Diana Laufenberg: How to learn? From mistakes

Speaker

Diana Laufenberg teaches 11th-grade American History at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.

Summary

When Diana’s grandparents and parents went to school, the goal was to transfer knowledge from teacher to student. As encyclopedias and the internet arrived, it is no longer necessary for students to simply acquire  facts at school – they can look up information whenever they want. Teachers now need to be comfortable taking a different role.

Diana taught American government, and took a different approach. She instead got her students to organise a night to teach others about the candidates for a local government election. She took a back seat, and it culminated in a night of debate which all students showed up to. Later she asked students in their own voice to discuss how they would use their life positively. She was amazed at the results – all she had to do was ask a genuine question and listen to the results.

She now works in an environment where all students are given laptops – a world where teachers need to be comfortable that they are giving students the tools they need to acquire knowledge. Students now need to explore wider ideas – it is not enough to tell them that all questions have only one right answer. She asked them to build an infographic poster about a major event, and honestly assessed each student telling them what they did well and what they needed to improve. An amount of failure is expected in every project, but only by pointing out failure will they do better next time.

Education is no longer about going to school and getting information. It must be more experiential learning, listening to students’ voice and allowing them to fail.

My Thoughts

Interesting talk – I expect most schools nowadays are adopting more open approaches in the way Diana describes. If not, hopefully they will soon – because the old model of schooling really is obsolete. Students need more than just to be told information, they have to learn skills.

Diana Laufenberg: How to learn? From mistakes

Speaker

Diana Laufenberg teaches 11th-grade American History at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.

Summary

Diana Laufenberg is a teacher who shares a few things she’s learned about how most school’s teach and how most children learn. In the 1930’s, when Diana’s grandmother was in gradeschool, the purpose of going to class was to get information.  Students got all of their information from teachers and stored it all in their brains. When Diana was in school, information became more readily accessible in the form of encyclopedia’s and textbooks.

At the same time the internet became popular, she started teaching in Kansas. After the first year of teaching, she decided she needed to change her approach to teaching. Instead of she posed a challenge to her students: put on an election for your own community. They took ownership of the challenge, exceeded all expectations, and were able to learn while they created something useful and impactful. As her career progressed she was also witness to how meaningful and authentic students were when they were given a chance to speak freely. The final point she makes is about the culture of failure that exists in school. Students are taught that there is one right answer, a way of thinking abetted by the multiple choice tests at the front of academic assessment. Diana says it doesn’t make sense to tell kids to never be wrong when so much can be learned from failure. Kids need to be allowed to fail, process, and learn from their experiences in school.

TL;DR

Diana wants people to let go of the paradigms of the past. Information is no longer scarce and we should realize that education is not about coming to school to learn facts. It is about the student voice, experiential learning, and embracing failure.

My Thoughts

Even though I agree with the points Diana made in her talk, I didn’t find her stories from her teaching experience that compelling.  But her passion and energy is clearly visible and helps make this talk enganging.

Ramsey Musallam: 3 rules to spark learning

Speaker

Ramsey Musallam is a chemistry teacher whose mission is to meaningfully integrate multimedia into a hands-on, inquiry-based learning cycle.

Summary

Ramsey is a chemistry teacher who thinks a teacher’s role is to encourage a student’s curiosity. They should aim to confuse and perplex, so that the students want to ask questions and experiment. When he did this with a common demonstration (putting a card on a glass of water and turning it upside down so the card sticks to the glass), he loved it when students continued to extend the experiment when they got home.

When Ramsey was diagnosed with a life-threatening aneurism, he was impressed with his surgeon’s confidence and knowledge of the condition. The surgeon told him 3 things

  1. Curiosity drove him to ask hard questions about the procedure
  2. He embraced the messy process of trial and error
  3. Through reflection, he gathered the information to design the procedure.

From this, Ramsey developed his own 3 rules to encourage learning

  1. Curiosity comes first. Questions should be windows to new theory, not the other way around.
  2. Embrace the mess. Learning can be ugly- trial and error should be encouraged.
  3. Practice reflection

Young children (4 year olds) always ask “why?”. Teachers should embrace this curiosity and keep it going throughout their school lives.

 

Anant Agarwal: Why massively open online courses (still) matter

Speaker

Anant Agarwal is president of edX, a partnership of MIT and Harvard to provide MOOCs. He is also a professor of MIT with background in electrical engineering and computer science.

Summary

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are taking off, able to teach millions of people at a time using online interactive technologies. 155,000 people enrolled in edX’s first MOOC, with 7,157 students passing. But in this course, Anant looks at what we can learn from MOOCs to apply in more conventional university courses.

University lectures have not changed significantly in the last 50 years. Anant claims the last big leap in education was textbooks and the printing press, hundreds of years ago. Modern teenagers interact and learn very differently to how they learnt decades ago – they are more comfortable in the online world. Education needs to embrace technology to better engage students.

  • Online Lecture, blended physical approach – let them watch videos at their own pace, wherever they are most comfortable. They can pause, rewind, skip, mute – letting them control the information flow better. Then they can meet physically to interact, discuss their learning, and do practical exercises in a classroom with other students. By adopting a blended approach in this way, San Jose university’s circuits and electronics course went from a 41% fail rate to 9%.
  • Active Learning – instead of traditional lectures, they are replaced with online ‘lessons’. A lesson includes an 8 minute video and then some exercises – and this lets people interact with the material more.
  • Instant feedback – exercises can be marked instantly, rather than submitting work and getting feedback weeks later. This lets people instantly know whether they are correct.
  • Gamification – Use computer simulations to build online labs – for example building a circuit using an online lab.
  • Peer learning – using forums and discussions to let students talk about the subject matter. Originally Anant was going to answer all questions himself, but after a while he realised that students would respond to each other. They could talk and get to the answer without any input from himself – the students were learning by teaching each other.

 

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

Speaker: Ken Robinson

Length: 20:03

Summary

Ken thinks that creativity is as important in education as Literacy. However, children are being taught how not to be wrong. Ken argues that being creative means that you have to be willing to be wrong, and the education system treats being wrong as the worst thing possible. In doing this, education teaches away children’s natural urge to ‘give it a go’.

All education systems globally have a ‘hierarchy’, with math and language at the top, social sciences in the middle and arts at the bottom. This is because the childhood education system was developed to satisfy the industrial revolution of the 19th century, where math and science was essential for jobs, but times have changed. While once people just needed school for a good job, then a bachelor degree, and now that alone is no guarantee for a job. Degrees have had a form of inflation over time, and this shows it is shifting too quickly. Having children go to school just to attend university is not really equipping them to work any more.

We know 3 things about intelligence

  • It is diverse – we think in many ways – visually, in sound, movement, abstract
  • it is dynamic – original ideas come about from the interaction of many different ways of seeing things.
  • it is distinct – people have their way of doing things – Ken’s example is a ‘problem student’ who couldn’t sit still at school, but when moved to a dance school fit in fine – she needed to move to think. Her dance skills went on to give her immense fame and fortune, bringing value to millions of people. In modern times, she would probably have been given ADHD medication and been put told to calm down.

We need to redefine our education system – our current way is one of ‘strip mining’ our children for the most desired properties, in the same way we mined the Earth for ore. We now need to use our imaginations and creativity wisely, to face an uncertain and problematic future. We may not see this future, but need to equip our children to conquer it.