TED Conversations

Juliette LaMontagne

Founder & Managing Director, Breaker


This conversation is closed.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of learning models that exist outside of traditional educational institutions?

With the growing number of alternative learning pathways and opportunities to better serve the needs of individual students, what's working best? And what can we learn from the failures and tensions? Where and how have the models in the margins effectively disrupted the status quo?

I'll add to the conversation my current initiative, Breaker - driving alternative learning and social innovation by mobilizing interdisciplinary teams of young creative collaborators to design product solutions to global challenges.

This Live Conversation will start on Feb. 15, 2012, 1:00pm EST/ 10:00am PST

  • Feb 15 2012: I think just like different teachers teach different ways, so goes the system of education. We all learn things different ways. Some can grasp concepts by reading then doing, others by doing making a mistake and then understanding why that mistake occurred thus learning that way. I think classroom teaching is good for general overall topic discussions and presentations. However, I feel with so many flavors of learning, how can we judge a child by not grasping onto a concept or lesson taught in a way that's not suited to their comprehension style? I have a 7 year old, and I find that children love the concept of learning on computers, but most of their state and district comprehension tests occur with paper and pencil. We've found that the concepts are learned, but presenting what they have learned in a different format affects their outcome. (Translation: Kids are learning by computer, but testing is done with pencil and paper over the same thing but they are failing because the question and testing is presented differently.) Same thing occured when kids had to count using money. On paper, they could do math with drawn images of money and make change. But if you gave them real money and asked them do the same thing, they freak out because the presentation is different. I'd like to hear other people's thoughts. Hopefully, I'm not off topic here.
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    Feb 15 2012: there are wonderful learning pedagogies practised in India, here we should see how Vigyan Ashram is working towards learning by doing and thus encouraging enterprise driven learning.
    This i believe will help in building more resourceful, entrepreneurial, responsible individuals
    here is the link: http://www.vigyanashram.com/
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      Feb 15 2012: By doing what? Are you trying to attempt this sort of pedagogy?:

      ‎"Students should be made to grapple with the material and receive authentic and explicit practice in thinking like an expert. Faculty would need to provide timely and specific feedback, and move beyond lectures in which students can sit passively receiving information... We assume that telling people things without asking them to actively process them results in learning."
      - Carl Wieman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics and associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

      If so, how?
    • Feb 15 2012: I agree. We try to recruit people with a basic level of competency but who learn quickly and pay them a basic salary, in trade they get hands on learning doing research contracts. This provides an alternative to student debt and gives the student a better starting point for future opportunities.
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      Feb 15 2012: Thanks for the link Ravi. I'm learning more about it now. I feel we have some similar thinkings. Check out www.theremixproject.ca when you get a chance.
  • Feb 15 2012: TED talks educate me, im dylexic 17, and learn more from an 18 minuite talk than i can all day at college taking notes.
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      Feb 15 2012: Completely agree with this!

      Would you agree that we learn a lot more from respectable people than those who teach us how to get degrees so we can teach?

      nice one sophie.
    • Feb 15 2012: Hi Sophie:

      My son is dyslexic, dysgraphic, and other dys's. We just moved to Vancouver BC to attend the Eaton Arrowsmith school which uses cognitive exercises to create processing capabilities. Check out their web site. The program goes through high school, and there is an adult program, too.

      And to your point about the extraordinary educational value of TED, absolutely! It sounds like you are a strong auditory and narrative learner, which are great assets. Best of luck to you.
    • Feb 15 2012: The very format of TED nearly demands this to be true.
      The presenters are experts in their field and they have a very limited time to project their idea's on to their audience.

      I think the TED format could structure a school all on it's own
      (similar and complementary to something like the khan academy)
  • Feb 15 2012: What are your thoughts on Montessori Education? My kids go to a Montessori School and the education tools and philosophy seem to me to be far superior to ANYTHING I've looked at. These kids learn to LOVE education, learn self-discipline and are self discovering. My kids love school and Montessori allows kids to fully explore subjects with teaching methods that use all the senses. It is experiential learning, not teaching to a test or memorization. Kids can go way ahead of their class level if they desire and at a young age are responsible for planning their work day and sticking to their own schedules. I've seen nothing else out there that prepares kids for the creative and social problem solving this world demands. I hear educators on radio, etc. struggling to come up with curriculum and new teaching methods to address problems in education. Montessori has been around for years and I never hear them speak of it.
  • Feb 15 2012: Schools cannot function without parents participating in the education process at home. I don't think parents can rely on a system or teacher to educate their child. It is "in addition to". The general expecation seems to be that you send your child to be educated and yourparticipation is limited. On theother hand, there is so much money wrapped up in education, I don't think participation outside of the normisterribly encouraged.
  • Feb 15 2012: I see, it's an online chat! I am a homeschooling mom with a 4th grader and a 1st grader. Definitely what I have learned is that I can tailor what we are learning to my kids' strengths and weaknesses. I was appalled at the (limited) amount of math my son was doing when he was in 1st grade in the public schools--it helped me see why the U.S. lags behind other nations in this area (and this was in a very strong public school district!)
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      Feb 15 2012: How will you attempt to teach your son those things that you're not an expert on? (i.e. Chemistry, Physics, Biology... maybe you are an expert in all of these subjects though!)
      • Feb 15 2012: I've found that encouraging the child to read anything and everything can be one approach, and finding friends with expertise in other fields is another method. I'd also like to say, though, that not every subject has to be "taught" or has to be taught at an early age. Many of these subjects can be picked up during the high school age, or in college, with no detriment to the student.
      • Feb 15 2012: I dont think one needs lot of knowledge to teach a 1st grader through 5-6 grade...
        • Feb 15 2012: What a great opportunity to learn with them!
      • Feb 15 2012: If you have a public library nearby, you certainly have access to more than enough information. Plus, if the child learns how to find information themselves, the parent not only does not need to know every fact themselves, but can actually learn from the child and learn with the child! For instance, librarians, encyclopediae and dictionaries, reference books, the children's non-fiction section, etc.
      • Feb 15 2012: The Basics of chemistry (for example) can be taught through cooking, Physics by dropping a ball, etc. To live a healthy life you wouldn't need to know more then that unless it's relevant to you're interests/work.
        As it stands now, most school systems burden the students to learn skills that
        a) they have no interest in
        b) will never use

        while many specialized subjects will b required over time, finding the experts to teach them will be more effective because at that point the student will desire to learn more, rather then having something irrelevant (to their life and planned projection) shoved down their throat.

        maybe someone knows the real number, but I understand somewhere >50% of graduates work in a field completely unrelated to their field of study. this is a waste to time and resources, no to mention the mockery of the system it suggests.
      • Feb 15 2012: You can listen to an interview with Barb Lundgren (bottom right), who speaks on homeschooling/unschooling her three children. Might answer your questions a bit: http://www.rethinkingeverything.net/#!__about-barb
      • Feb 15 2012: I'm just taking it a year at a time, and I'm not assuming that homeschooling is the best solution for all my kids--we'll just see how it goes! But my friends who do homeschool through high school have found effective alternatives in subject matters such as the sciences--community or local colleges that welcome homeschoolers, etc. There are definitely ways to do it if you are committed for the long haul. I also love that we can spend time focusing on areas of special interest, such as my fiction-writing son who churns out thousands of words every day. I don't think he would have the freedom or time to dabble in these interests as a public school student. There are inherent strengths and weaknesses of all these educational models and every child is different; I think the key is not to just assume that public school is the best for everyone, all the time.
      • Feb 15 2012: There are experts that can be called upon to help a parent educate their own child. There are also charter schools that provide such expert help. While the parent is responsible for the core education of the child, the school is there as a back-up resource. A parent can teach their child if they are committed enough.
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      Feb 15 2012: We have been home schooling for a few years as well. We also love being able to tailor our children's education to focus on their strengths and passions, while recognizing weakness in certain areas and individual learning preferences. Instead of wasting hours on busy work, we are able to maximize the use of our time the children spend. We can keep them engaged and challenged and push them in areas we feel they need it. We can control the pace - accelerating or pausing as needed.

      As far as teaching them advanced subjects, there are many options out there available to the home school community. Private tutors or home school hybrid programs are just two options. The latter becoming more and more popular every year. Also, some private schools allow home school students to attend classes in the higher grades.

      All that said, home school isn't the right solution for everyone. However, it has been most advantageous for our family. We take it very seriously. We aren't a family that sets school on cruise control and call running errands a "class".
    • Feb 15 2012: Post-secondary education (aka taking college classes while still a highschooler) is a great option for some - and the classes count toward college later, too.
  • Feb 15 2012: What I find works best (I teach junior college Sociology/Psychology) is challenging the students to rethink common assumptions, and then discussions which integrate course themes and real world events. It seems clear that students learn what they need to learn and what they want to learn...
    ... what they need is to pass the class.
    ... what they want is what feeds their innate curiosity about themselves and the world.

    So I make what they need to pass the class a development and expression of curiosity about the way they think and the way they view the world.
    • Feb 15 2012: Right, challenge the assumptions. If you ask them what they can do with a paper clip, they should be asking you how big is the paper clip and what is it made out of vs. defining 5 or 10 things that can be done based on learned constraints.
      • Feb 15 2012: As a teacher who is just starting off her career with younger children, at what age can we start nurturing this concept of exploration and curiosity in a classroom without misleading or misguiding them?
        • Feb 15 2012: I don't think there is an age that you have to wait for. Explanation and curiosity is what will lead them to be passionate about learning. I would imagine that you personally would need to find the right balance for your situation, but why not nurture as much as you can as often as you can?
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        Feb 15 2012: David - good point - this is divergent thinking isn't it - the chance to explore and create rather than jump through hoops and climb ladders....
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      Feb 15 2012: Very well said. I definitely dig your perspective and methodology.
  • Feb 15 2012: I apologize for coming into the conversation late, however, I believe I can direct many of you toward a valuable resource. Tufts Unversity Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development have been studying these issues for some time now. Most recently they have released results of a study funded by the National 4-H Council which are highly informative and provide traditional education and other youth development efforts plenty to learn. http://ase.tufts.edu/iaryd/researchPositive4H.htm

    The “Big Three” features of effective youth-serving programs are:
    ■ Positive and sustained relationships between youth and adults.
    ■ Activities that build important life skills( and lead to mastery in some areas)
    ■ Opportunities for youth to use these life skills as both participants and as leaders in valued community activities.

    Few educational opportunities provide even these three features. The sooner they do, the better off we'll be.
  • Feb 15 2012: If we treat our children's education as life education, our focus changes from teaching them the information to simply pass tests to teaching them how to excel in life. A 14-year old who is studying animal husbandry to become a vet, a 12-year old who is studying building and carpentry to become a general contractor, or a 15-year old who studies avionics in order to fly for a missionary organization, or a 16-year old who is graduating from college with his Associates so that he can go to a university for pre-med en route to becoming a sports chiropractor... These are the results, not barely-literate children who are more interested in partying and getting drunk than getting ahead in life.
  • Feb 15 2012: Slightly off topic but I think there are two things we need before we can achieve what I believe to be the purpose of this question: to develop a better, new, educational system.

    Firstly, we need to know what is the aim of an education. Knowledge? Human-qualities? Experience? Intelligence? and what balance of these skills?

    Secondly, we need a place to amalgamate all these innovative educational models and test them against that basic metric of skills.

    When we have those two we can look at what aspects of which models deliver what results and by taking the best of all models we can deliver a new, evolved educational system.

    Just an idea worth spreading.

    p.s. Thanks for the brilliant conversation idea.
    • Feb 15 2012: can education make someone more intelligent?

      That may be true at early developmental ages, but I seriously doubt it's true at higher ed.

      I see many companies that require higher ed degrees in fields and jobs that don't need or benefit from more knowledge. Add to that the fact that higher ed is going to be teaching stale information, and it becomes even less valuable.

      I think there's a lot of percepetion out there that college makes people smarter, and forcing employees to go to college will improve the workforce. But if you're getting the same employees, 4 years later than you would've, is it work the huge price tag?

      A lot of higher ed is not directly relevant to basic job skills that one learns on the job. Of course that's not true for fields that require lots of CONTENT knowledge, but is probably true for many jobs that require intellegence and creative thinking.

      I think some people (and our economy) would be better served to start work earlier, and then with context and real tangible problems (and potential solutions) in mind, take some higher education in a directed way.
  • Feb 15 2012: I am a computer science student at Stanford where recently there has been a lot of excitement about automated, online education in the style of Khan Academy with the formation of Udacity and Coursera. Many of the professors teaching this style of class now make the online video segments the primary source of material for the course and try to instead have a few interactive sessions throughout the quarter. I've had two classes in this format so far and, while I found the videos very well done (i.e. they cover the material incredibly efficiently), I think it would have been difficult to keep up with the material if I didn't also have a real community of students that I was participating in the class with.

    Do you think these online classes can address the individual needs of large groups of students? Do you think students will feel invested in classes they take in this format? To what extent do you think these models will replace traditional models of education?
    • Feb 15 2012: dont you think that education is more than just knowledge? from my point of view this models cant replace traditional models because the human relationship, the mentoring and human contact are main variables when you are trying to teach a student
      • Feb 15 2012: Yea, I suppose I was driving more at: do you think this kind of mentoring and contact can be effectively achieved using these new models? For example, if students have a mentor, but only can communicate with that mentor through an online interface will they be missing out on a lot of what traditional education offers?
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        Feb 15 2012: I think part of the problem with traditional models is the barriers to building a mentoring/teaching relationship with one's teachers because the trad'l model is a one-size-fits-all let's force feed these kids knowledge all day and see which one's retain it.

        It produces average students. But the system is built on averages. And bell curves. Creating bell curves. That's all IQ tests and any standardized tests are! I say let's break the bell curve!
        • Feb 15 2012: I mostly agree, but it raises a new question, what happens with local development plans? and regional strategies and national policies? they all need at least some basic standard knowledges
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    Feb 15 2012: I am a student on Human Computer interaction and are currently working on a project that deals with collaboration and the game-ification of education. I would love to get your perspective on how education. Specifically:

    Can game technology be used to make the system of education more fun, engaging, and valuable?
    How would such a “gameful” classroom be structured?

    If you want to participate in our discussion, here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/rit-edu

    How do we begin to implement this new system? What would the 1, 5, and 10 year plans be for creating a new, more engaging system of education?

    Thank you,
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      Feb 15 2012: game-based learning is a rapidly expanding market in the UK - take a look at I am Learning www.iamlearning.com - real potential with handheld devices too and development of screen technologies.....
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        Feb 15 2012: Franco, that is a great lecture on gamification of education.. I will definitely use this in our research.
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      Feb 15 2012: Gaming is a great example of learning that has disrupted the mainstream. There are dangers here, for sure. But if we're going to create indiv learning environments online, they should use the principles of game design.
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        Feb 15 2012: yes, lots of focus on immersive game play.
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        Feb 15 2012: Everyone says gaming is great for education, but WHY!? I have my own theories, largely informed by psychology and a recent New Media Workshop I attended on "Gaming and Theories of Play."
      • Feb 15 2012: Here is one online educational website that I at Borderless Educations, built for a company. We can deliver thousands of those and tailor them with your own brand or content. www.berewarding.com

        This platform is what we offer, where you learn in a fun way, share what you know so others can teach, and we pay you each time you learn.

        Right now we are scaling up to have thousands of classrooms, which will all share a database so you can "tap into" current knowledge. Be sure to contact me if you'd like an online classroom for your students, kids, or programs.
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        Feb 15 2012: I think that the link provided by Franco Phang provides some great examples on how gaming can be used to increase engagement by students. Engagement, or lack thereof, being the greatest cause of student school failure in the current educational paradigm, in my opinion
      • Feb 15 2012: I agree. Our biggest challenge is driving acceptance and adoption, and a 'target achievement' and 'level' based design, using some aspects of game design theory would be fantastic. We've been working on developing some models here at University18 (an indian online university initiative that works with about 6000 student worldwide), and have realized that driving self study using this approach works!
        So when you say 'individual learning environment' Juliette, I get THAT!
        Personally i'd like to build in interactivity into the system, rather than depend upon the 'crowd' to provide it.
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        Feb 15 2012: I think gaming is just one aspect of education - like anything else we offer as educators - it is just one of the tools we can employ. If the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer then every problem is going to look like a nail. Teachers should be given the freedom to use their expertise and professional judgement to draw the best out of students and lead them towards a lifelong passion for learning. Having a variety of tools available to achieve this is heading towards nirvana......
      • Feb 15 2012: There is something to be said for focusing on how they want to learn vs how we decide they should be learning. How do we capitalize on nature and not subsume it?
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        Feb 15 2012: If anyone wants to participate in our discussion, here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/rit-edu. Your perspectives would be greatly appreaciated. :)
    • Feb 15 2012: Hi, currently Borderless Educations operates a "game" like learning platform which is free and open for others to use to teach and or learn. Is this something you're interested in? We also reward education gamers with points which are converted to $ for scholarships, books, fundraisers.
    • Feb 15 2012: I think this concept was solidified when the first "Little Professor" Texas Instrument calculator came out.

      What the "gaming" concept provides is the a sense of (level) accomplishment instead of just a letter grade. I think the Leap Pad and other electronics companies have seen vast improvement when learning is turned into a video game. I'm concerned about the bastardization of it when it's tied into corporate characters (such as Disney and Pokemon, etc..). However, it's a catch-22, it's those character that allow the child to be open to learning and using that particular video game because of the cartoon character affiliation. That is what worries me a bit. But if it's Micky, Piccachu, Batman, or any character, if it does a better job teach my kids math, science, literature, or english, then i could care less about the presentation as long as the goal of learning is achieved.
    • Feb 15 2012: I'm honestly not sold on the idea of learning via computer. I think some children - and adults - do better with real interaction, demonstrations, and hands-on learning. That said, making it less dry is certainly the way to go.
      • Feb 15 2012: The fact that almost every job today involves using a computer, it has become a necessity for students to learn how to use them, to learn how to learn using them....don't you think so too?
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      Feb 15 2012: Would point out that gaming doesn't need to be a digital experience to be effective.

      http://thegameofvillage.org/ shows the utility applying math and social studies in a real-time/non-virtual game environment.
    • Feb 15 2012: Gaming can definitely make learning more fun. Without a doubt.

      The real question however should be whether gaming can be used to teach long-term qualities such as being able to make yourself learn at a job when it would be no longer "fun".

      One must remember games are extrinsic motivators and they may or may not teach students qualities such as grit and perseverance.
  • Feb 15 2012: If you are interessted in the testimonial of an grownup Unschooler, that is my story and my job to tell about it.
    André Stern
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    Feb 15 2012: i am more and more interested in exploring ways in which to bring learning closer to the life of the individual participant in a community of other learners. There are ways using web 2.0, u-learning and MOOCs etc that could tap more into the life of the learner. For example, being at home and discovering mould on a wall I could, (if I wanted to!) ask this to be a "project" within a MOOC and I research about mould and know more about science etc. This "project" ould be shared and contributed to and I would ultimately draw some conclusions (more questions!) about this and would have learned to learn in something that is part of my own everyday life experience - and possibly all done on a mobile phone!

    it would cover any assessment criteria and contribute to others learning too...

    apologise for the mould on the wall idea, maybe its a poor metaphor for condensation and education....
  • Feb 15 2012: I would love to see self directed learning centers pop up all over the place.

    the students can learn from online teachers (solo or in class setting) from a variety of different places, participate in both 'real live' and streaming debates, and collaborate with other self directed students to allow both the simple and require socialization, while still being exposed to unconsidered ideas.

    Boxing yourself into a certain way of seeing things I feel is a real issue with home based education, but public self directed learning centers would allow both the self direction and un-thought-of injections of talent.
  • Feb 15 2012: At Eaton Arrowsmith School in Vancouver BC children not served by traditional educational environments (those labeled as gifted, dyslexic, dyscalculiac, etc) use cognitive exercises to build new neurological capacity. Norman Doidge, in his book, The Brain That Changes Itself, devoted a chapter to Barbara Arrowsmith and her methods.

    Neuroscience, particularly with the advent of the FMRI, is providing unassailable evidence of how the brain learns and how the brain can change. Would that current educational models were as plastic as our brains.
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      Feb 15 2012: Yes, but I think there's a real danger to always looking through this lens... You lose sight of the student, the person in front of you, when you're always talking about their brain.

      That said, the brain has so much plasticity and flexibility, and that's exactly what education needs too!
  • Feb 15 2012: Newer and more prevalent technologies such as mobile phones are providing an interesting source of educational tools outside of classrooms making learning more inclusive, especially in emerging markets where often traditional learning is not as accessible. Projects such as the BBC WST Janala in Bangladesh have reached millions of people helping them to learn English.
  • Feb 15 2012: Hi Everyone! I work at university in Guatemala and we have a lot of challenges . One of them is about the alternative models and methodologies to improve learning and I very excitingo to know what are the lessons learned related to this topic
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    Feb 15 2012: I'm pretty sure we are supposed to be having the conversation amongst ourselves. The topic is just presented and hosted by Juliette. So let's talk! Already so many brilliant minds in here.
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    Feb 15 2012: A story: a young woman recently contacted me. She'd taken a year off from college to create her own self-directed year of learning and asked if I would serve as her advisor. Her "syllabus" was filled with travel, books, and on-line engagements. My first bit of advice to her was to use the International Studies Schools Network's Global Leadership Performance Outcomes as a guiding document. Framing her experiences as a portfolio of evidence that demonstrates her mastery of these global leadership characteristics gives potential employers an accessible means of interpreting a wide range of inputs and their value.
    • Feb 15 2012: Eventually she could go here: http://www.saylor.org/ And later here: http://mitx.mit.edu/

      These initiatives are bringing curators from higher education to the massive open learning repositories now available.
      This structure will allow for credibility through certification. Eventually I will be able to collect certificates in the same way I take courses at a traditional institution.
      Advantages: cost, more freedom of choice in what to learn and when
      Disadvantages: less credibility, lack of social learning and group learning- critical to any education
    • Feb 15 2012: I have a comment related to creating "portfolios" as a means of documenting work.

      I'm in my fourth year at Hampshire College in Massachusetts (www.hampshire.edu). Among the many non-traditional elements of Hampshire's educational structure (eg, written evaluations instead of grades, individualized concentrations instead of majors), the one that stands out strongest to me is our unique "credit" system. After each year, students meet with their academic advisors (who are professors in the student's field of interest) and go through the portfolio of work the student compiled. This portfolio can include anything. For me, my portfolios have included essays I had written with professors' comments, professors' written evaluations from each class I had taken, a personal retrospective, posters I had designed for offices and student groups, documentation of internships held over the summer, work I completed as a leader of student groups, and independent projects I carried out while abroad. Instead of passing students because they've taken classes that earn them a certain number of credits, professors deem students eligible to continue based on a wide variety of work that the student has done both inside and outside the classroom. This encourages students to pursue and devote time to whatever they are interested in learning. Hampshire believes that students learn best when they're learning about things they're passionate about.

      I devoted so much time and energy to helping to organze TEDxHampshireCollege last fall because (1) I was passionate about it and (2) because I knew it would be recognized by my advisors as a relevant and important element of my education.

      There's lots about Hampshire that I think make it a unique and special place. This is just an example.
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    Feb 15 2012: It OK to discuss which models etc. but what is more important is the space given to formative assessment in any one of these models. For example, in a MOOC, Blended or traditional classroom setting formative assessment (assessment for learning) is still the most valuable space for (life-long) learning to happen.

    Formative assessment holds within all aspects of motivation, pace, peer group work etc - the very essence of developing the love of and how to learn.

    Whatever model is designed at any stage or context, formative assessment is the key, as the very use of it helps us know how to develop new models of learning, or new communities of pedagogy.
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      Feb 15 2012: are these based on assessment tasks? What does it look like? portfolio work?
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        Feb 15 2012: summative assessment criteria does cast its dark shadow over the process yes, and this is the framework in which a group of educators would be as pedagogically creative as possible to reach these goals. However, summative assessment happens every week, two weeks or 6 months for example., whereas formative assessment is the in-the-moment assessment by a teacher so that the learning taking place can be properly paced, thrown-out(!) re-grouped, etc. Dylan Wiliam (and Black) has done much work in the past 10 years on this. Its very inspiring to know ore about (assessment FOR learning than assessment OF learning) however, to do probably brings into question how creative or resourceful an individual teacher/learner/community can be.

        A portfolio of work is awesome where the learner has gained a good push into doing/solving a problem. but ultimately this portfolio succumbs to an assessment OF learning. All of the above is based on what I see as a traditional setting for learning.

        With new spaces online, or blended, seem not to consider such change of learning pace, motivation ALL OF LEARNING (where formative assessment is the catalyst) in their models. Its a if no-one has stopped to ask where learning happens in the Y-generation (or Alpha!) and where learning actually is - its in the very moment of discovery, as an immersed experience, closed to the life value of that individual facilitated by an educator or a team of educators who share the learning experience. Who do not know the "answers" and change the framework of learning based on the learning taking place at that moment.

        It should happen faster than any app can do it :)
  • Feb 15 2012: I was homeschooled all my life, using a semi-structured, semi-unschooled method. I am currently a successful graduate student, so I'd like to say that alternate methods can certainly work for some people.
    • Feb 15 2012: What was it like for you to enroll in higher education? And have to deal with grades, curriculums, lectures etc?
      • Feb 15 2012: I'm not Sally, but I homeschool my kids and my husband who is in grad school equates homeschooling (the way we are doing it, anyway) with college style education -- more self-directed, mastery learning, goal oriented, etc. I'm confident they'll have much less shock adapting when they go on to higher ed. One kid is planning on being a doctor with Doctors without Borders, one a research scientist, and one undecided as of yet. She's two. She's got time ;-)
  • Feb 15 2012: I can only see questions- no answers.
  • Feb 15 2012: As a parent who unschools/ homeschools I am curious what you think about child directed learning in which reading and math are not tackled till the child asks or starts the work on those subject by themselves?
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      Feb 15 2012: I believe Amanda that there needs to be a balance in communication between an individual child, children in a group and with an educator. It seems as what you describe is a rule that governs learning. This in my mind is unbalanced because of learning should be a shared experience, so therefore questions should be from all angles/parties (trying to avoid the terms sides here!).
      • Feb 15 2012: You cannot use social conditioning and expect to develop a real sense of self and independence. This is absolutely necessary! Our greatest thinkers were against the norm.
    • Feb 15 2012: I'm all for child directed learning, but that doesn't mean that it is child dictated. The parent still has the authority to introduce new topics. Also, since when is reading a "subject"? I think that reading can be very fun, and encouraging the child by reading to them and by making library visits will mean that the child may grow to enjoy reading on their own... and then they will have access to all sorts of information. As for mathematics, I did not formally do any math workbooks until I was 10 or 11. I went through a phase where I hated math (I was a teenager) but my parents insisted I keep doing it... And I'm now a math tutor at the college level. So I would say, don't worry too much. Guidance and encouragement, and lots of fun books, were the solution that worked for me.
    • Feb 15 2012: I do think, however, that kids will often avoid areas that are difficult or challenging for them.

      Providing incentives for them to work those areas can help them to find a way to overcome challenges.

      Kids simply do not have the maturity to understand at aged 8 that these skills will be necessary in adulthood and that they should do it. We, as adults can see that, and it is our responsibility to help them.
    • Feb 15 2012: My child learns in this way. She will tackle a subject until she is "satiated" and then moves on to the next subject. She allows herself to be guided in her studies by her teachers/parents but for her own education, she studies one subject or time period until she feels she has enough or her questions have been answered.

      I love the depth that she puts into her studies. It definitely gives her more than a "surface" understanding of her subject. But I'm also grateful that she would allow others to guide her studies so that she is well rounded. She doesn't have as much depth in those subjects that she hasn't chosen but her education is adequate to the need.
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    Feb 15 2012: Interested to hear the answers to Trevor's questions. I also would love to hear about Breaker when the time is right in the conversation. (hi!)
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    Feb 15 2012: What educational paradigms are these models based on? I'm the Admissions Director of a new brain-based school in Westport, CT, and recently graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Psychological & Brain Sciences. We're applying the latest psychology and neuroscience in the classroom.
    • Feb 15 2012: Hi Trevor:

      Can you tell me more about your brain-based program? My son is currently attending Eaton Arrowsmith (affiliated with Arrowsmith Toronto) in Vancouver BC.

      Thank you. Please feel free to reply offline.

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        Feb 15 2012: Hi Colleen!

        I tried to send you a message via TED's internal e-mail service, but it wouldn't go through! I would love to carry on this conversation with you. My e-mail is trevor.g.king@gmail.com.

        I hope to hear from you!
    • Feb 15 2012: What is it about? "brain-based school"
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        Feb 15 2012: Let me give you an example... A recent WSJ article highlighted that teens' reward centers (their accumbens) is more active than other age groups and more easily stimulated by the presence of peers.

        This can help explain the power of peer pressure.

        And it explains why traditional high schools are largely producing homogeneous classes of students that conform to the status quo.
    • Feb 15 2012: @Trever, that sounds Incredible!
      I wanted to ask, how and how often are you studying an individual student's brain and what sorts of metrics does the data you gather measure? Is this data then used to personalize a child's learning? Or is it being used to improve the Brain-based school environment itself?
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        Feb 15 2012: We assess students at the beginning and end of each term, or, if warranted, more frequently. We measure multiple intelligences and some self-constructs that we believe are valuable or useful. The main data we publish to the public are score increases for standardized tests. We have the highest average increase of an ed. company for the SAT (avg. increase of 340 points) and ACT (avg. increase of 9 points).

        I would love to have access to an fMRI machine or any tool meant to measure some brain metric, but that doesn't quite fit into our budget just yet... :) I, personally, would LOVE for someone to come in and measure the plasticity of our students' brains and how that changes.

        The data is used to personalize a child's learning (a staple of our school is our ability to personalize and customize curriculums according to students' interests, strengths, and passions), thus creating a dynamic curriculum that's adaptable to the individual student. Our research and development department also performs analysis on aggregate samples of students.

        But the most useful feedback is the immediate and individualized feedback our students receive one-on-one from our teachers, all graduates of top ten colleges.
  • Feb 15 2012: I am very curious to see what people think. Has this conversation started?
  • Feb 15 2012: If we look at historical trends, any model of the economy based strictly on human labor will not be succesful in the future. This is not to say that there won't be an element of physical labor in many people's jobs, but the any production process that can be broken down to static tasks (e.g. tasks that do not change over time), will continue to be automated.

    We can see our economy moving to be focused on a few key areas that machines/computers are not going to infringe on in the near future: Social interaction between people, creativity/problem solving and systems/general maintenance and managment.

    Key leadership positions within business/finance and government will still be focused on how best to maximize returns on resources, and acedemia will stil be focused on analysis and interpretation.

    There are probably a few other areas that people would want to include, but we have to accept that our current educational paradigm is not engaging students adequately enough paricularly in areas of decision making, applied analysis and creativity.

    I think one of the greatest challenges facing society in education is to come to grips with how to keep students from becoming bored. Hopefully that is changing.
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    Feb 15 2012: It is a balance. Some children respond very well to learning through games, and I would say that in the case of game of village it does actually teach the process of problem solving and interpersonal communications~ in general not things that turn up in a standardized test. But valuable nonetheless.