Coconut Thought Pieces and Experiments

Twenty-first century skills: Are they just the same old story?

This article was published in a slightly different form in Intrepid News 18 June 2021. There is something insidious about pushing schools to change so they can prepare students for jobs that do not yet exist, for problem-solving to address threats to productivity, or for new business models with geographically and culturally distributed workforces. There [...]

It’s Time to Move Beyond Student-Centered Approaches

I would venture to offer that people who advocate for a more student-centered approach to education—grossly simplified as one based on students having choice and voice in what to learn, how to learn it, and how to demonstrate understanding—do so as a form of rejection of the traditional curriculum based on some combination of the [...]

If you are stuck in student-centered approaches, you might be contributing to the problem (and the meta-crisis)

Take a moment to look at the model below. What does it represent for you? What do you see? An army command structure? The way a laptop is made of components and subcomponents? A galaxy cluster containing hundreds of galaxies, which in turn contain hundreds of billions of individual solar systems? Where does your imagination [...]

A Curriculum of Kindness

This article was inspired by my conversations with Louka Parry and David Penberg. It was published in IntrepidEd News on 1 October 2021. Sometimes I fixate on a subject or idea and find myself buying a bunch of books and watching videos to feed my curiosity and further my understanding of a single topic. Recently, [...]

A Learning system that values questions not answers

What if instead of an education system based on “show what you know,” which can discourage curiosity and creativity because of the right answer syndrome, what if we built a learning system that conceived achievement as the quality of questions the learner asks, not what they are asked to know? The power of this learning system of questions is in how it would foster curiosity and creativity, because if a learner stops asking questions, they stop learning.

Embracing the Interconnectedness of Learning

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” —John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club So much space is taken up rebuking the Industrial Revolutionary model of education that still inspires most schools today. You can hear, watch, and read people questioning why it [...]

What if schools became intergenerational learning spaces?

This article was also published on 28 August 2021 in IntrepidEd News. This may sound odd, but I love calling for help when my computer decides to go rogue, not following the plan that I so carefully and naively laid out before class. I fumble a bit with the cursor and click the same icon [...]

What if we used Portfolios of Impact to evidence learning, thinking, and action?

This article was published in Intrepid Ed News on 10 August 2021. Our lives take different courses based on the decisions concerning us made by people we often don’t even know. This is because selection processes that are out of our control determine what will happen. Most people taste this process for the first time [...]

What if we created a Curriculum for the Commons?

This article was originally published in Intrepid Ed News on 4 June 2021 under the title "Student Pathways into Curriculum: Chaotic or Empowering?" We justify our need for a set curriculum by invoking our responsibility to prepare students for the future, expose them to ideas that will make them respectable well-rounded citizens, and equip them [...]

How Could Ethics Guide a New Purpose for Education?

This article was originally published on 21 May 2021 in Intrepid Ed News. Every once in a while, a report comes out from a behemoth transnational organization that rings alarm bells, warning us about how the education system is not equipping young minds to meet the challenges of tomorrow. A lengthy document outlines the skills [...]

Shenpa—Avoiding hooks by asking questions

Conversation with a friend will only bear good fruit of knowledge when both think only of the matter under consideration and forget that they are friends.—Friedrich Nietzsche  This is more a reflective piece than an article on pedagogy. It does pertain to leadership, but mostly relationships with others and ourselves. I am an introvert. I [...]

Moving Beyond School

“A new scientific truth doesn’t triumph by convincing opponents and making them see the light, but rather its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”—Max Planck (1858-1947), German theoretical physicist, discoverer of energy quanta and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918. It seems like I [...]

Bio Scale (A Response to Jason Preater)

This is a response to Jason Preater’s thoughtful and considered article Human Scale. I am writing this in the same spirit as Jason; I don’t propose to “have the right answers and welcome your ideas.” I realize that many of these issues are addressed in superficial, generalized ways, but I am writing an article not [...]

The future of our planet depends on imagination, not academics

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.—Karl Marx, XIth Thesis on Feuerbach. I was surprised by how many people failed to seize the satire in my last blog If academics are what matter, let’s just replace teachers with androids. In that article, I proposed that “in [...]

Will androids replace teachers? Maybe, if we keep focusing purely on content knowledge.

This is a satire and a warning. I do not advocate replacing humans with androids… though maybe in some classrooms it would be a good idea. A few months ago I wrote a piece on how a teacher’s job is to teach themselves out of a job. The concept is pretty simple: a teacher should [...]

Trying to measure learning is absurd because there is no dualism between the student and the world

"When we measure something we are forcing an undetermined, undefined world to assume an experimental value. We are not 'measuring' the world, we are creating it." —Niels Bohr, recipient of the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physics and contributor to our understanding of quantum theory. Last week, I led a staff workshop to launch a new [...]

School is Fiction… Let’s Re-write its Story (and Purpose)

My previous blog asked us to go beyond student-centered approaches to learning and teaching and converge divergent thinking toward a common purpose. While the dominant trope in “progressive” education circles goes along the lines that we cannot prepare students for the unknown world of tomorrow, I posit that there are issues that will persist beyond [...]

Incubators in Schools to Unleash Potential Creative Energies

What if schools were places where learners could explore their interests and produce objects, ideas, and initiatives that made impact in the community? What if schools encouraged learners to build networks of mentors and non-age dependent peers and contribute to writing organic, personalized curricula centered around intent, not content? What if students could evidence their [...]

Our Job is to Teach Ourselves out of a Job

My family and I are going through a pretty challenging situation right now. I’ve learned to stay upbeat, be empathetic, and roll with the punches, and the past seven months have brought me a deeper understanding of my role as a parent and educator. While I could tell the narrative of the latest impasse here [...]

Personalization Requires Equity and an Agile Approach

I am one of the hundreds of millions of people who could not have imagined in August 2019 that their lives would be so shaken fewer than twelve months later. The personal and socio-economic devastation has been catastrophic, though there may be hope that this situation will expose the inadequacies, inequalities, and injustices of a [...]

Lessons from Lockdown: What MasterChef teaches us about exceptionality

During this period of lockdown, our family, like many other families, has experienced a shift in lifestyle. Saudi Arabia has largely been under 24-hour confinement and we haven’t left our compound in nine weeks. Finding ways to keep our bodies, minds and spirits engaged and buoyant is increasingly challenging. Add to this another common problem: [...]

Flipping the Flipped Classroom

I find it puzzling how the “flipped classroom” is so often presented as a new groundbreaking and transformative idea, with the potential to unlock the power of formative assessment and personalized learning. I am not suggesting that exposing students to the material at home and then practicing what they learned in class can’t be useful [...]

Homework May Be the Biggest Impediment to Learning

I am feeling quite a bit of anxiety, stress, and confusion as I type these words and my feelings have nothing to do with COVID, well, not directly anyway. I am tense because it is mid-afternoon and my son Nico hasn’t started on his school remote learning modules. He tells me he will and I [...]

This is the Chance for our Kids to Write their Own Curriculum

The silver lining around the coronavirus pandemic is that there is sense of coming together amongst people from all parts of the world and this has translated into efforts to support, help, and listen to one another. Social media is full of messages from educators sharing or asking for ideas and resources to meet the [...]

For (Deeper) Learning to Occur, Students Need to Know Why They’re Learning Something

If ever we ask a student "why do you need to know this?" and he doesn't know (or can't come up with anything more than "for the test"), we need to stop and re-think what went wrong, no matter what the child's age. If the student doesn't know why they're "learning" something, they probably can't [...]