Coconut Thought Pieces and Experiments

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 [...]

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 [...]

If academics are what matter, let’s just replace teachers with androids

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 [...]

If It Doesn’t Lead to Learning, It’s not Worth Teaching

A couple of weekends ago I surprised my son with a box of Meccano and suggested we build something together. I don’t have a particularly glorious track record in the field of assembly (we won’t discuss the unfortunate table football incident), but I thought that if he and I constructed something together, it would not [...]

How Can We Cultivate Student Leaders Now?

It doesn’t take very long to scroll through LinkedIn to find a post on what makes an effective leader. Great leaders, we are told, are supposed to be empathetic, humble, inspiring, accountable. They should empower others and lead from the back while finding success in other people’s goals and achievements. Leadership should come from everywhere, [...]

Providing the right environment and challenge for academically advanced learners means making an investment in the prosperity of humankind.

In the world of education, the needs of the very brightest learners can all too often be overlooked because it is assumed that they’re the lucky ones. After all, their intelligence gives them a head start in life, doesn’t it? We may tell ourselves, “These smart kids don’t even need teachers because they can just [...]

Stop Commoditizing Students! Let’s Prepare Students to be Agile Now and Tomorrow.

When we define the success of a school based on its test scores, we are doing nothing less than commoditizing students at the expense of learning. Worse, we are perpetuating a system that is already outdated insofar as its entire reason for existence is to prepare students for the future, which it is failing to [...]

Kindness is the Great Leveler

Kindness is all that matters. While grades hinder learning (and don’t even assess it), kindness stays. Kindness has impact. Kindness is the great leveler, no matter what race, socio-economic background, privilege or challenge, we can all be kind. Perhaps we should think more about cultivating kindness and less about what scores our kids get on [...]

Impact and Net Promoter Scores—How we can re-think curricular innovation

There doesn’t seem to be a universal definition of what curricular innovation is all about, even if it’s one of the hottest buzzwords in education. Curricular innovation is often associated with student-centered experiences, learner empowerment, creation over consumption (or regurgitation), and preparing kids for the unknown. Of course in some circles this raises the question, [...]

Innovation vs. Tradition – who decides?

This photograph popped up on my iPhone recently and got me thinking about innovative education and the growing tension between preparing students to be future-ready while also retaining more traditional elements of the practices that we believe are beneficial for students and their learning. Is it possible for schools to be innovative in the presence [...]

What if teachers were required to go on externships as part of their professional development?

I have been thinking quite a bit recently (and I am certainly not the only one) about how much of the curriculum delivered in the classroom actually prepares students for success in their professional and personal lives. There is so much discourse out there about 21st-century skills and the preponderance of competency development over knowledge [...]

Measuring impact needs to be part of any assessment strategy

What if we turned assessment upside down and, instead of starting with looking what the student can do or what they know, we started to measure the impact of students' ideas and actions? What if, instead of having assessment center on skills and knowledge in relative isolation (a test, a product, a presentation), we looked [...]

Personalised learning should be our pedagogical response to an unknown future

Cultivating an attitude of life-long learning is key to supporting this generation’s ability to respond to change and to adapt. Alvin Toffler, the late American futurist, explained how the impact of the post-industrial age and its digital revolution is changing the fabric of our societies so rapidly that it is resulting in social confusion, information [...]

Global-Minded Starts with Local-Minded

I am thinking a lot about the ethos of international schools and how so many mission statements want to develop global-minded learners. I think this is wonderful!... but, at the risk of generalizing, I would bet most of the kids in international schools have been exposed to the world for years by living and traveling [...]