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let’s stop preparing kids to hate their work

This article contains a somewhat longer version of a TEDx talk I presented at TEDx PSUBerks on November 14, 2014. The chance to give a talk in this format was a great opportunity to for me to synthesize the different strands of my work over this past decade as an executive, an education advocate, and a mom. It let me get to the heart of what is most human for me inside our traditional institutions. And it was all inspired by the theme of a lovely TEDx: “Love and Education.” Videos from the event are being posted over time here. 4/20/2015 – Update: My video is now posted – see above. Unfortunately the sound quality is poor.



When my son was three, he did that thing. You know? Where he sat in a chair and started tipping it back on two legs? So what immediately came to my mind, of course, was “Stop That! You’re going to break your neck,” which would have been an overreaction, a lie, and really, an instinct to control my child for his own good and my peace of mind. So instead I got down to eye level with him, got his attention, and told him, “If you keep doing that there is a chance, a chance the chair will slip and you will fall down and hurt yourself.” I wanted him to have a realistic framework for thinking about risky behavior, and a framework for building trust.

My son and his sister are adolescents now and I worry about more than risky behavior. I worry whether the relationships they’re about to start developing are going to be healthy ones. I want them to feel deeply, in their bones, that respectful, accepting relationships are normal and that controlling, demeaning relationships are weird and wrong. So with far more love than know-how, I’ve stumbled through trying to raise them without all of the power imbalances that usually come with being a kid: They know it’s not polite for them to interrupt adults, but I’ve also taught them that it is not polite for adults to interrupt them. And that my desire to get the shopping done while I’m in the mood is no more valid than their desire to finish building that toothpick sculpture. So to whatever degree this philosophy may have had an effect, I may, I hope, have ruined my kids for controlling relationships

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the art of warcraft – executive leadership development through gaming


When is playing video games actually a seminar in executive leadership?  When the game is an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game) and the stakes seem high – just as high as the goals, accomplishments, recognition, disappointments, and politics in your workplace.

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disrupting pedagogy – part 2

This article was first published at Getting Smart on November 4, 2013


generic4In my previous post, I talked about how subtle shifts in developing digital learning materials – content, apps, services, games, videos – can help disrupt pedagogy as practiced in most schools and help students learn more independently, more deeply, and more authentically.  From an educator perspective this shift is akin to changing from pedagogies based in direct instruction to constructivism.  From a technology perspective it is akin to the shift from structured to object-oriented programming.  In either case, it is hard for those who are unused to the distinctions to see the difference.  Therefore, until such time as there are assessments that measure and show clearly the outcomes of such approaches beyond immediate impact on summative test scores, it is imperative to identify the markets where such innovations can evolve and to create incentives for meaningful innovation. Read more

disrupting pedagogy – part 1

This article was first published at Getting Smart on November 1


generic7With personalized learning a passionate goal of parents, students, educators, and policy makers, why are online resources for learning still so uninspired?  Technology and education science are sufficiently advanced today to create authentically transformative digital learning tools and experiences, and yet the market offers us little but apps and services with the same old limitations that evolved from cohort-based lock-step classroom instruction.  The answers may lie in the uniquely challenging market conditions of our education system.  The solutions to those challenges may comprise largely untapped opportunities for innovators of all kinds. Read more

the metaphor of disruptive innovation

This article was first published at Getting Smart on May 27, 2013

generic5Is “disruptive innovation” a myth – in the rich sense used by folklorists as a culture’s sacred story?  Audrey Watters tells a beautiful and compelling truth about the cultural (particularly high tech culture) entanglement with the disruptive innovation story in arecent blog post.   Watters illustrates how the story about disruptive innovation connects with our deep collective millennial stories about the end of the world. To quote: “The structure to this sort of narrative is certainly a well-known and oft-told one in folklore — in tales of both a religious and secular sort. Doom. Suffering. Change. Then paradise.”  The piece suggests that the nature of the stories we already hold as a culture are what make the ideas of disruptive innovation seem so “unassailably” true to us, and yet, as is the case with such prophecies, when things don’t unfold as foretold they inevitably require revision (or perhaps as Watters notes, refinement) of the sort found in the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation’s recently publishedreport on hybrid innovation and its role in education. Read more

the infrastructure of personalized learning

This article was first published at Getting Smart on Feb 22, 2013

postpic7In my previous posts I’ve written about my wishes for a personalized learning environment for my children, how such an environment is not yet available, and how we as a family have begun to use a wide variety of resources to essentially prototype such an environment.  I use the metaphor of a “platform” – seeing education not as a single, monolithic experience to be performed upon our young people, but as a set of services that students and parents can use to meet their own, unique educational goals.  This is an Internet metaphor – a platform provides a set of standard services that enable lots of different applications.  A platform doesn’t have to be monolithic, but like the Internet can consist of “small pieces, loosely joined”.  And like the Internet, “education as a platform” needs to serve the long tail – all the niche needs of small groups and individuals who may be separated by age, geography, and means. Read more

the learning resources that liberated a family

This article was first published at Getting Smart on Feb21, 2013

postpic4In my previous post, I wrote about the school experience I wish for my own children.  Today I am going to write about how as a family we have taken advantage of local and distant learning resources that allow us to treat education as a set of “platform services” that we can use to create a customized learning experience for each of our kids. Read more

prototyping education as a platform

This article was first published at Getting Smart on Feb 20, 2013

em5I wish school were different for my children.  As a mom living in a school district with excellent schools, high test scores and property values, research-based practices, and warm, thoughtful educators who care about my kids you would think I would be satisfied. But like generations of parents before me, I want more for my kids than what I had.  Read more

to disrupt education, first shift the balance of power

This article was first published in EdSurge on Feb 12, 2013

Why the current education system resists change–and what we all can do to push forward.

In 2012, the blogosphere was filled with stories about Innovation in Education, how technology changes everything, and how the growing edtech market was embraced to the point where there was speculation towards the end of the year that perhaps there was an education investment “bubble”. There were meetups , and start-ups and code-ups. Technology-enhanced tools for learning such as the Khan Academy were lauded as revolutionaryand reviled in the backlash as not only failing to revolutionize, but as beingoutright dangerous to education reform. The words “revolutionize”, “transform”, and “disrupt” were used so extensively some would have thembanned in 2013. Read more

5th graders develop agency as independent learners using Android tablets

Over the 2011-2012 school year, e-Mergents has been involved in “guerilla research” to get some insight on several gnawing questions regarding the use of Android tablets in primary school classrooms.  Some of the questions are profoundly practical, such as whether students can really write papers on tablet devices even though we adults are convinced we need laptops for serious writing.  Some of the questions are logistical, such as whether Androids can serve the same purposes as iPads. But some of the questions are emergent: “What happens when you give students and teachers mobile devices with 24/7 connectivity to the Internet and the freedom to use them in the ways that work for them?” Read more