TED Conversations

Juliette LaMontagne

Founder & Managing Director, Breaker


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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


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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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