Monday, April 21, 2014

Project H

I recently read an article about Project H. Project H is a project that was started in 2008 in North Carolina to help students in a poor district learn how they could help improve their town as well as learn the design skill necessary to do this. It really is a compelling story. It can be found at:

This is also the introduction video of the documentary about them.

As many of you know I am very much aligned with Sugata Mitra’s philosophy about education, having used it for the last year and a bit in my classroom. Project H is more of the direction I envision education going in. It teaches students skills in areas of their interest. In this case it is design. But what if we extended that a bit and followed more of the student’s ideas. Those wanting to study fashion could do so. This is but one example of what education should be about, giving directly to the student’s usable skills so they can build on a lifetime of success.

It is time to move away from the daily grind and start moving towards a future that holds success and student interest in high esteem.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Back To Basics

Education has had a long drawn out history. During the 19th and early 20th century children were educated in two different venues: school when they could and with their parents. While the parents acknowledged the importance of school the necessity was to have the children at home working with their parents so the family could survive. As people saw how much more prosperous educated people were, doctors, lawyers, engineers the gravitation towards a better education became a mantra for success. What is missing from this argument is the fact that children were schooled at home or where their parents worked about the intricacies of the jobs they performed every day. Farmers talked about the science of growing crops and tending herds with their children. Storekeepers taught their children about maintaining a store, bookkeeping, people skills. All the things the children were taught brought great value to their communities and helped them to survive and grow.

All of the basic concepts of school were taught within the children’s learning environments. Schools supplemented this providing a richer environment before it became necessary to leave school at an early age.  When the movement towards industrialization and larger cities began the jobs people encountered there did not allow them to continue the type of informal education described above.  Schools were forced to take on a greater role in educating children promoting it as a means to greater rewards. Thus began the progression towards everyone needing a higher education.  This meant that topics of interest became more theoretical in approach rather than hands on. Science became something through text books. Areas where a student’s interest might lie were shuffled off to higher education. You want to be a builder. Get a degree. A veterinarian? Same thing.  Other areas of interest, especially the arts, were minimalized and trivialized as being unimportant because they are not money makers.

As a society we need to get back to the concept of educating children in a more diverse way than just in school. Children should be allowed to pursue their interests and develop their knowledge in those areas. Subjects should be taught in conjunction with their interests. Let’s focus more on completing the whole child, rather than our limited view of it, as seen in today’s schools.


One of the things about education is that rarely does anyone challenge a grade. Those who do would be students who are concerned about the reason behind their receiving a mark. With conversation it is usually easily taken care of. Those who object wholeheartedly to their mark should be asked, “Why do you deserve a better mark? Prove it to me.” This puts the onus on them to justify their thoughts. Their input is rarely taken into consideration when giving a final grade. If they are able to make a strong argument then they deserve the grade. If they are playing semantics they do not deserve the mark..

When we look at curriculum the question becomes, “How well did the student meet the stated curriculum?” Whether the part of the curriculum was explicitly taught doesn’t matter. The students may have acquired the skill elsewhere and be able to apply it without it being covered. We as educators need to be more cognizant of the student’s ability to learn and apply knowledge outside the classroom and give them credit for it. It takes a knowing teacher to see all of this and be able to justify it. Curriculum is guideline about what has to be taught. We should track all the other things that are taught as well to justify what we do.

As we move towards learning outside the box students must be included in setting up the criteria for success. When they own the criteria they recognize the goals they have set and work towards meeting it. Yes there will always be some students who step back and not participate fully but as we work towards having those conversations with them and helping them to become stronger participants in the new way of learning they will gravitate towards it.

Sunday, April 6, 2014