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: I would totally agree with that. What comes into question is the initial reasons for exams...making sure students are not falling through the cracks or coasting by under the radar. To make sure they are learning and retaining information.

      Of course what children need to retain, how they learn, what kind of skills they need to survive and thrive in the world have evolved and is evolving still. So I agree, the old systems of grading and examination are out of date. But what is their evolution? and how do we localize the practice and evaluation to a level where it honestly engages with the individual but at the same time doesn't take an Orwellian infrastructure to maintain? I think the "continuous assessment of pupils/students practical work in the classroom" is definitely wiser but there is something in me that still feels benchmarks of some sort are needed as well.
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        Feb 15 2012: What benchmarks have you found effective in assessing the success of what happens outside of your classroom, Gavin? When your kids are in their partner sites?
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          Feb 15 2012: What we do is a 6-month follow up where we do check-ins and get intermittent assessments back from the partner site but also, importantly, from the student regarding the partner site and their experiences there as well.
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        Feb 15 2012: i wonder where my post went on formative assessment - someone deleted it :/

        i agree with you gavin but benhmarks...not sure about that. i mean can there ever be a benchmark on personality? ..the same personality that lands you that job (or other opportunity) even if you have same credentials as the other thousand applicants/participants. but i think we both agree on formative assessment creates the right space immersive love of learning.

        Juliette, a PLE, (sometimes wiki contributions) is a good way to "measure" learners. outside of the circle of a curriculum. Infact, the circle should not be drawn int he first place! :)
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          Feb 15 2012: There can never be a benchmark on personality. Of course, I agree, who knows what will work for one person or not work for another.

          As an educator who is also an employer tho, I can't just depend on personality for the majority of the things I need accomplished. Personality can get you in doors but skills, the ability to learn and the ability to make deadlines is what keeps you in that door and making yourself at home.

          I see way too many kids coast by and even do alright based on personality until life hits them dead in the face.
        • Feb 15 2012: I believe you can benchmark personality. A lot of research in the positive psychology domain including APA president Marti Seligman are coming out to do this.
      • Feb 15 2012: Gavin, I agree that continuous and ongoing assessment is needed in a classroom. If we are looking for benchmarks, well what are we trying to assess and reach towards when we give our students feedback. If we take a child centred approach than the 'benchmark' should be based on an individual basis. We need to teach students how to self assess and set goals for themselves. Teaching students how to self regulate their learning will make the learning experience that much more meaningful.
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          Feb 15 2012: Agreed. That's exactly the methodology we use at www.theremixproject.ca. It's a 6-month self-directed program with project leaders and industry mentors provided. We don't have any testing or examinations but rather "living plans" that we work from that evolve and grow as we do. The plans are generated by the young person with some in-put, support and critical thinking from the project leader at the beginning of the 6-month term after a week spent getting to know each other better.
    • Feb 15 2012: Of course they are. This only tells you that someone is great at passing tests. What happens when someone is the next DaVinci but is dyslexic and can't perform that well? Marginalize them and let them get a job that waste's their elemental talents?
    • Feb 15 2012: yes and no. Certainly there needs to be a shift towards measuring / assessing the skills that are valuable. Information and facts can be found online. If you can find a fact online, understand the complete context, completely and utterly verify its truth in less time than someone who memorized / learned it, then the ability to seek knowledge would be more valuable than the skill to remember facts.

      I'm in the IT field, and there are many examples where higher level skills (troubleshooting, envisioning a network / Active Directory / database design) simply cannot be applied without a solid background and knowledge of the underlying components.

      These creative / innovative skills are more talent based, but cannot function on their own.

      Knowledge of content is a pre-requisite for being able to apply higher level critical thinking skills. You can't ignore the content completely, but certainly more emphasis needs to be put on reaching higher levels of understanding like analysis and creative thinking.

      I guess, to sum up, mastery of the content should not be the end of the learning, but the point at which the real, important learning can actually begin
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        Feb 15 2012: content can be delivered or content can be uncovered. It's the latter empowers the learner.
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          Feb 15 2012: i agree with this about discovery in this non-delivered sense. wonder (love of learning) should be supported, and as you earlier mentioned Juliette on game play is one way to provide an interdisciplinary, risk-taking learning space.

          but formative assessment has very thin research background in this context of game play/design for learning...i am always trying to find it and network for it!
        • Feb 15 2012: And in "the real world" no one delivers content to you
    • Feb 15 2012: Garth:

      I think the larger issue is that the education systems we have now have their roots in social science. Neuroscience is providing overwhelming data that contradicts the current educational one-size-fits-all paradigm. We are losing enormous potential societal contributions at the ends of the spectrum.
    • Feb 15 2012: and, of course the actual time spent "measuring", especically in terms of standardized testing, is time that is not spent on learning.
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        Feb 15 2012: what's exciting to me about customized learning environments online is that - if constructed well - they're effective, yes. But as important, they're efficient! If a student can demonstrate mastery in a few weeks as opposed to a semester, you have huge swaths of time that can be spent doing hands-on, high-touch project work. That's an opportunity.
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      Feb 15 2012: our memories are context-dependent---which is why new studies recommend students should diversify their study spaces

      testing is the best tool for learning, actually... i'd like to give you the link now but i don't wanna waste these 30 minutes! check out wash u.'s studies on it though

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