped him fare better during his own troubled educational history. The Atlantic Monthly (7/2010)  

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