Alan November explains how he would use the first five days of school to lay the groundwork for a year of learning that goes far beyond the test.
Luba Vangelova’s work has appeared in numerous print, online and broadcast media outlets, including The New York Times, Smithsonian, TheAtlantic.com and Salon. She is working on a book about self-directed learning (www.LubaVangelova.com) and tweets at @LubaSays.
Luba Vangelova's Latest Posts
A school library blossoms from a quiet reading and research space to a full-scale “Learning Commons.”
Why haven’t education reform efforts amounted to much? Because they start with the wrong problem, says John Abbott, director of the 21st Century Learning Initiative. Overhauling the educational paradigm means replacing the metaphor — the concept of the world and its inhabitants as machine-like entities — that has shaped the education system, as well as many other aspects of our culture.
In the course of studying different aspects of children’s environments, Dr. Roger Hart noticed that “a lot of supposedly participatory projects had a distinct air of tokenism. Children were being put on display, so to speak, as though they were actively participating, but they were not taken seriously.” He created Hart’s Ladder to help measure the authenticity of the work educators ask students to do.
“People are almost in this Matrix-like existence,” says education thought-leader Steve Hargadon. “They don’t question schooling. How do you tell a story that opens the door to rethinking what people have believed for decades? So much in their lives depends on that story being what they think it is. How do you tell a new story that involves people reclaiming their destinies, children not being defective, and learning not being owned by one organization?”
A burgeoning new group is applying the self-organized learning organization concept to higher education. “For entrepreneurship, the arts, communications, or other fields where the learning isn’t as codified, it doesn’t make sense to use the same models. For those fields, you don’t need a university degree.”
One educator tries a different approach: “It’s a different way of approaching education, with educators not being the controlling force. It’s about breaking down boundaries and seeing yourself as an equal. We’re all just doing the best we can to learn and to try to form a narrative with cohesion and meaning.”
Fed up with the restrictions at his conventional school, 10-year-old Scott Gray convinced his parents to transfer him to one where children control their own education. His father, Peter Gray, who’s a developmental psychologist, watched his son thrive and began seeking to understand how children learned in such a setting, and what lessons could be drawn from it.