Many of You Will Hate This School

Imagine a school that makes students take the same courses at the same times as everyone else. Also, this school uses little or no technology. This school does not utilize contemporary texts and in fact, does not even aspire to contextualize these ancient texts to the modern world. You’ve probably dismissed this school as irrelevant and without much understanding of the real world.

You’re probably wrong.

St. John’s College seems to be offering much of what many educational reformers are trying to reform. They unabashedly hold on to traditional methods like the Socratic approach and offer no computing classes, no contemporary studies and have no minors and majors. Everyone graduates with the same degree. So much for personalized learning.

This article shares the details of what they refer to as “The Program”. Let me share the highlights and things that struck me:

Fixed curriculum:

Starting with the Greeks and working through the 20th century including some “recent” science readings from the 1950s and 1960s, the curriculum is rarely altered.

It seems like they’ve determined which works best foster deep thinking and discourse and simply stick with those. Contrary to even more innovative practices like global competencies, it … Read the rest

Learning Is Not That Complicated

About 4 years ago, Gary Stager gifted me a book. A wonderful book by Frank Smith: “The Book of Learning and Forgetting“. I read most of it but set it aside until I recently saw it on my night stand and decided to tackle it again. (Yes, ironically I forgot much of it)

I’m not going to do a review of the book but let’s just say it reinforces and confirms a wack sack of conversations and blog posts I’ve been part of over the past several years. The essence of the book suggests that we learn from the company we keep. All the drills, exercises and artificial learning constructs are based on the idea that learning is hard, based on how hard you try and easily measured. Smith contents that the classic view of learning, the way we learned for centuries, long before the advent of today’s education system, is based on the idea that we’re always learning, some of it good, some of it not but it’s essentially based on who we spend time with. Certainly the book expands more on this so I’d not suggest debating these ideas until you’ve read the book but it … Read the rest

I.S.S. The Collaborative Lip Dub

I love this song.

I love what Commander Hadfield has been doing as part of his mission. He’s done an outstanding job in bringing us into the world of space travel and along the way reminding us what a wonderful world we live in.

I love lip dubs. I’ve been part of making a few. While they’ve been around for a while I think they represent the power of connected media and storytelling quite well. If you’ve ever participated in one, the weird sense of community and joy is palpable.

I love how my class works and connects young pre-service teachers with great teachers and classrooms around the world. This continues to be one of the most important things I can give my students: the opportunity to work with teachers doing interesting things and sharing openly.

So I decided to combine these things and create a collaborative lip dub. I simply invited interested students and classrooms to sign up for a line or two. Without mandating, it worked out quite well with about 25 participants. I then assigned them a line or two and had them send me their files. They all chose how they wanted to … Read the rest

It Takes All Kinds: Students

This is the final in this 4 part series

“Preparing students for jobs that haven’t been invented” I first saw this statement almost seven years ago as I viewed Karl Fisch’s original “Did You Know” It’s one of those important statements that has generated many great conversations.

In our attempt to place some more context on that declaration I’ve been noticing a trend of late. Many people in my circles, those that advocate change and change that revolves around technology, have developed a kind of exemplary model student that demonstrates the potential that exists as a result of the web. The web has enabled and empowered otherwise less privileged students to develop their  pathways and own businesses and passions. And this is often associated with the start-up culture. The design-minded, coding entrepreneur working in Silicon Valley making millions. Exhibit A:


Let me say first; I like much of this video. I like the fact that it suggests schools should be teaching coding and programming. I tweeted it out as a conversation starter about what schools should be teaching students. That said, I was reminded quickly of the direct association with coding and startups. When we think … Read the rest

It Takes All Kinds: Collaboration

This is the second in a four part series. Part one is here.


This idea has been rummaging around is based on the ideas Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.  There are many aspects of this book worth discussing but the one that I think is most interesting for our classrooms is the way we deal with and think about this idea of collaboration. It’s a buzz word that is included in every new document that includes the “21st Century Learning” jargon and you won’t hear many educational talks today that don’t include the word. I believe that it’s the internet and the affordance of technology that makes us want to apply these principles to our classroom. The problem is, collaboration online is not the saem as collaboration in physical spaces. This is an issue.

We failed to realize that what makes sense for the asynchronous, relatively anonymous interactions of the Internet might not work as well inside the face-to-face, politically charged, acoustically noisy confines of an open-plan office.

While Cain is writing about offices, the notion of collaboration in schools often means kids working tables instead of desks. I … Read the rest