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how can data increase college opportunities for all?

This article was first published on Getting Smart on February 3, 2014.


There are real questions about the value of a college education. Is it worth the debt that students take on? Does it prepare students for today’s or tomorrow’s work environments? Is a portfolio a better for getting jobs than a GPA? As I’ve been providing my own kids with an eclectic education outside of traditional schooling, whether or not they go to college is certainly on the table.


These are the kinds of questions that belong to the privileged. At least for now. Humanists looking at what learning should be like, politicians making hay, pundits garnering attention with shocking statistics and predictions, even families choosing alternative education paths – all have the luxury of hypothesizing and even experimenting with the goals, building blocks, and methodologies of learning.

Not everyone has that freedom or that power. Read more

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

a new breed of apps puts joy back in math learning

This article was first published at Getting Smart on September 6, 2013


em8Math should be fun – even when it’s stupidly hard.  Instead it feels grueling – even when it’s fundamentally a delightful puzzle.  This has nothing to do with our smarts or math aptitude and everything to do with how we approach it.  I’ve written previously about the dearth of excellent math apps and how disappointed I’ve been that the promise of achieving computational and mathematical fluency as a side effect of truly engaging work has been left unfulfilled.  Until recently, that is. 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