|Originally posted on Dreams of Education on March 25, 2016|
There’s nothing sacred about spelling tests as a way to learn spelling, flash cards to learn math facts, curriculum as a way to teach, testing as a way to collect data. There’s nothing sacred about most of what we do every day in education, and yet we hold tightly to these institutions as we make decisions about what school will look like. These constructs have been put into place to accomplish certain goals; namely to get kids to pass a test, have a certain GPA, and go to college.
We hold certain beliefs about education because those who came before us set the ground work for how we operate schools. Those who came before us existed in quite a different reality of what it meant to be educated. At the dawn of industrialization, much of what we see in education probably made sense.
When we consider how to do education better, how to make it more equitable, more meaningful, we often do so from the vantage point of old constructs...
Perhaps the most heartbreaking outcome of the current systematization of education is the way that it unintentionally dehumanizes. Reduced to scores, we too often become pawns in a global game of competition. We seek to be valued while forgetting that we are already valuable. Worthy.
There are a distinct collection of experiences in my own school journey that left me wondering if I was worthy. After educating hundreds, I’ve come to realize that I’m not an anomaly. Every child longs to know that they are valuable. This longing isn’t dependent on social economic standing, family, or history.
It is part of the human condition, this desire to be known and seen as valuable.
In first grade I received the first inkling that I might not be enough. In my school, kids were nominated by their teachers for VIP awards. Each month the whole school gathered in the auditorium for an assembly where students were called on stage and handed...
The first question that I get asked when people find out that I’ve started a school: what makes Anastasis Academy different? And this is a tricky one to answer, because the truth is EVERYTHING makes us different. It’s hard to describe something that no one has seen before, so you begin to relate it with ideas and concepts that people are familiar with. The more I’ve talked about Anastasis, the more I’ve begun to really recognize what it is at the heart that makes us so different. It is our starting point and driving force: students-with-names.
That may seem like a strange comment to make, “students-with-names,” because, of course they have names! But in education, we make a lot of decisions without these specific students-with-names in mind. We make decisions for students as if they are a homogeneous group, or worse, a number.
As if they don’t have special interests/passions/gifts.
|Originally posted on Dreams of Education on October 6, 2015|
In 2009, I left teaching. I didn’t do it because I was fed up with the system, or because I didn’t like my job. Quite the opposite. I really loved being a computer teacher. I loved the freedom of writing my own curriculum every day, and getting to know my students. I had a great time helping other teachers learn how to use technology, and coming up with ideas for how they could integrate it into their classrooms. In 2009, I left teaching for health reasons. I have auto immune disorders (Rheumatoid Arthritis and Raynaud’s Syndrome) and in 2009, my rheumatologist recommended that I take a year off to see if my body would stop attacking itself. Get away from the germs the wreak havoc on the system.
So, that is what I did. I took a year off, fully anticipating that this little experiment would not work and that I would be back in the classroom by 2010.
In 2008 (I know, I’m doing this in the wrong order!), I was teaching my stude...
“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and again to hang a question mark on the things you take for granted.”
This. This quote is one of my new very favorite quotes ever! This is where innovation lives. In the question marks.
Too often in education, we talk about innovation as if it is something that we’ve created and something that can be owned. We talk about innovation in steps and processes and we make it into something it isn’t. And so when we talk about education reform, the conversation gets centered on the wrong things: rigor, standards, tests, Race to the Top!, No Child Left Behind!, technology, better teachers, more tests. Things that end up actually adding layers between us and what we fight for: students. But educational innovation doesn’t live in any of these.
Innovation is a shift in mindset. It is hanging the question mark on things taken for granted.
The problem with education reform is that we keep attempting to change surface level systems and hoping for deep systemic change as a result. What we actually end up with is new standards, new curricula (usually replacing one one-size-fits-all with another one-size-fits-all), new technology initiatives, more professional development, added “rigorous” expectations, new standardized tests, new assessment systems, and new buzz words. If you’ve been involved in education for any amount of time, you begin to see a pattern emerge. As a society, we seem to be always searching for the next best thing that is going to “fix” education; it quickly begins to feel like a broken record. I’ve often heard education veterans lament about how this is, “just one more new program.” It will get hyped, change the way everything is done, but the end result will be the same: countless professional development dollars will have been spent, there wi...
So often in education we hear the excuse: it’s too expensive to implement. There just isn’t any money. Budgets are tight.
That’s not an excuse I’m willing to accept. I know what is possible when you start with NO money. I know that lives are changed as a result of followed dreams and passion. I know that real success has nothing to do with a bank account.
While money is helpful, it isn’t what is holding you back.
I started Anastasis Academy with no money. No endowments, no big donors, no one backing us financially. We started with ZERO dollars. Well, not exactly zero, we spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $140 out of our own pockets to start a school. That $140 paid for copies of information for the info nights we held, it paid for our business license, and it paid for our domain name and one month of hosting. We hired teachers before we knew the money would be there. We leased space from a church trusting that we woul...
“Imagine every student has a tireless personal tutor, an artificially intelligent and inexhaustible companion that magically knows everything, knows the student, and helps her learn what she needs to know.”
Jose Ferreira, the CEO of Knewton, has made this artificially intelligent companion a reality for k-12 students. He has partnered with three curriculum companies including Pearson, MacMillan, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as part of his vision for making Knewton the adaptive learning tool that will make textbooks obsolete. This “adaptive learning will help each user find the exact right piece of content needed, in the exact right format, at the exact right time, based on previous patterns of use… Knewton, at base, is a recommendation engine but for learning. Rather than the set of all Web pages or all movies, the learning data set...
|Posted originally on Dreams of Education on March 26, 2013|
I’ve been thinking a lot about how we talk about education. How we prove that learning has taken place. Inevitably we talk about standards, measures, awards, grades, success. Anastasis has given me the freedom to completely redefine education. There are no limits, except of my own making. I get to decide how to talk about education. This would be easy if I was doing all of this in a vacuum, but I’m not. There are stakeholders who care about how I talk about education. Parents, teachers, students, higher education.
The problem, I’m discovering, is that when we talk about education, we talk about it too narrowly. It is possible to be very committed, data driven, tech savvy, “21st century,” and yet be working against the kind of learning that is transformative. We can have all the right tools, the measures, the awards and test score evidence and still not really see. We can miss the...
I come from a family of entrepreneurs. If it doesn’t exist or it can be done better, that is what you do. This mind-set can be a bit of a curse…once I get an idea in my head, it is like a broken record that plays over and over until I do something about it. My dad is prime example of this, he started Koostik with a styrofoam cup and an iPhone. Once the idea was there, it stayed until he saw it realized…in this case that means a growing company and product in Restoration Hardware and Red Envelope. He is awesome.
For me this process started as I dug through curriculum and worked to supplement it with technology tools. The idea was to “fill” the gaps with technology tools that would make the curriculum work better for students. As I went through publisher after publisher, I started realizing that the problem wasn’t a lack of technology (if you have read this blog for any amount of time...