Zest is enthusiasm for and enjoyment of something. John Holt wrote in 1967 that since we don't don't what people need to know in the future, "we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned." This makes a lot of sense and is similar to lifelong learning.
The authors break down zest for learning into two bodies of knowledge: psychology of flourishing (psychology traits, theories of intelligence, positive psychology and psychology of motivation) and education for flourishing (purpose and pedagogy). So they cover a lot of varied but interrelated topics. This entry will be more of a brief summary of key ideas.
The psychological traits needed for zest can be summed up with the mnemonic OCEAN: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Embracing novel experiences, risk taking and taking on new challenges is a big part of zest.
Theories of intelligence related to zest are cognition, experiential learning, deliberate practice (expertise) and experience flow. Zestful learners find meaning, both in body and mind. Experiential learning began with John Dewey, Kurt Lewin and Jean Piaget, and the experiential learning cycle involves thinking, acting, experiencing and reflecting. The authors argue that the learning that happens in classrooms is as valuable as "real-life" learning. As much as teamwork and collaboration is held in high esteem in learning and society, deliberate practice is often best done alone, as in the case of elite athletes (Anders Ericsson). There is some disagreement with deliberate practice and flow, coined by Csikszentmihalyi. Angela Duckworth, who focuses on grit, explains that deliberate practice helps in preparation, but in the performance flow happens. Cal Newport and Jordan Peterson feel that flow might keep people in thrall but not actually improving. Duckworth is more positive about flow and feels grit is necessary to keep in the flow. Grit comes through four ways: 1) cultivate your interests; 2) develop a habit of daily challenge-exceeding-skill practice; 3) connect your work to a purpose beyond yourself; 4) learn to hope when all is lost!
Positive psychology studies well-being, self-actualization and flow. Similar to flow is the notion of "the zone" (Ken Robinson) when activities are "completely absorbing," A word of caution regarding the self-esteem movement, based on dispositions and character strengths, which carried to the extreme can lead to narcissism. The authors believe self-esteem based not on subjective feelings but rather the innate value and dignity of human beings is a wiser approach. Peterson and Seligman have identified 24 character strengths, based on six virtues, related to zest: 1) wisdom and knowledge; 2) courage; 3) humanity; 4) justice; 5) temperance; 6) transcendence. Carol Dweck's growth mindset also connects to this area of positive psychology; as well, maintaining optimism, physical activity and social well-being are all important aspects of zest.
The psychology of motivation is related to performance (though there are differences, of course). Performance has been turned into an equation by Campbell and Pritchard (1976):
performance = f (aptitude level x skill level x understanding of the task x choice to expend effort x choice to persist x choice of degree of effort to expend x facilitating and inhibiting conditions not under the control of the individual)
Four key factors for motivation are based on two habits:
1) performing well (feedback from good performance; expectation of good performance; goals worth pursuing) and 2) finding meaning (a sense of purpose)
Maslow (1970) identified 15 characteristics of people who are able to self-actualise. The following 8 are related to zest:
Source: Zest for Learning, Bill Lucas & Ellen Spencer, 2020
Long gone are the days where students sat in rows and learned the same thing at the same time, usually from the authority standing in the front of the classroom. Now, fast-forward in time, and Kallick and Zmuda describe the four key attributes to personalized learning--the clear contrast to learning of the past.
Voice: Students participate in the creation of the learning, because it’s really their learning. Most people do not like to be told what to do, at least not all the time. Instead of being passive passengers heading in one direction, they are often in the driver’s seat, determining their own journey and pathway and destination.
Co-Creation: Students work with the teacher to develop the entire learning plan, from start to finish: what do they want to learn?; how will it be assessed?; how will they learn it?
Social Construction: The notion that “no man is an island” (John Donne) aptly describes student learning in the classroom; it is an social affair and construction of knowledge, according to Vygotsky. Finally, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts (Aristotle), as collaboration and cooperation amongst fellow peers can lead to much greater triumphs and accomplishments.
Self-Discovery: Creating self-aware and self-directed learners is the ultimate goal for teachers. If students can figure out their strengths and weaknesses, and determine how to improve and grow, then they will be set for life.
Differences Between Individualization, Differentiation and Personalized Learning
Students are assigned the learning tasks, and they use technology to accomplish those tasks. Khan Academy would be one such example. In blended learning environments, there may be some co-creation and social construction, but learners still have little say in the work they do.
Today’s classroom houses learners varying in skills, readiness and interest. Students can select topics (content), how to learn (process) and create the final form of learning (product). However, the teacher is still leading the design and management of the learning experience.
Kallick and Costa encourage the use of the 16 Habits of Mind, in conjunction with personalized learning, in order to fully understand their learning, and engage in higher level thinking and performing.
16 Habits of Mind:
What I notice about these habits of mind are the similarities to the core competencies of the BC curriculum: communication, critical and creative thinking, positive personal and cultural identity, personal awareness and responsibility, and social responsibility.
Source: Students at the Center, Bena Kallick & Allison Zmuda, 2017
Joel Hellermark, 21, the founder of Swedish edtech startup Sana Labs believes so. And he’s not the only one: Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, apparently are intrigued with Hellermark. There are three good reasons why: the education industry is worth $6 trillion worldwide; only 2% of education is digital; and AI learning in education is in its infancy.
Instead of the traditional rules-based AI, Sana Labs is using deep neural networks, a strand of machine learning. Continuously analyzing historical data, it is a more efficient and effective form of AI. Recently it won Duolingo’s Global AI competition in language learning. Now Hellermark believes his company is ready to use its AI-learning platform for all types of learning, not just language, and believes students will finish their studies in half the time, or be 25 to 30 percent more engaged.
Whether or not Sana Labs will be an AI leader in education remains to be seen, but AI in education will definitely continue to grow at an accelerated rate in upcoming years.
Source: Tom Turula, Business Insider Australia
Richard Watson works at Imperial College London. His main thesis in the chapter Education and Knowledge is that technology and education don’t play well together. I will highlight some of the research and evidence he uses to support his thesis.
According to a 2015 OECD study of students in 70 countries, the high-achieving schools use less technology, and those who do receive lower results.
He feels the recent focus on STEM only creates employees with a narrow interest that meets the goal-driven, economy-serving nature of education.
Former CEO of Lockheed Martin, Norman Augustine, said his most successful employees were those who could read and write clearly, and think broadly. Watson worries that devices keep young minds from being reflective and thinking deeply.
A study by the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the University of Waterloo says a smarter curriculum would eliminate grades and exams and move towards portfolios of projects.
Patricia Greenfield, a psychology professor at UCLA, led a study of pre-teens (10-12 years old) who spent five days at a nature camp with no screens compared to a control group who had the usual amount of available technology. She found those at camp were much more adept at understanding others’ emotions and reading nonverbal cues.
Slow education stresses more inquiry-led and reflective learning. It involves more calm, attentive ways of thinking, along with deep reading and listening. Time is an important element, as kids learn at different rates and adults continue to participate in lifelong learning. Slow education is about interest and understanding, not memorization and facts. It is primarily people-centric and relationship-centered.
Sleep is critical for young minds and bodies. With TVs and computers and devices in the bedroom, screen time can barely be monitored, especially for teenagers. A study in Norway found using cell phones before bed doubles the change for teens to have a bad night’s sleep. Many teens sleep only five hours, checking their social media at all hours of the night. Some high schools are experimenting with later start times with improved results.
Ultimately, Watson feels that ideal students need the following qualities and values (not technology-based): resilience, empathy, compassion, honesty, humility, hard work, understanding, synthesizing and communication.
Source: Richard Watson, Digital vs Human, 2016
Futurist Ray Kurzweil feels that technology is always a double-edged sword; a fire warms us, but it can also burn down the house. He thinks that the most powerful ones--biotech, nanotech, and AI--are potentially extinction-level risks. (Tesla's Elon Musk agrees with that AI could lead to disastrous results.) Nonetheless, Kurzweil feels technology has done more good than harm overall. Besides, it's probably impossible to put the genie back in the bottle anyways.
In terms of job loss to technology and AI, Kurzweil responds by saying that all jobs have been eliminated several times in human history. In 1900, 38% of people worked on farms and 25% in factories. By 2015, only 2% work on farms and 9% in factories. So there has always been widespread job loss, but new job creation has offset all of those losses. The only uncertainty is what many of these "future" jobs will look like.
Source: Fortune, October 1, 2017, Michal Lev-Ram
According to Frey and Osborne, in 10 to 20 years, the landscape of jobs will change dramatically.
Jobs with 90% or more of being replaced by automation/computers in the near future include telemarketers (#1), library technicians, most clerks, loan officers, models, restaurant cooks, animal breeders, nuclear power reactor operators, manicurists, couriers/messengers, accountants, retail salespeople, tour guides, many technicians, among others.
The top 10 jobs least likely to be replaced by technology/computers are the following:
1. Recreational therapists
2. First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers
3. Emergency management directors
4. Mental health and substance abuse social workers
6. Occupational therapists
7. Orthotists and prosthetists
8. Healthcare social workers
9. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons
10. First-line supervisors of fire fighting and prevention workers
Fortunately, for elementary school teachers, we're ranked #20 with less than a 1% chance of being replaced by a robot in the next 20 years.
An important thought we need to consider as teachers is this: Are we supporting our students to be able to reach their full potential and wholly participate in our future society, with the requisite skills and knowledge?
Source: Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Volume 114, January 2017, Pages 254-280; Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne
The July 22 issue of the Economist covered the wide-ranging and fascinating issue of edtech and machine learning. This revolution is spurred on by advances in artificial intelligence (AI), as well as cognitive science. I will attempt to summarize and highlight the salient points.
What’s interesting is that “adaptive learning” software has been around since the 1970s, but it hasn’t come to a level of usefulness until now with the advancements in computing power. Momentum has built and now there are many schools, software, systems and people all over the world trying to use edtech to improve teaching, learning and schools.
Are teachers about to be replaced by edtech? At the moment, no. Teachers, students and schools are all being augmented by this new wave of technology. As well, there are limitations to edtech: improving the argument in a history essay or finding humour in drama class is still a challenge for machines. And as the 2015 study shows, teachers still play the most critical role in student learning. Having said that, as technology becomes more pervasive, cheaper and especially intelligent (AI), it is probably only a matter of time until teachers may need to consider a career change or early retirement.
Norma Rose Point is a beautifully designed school on the UBC campus, but it’s much more than a pretty face. It exudes innovation, collaboration, engagement and powerful learning. There are three distinctive elements that allows this unique public school to function in such a special way. All three are essential and work seamlessly together. They are the physical learning space, the overarching school philosophy, and teacher and student relationships.
PHYSICAL LEARNING SPACE
The physical space of different “communities” with rooms like the Da Vinci room and outdoor garden space, kitchen space, open spaces, hallways and much more. All spaces are communal in nature. What was interesting was the notion of instructional space at the school; everything, even little crooks and crannies, can be instructional or learning space. Rooms are as flexible as the learning, with folding tables that allow rooms to turn from a science room into a physical exercise space in a matter of minutes.
Most of the philosophy comes from the Innovative Learning Environments Project by the OECD (Centre of Educational Research and Innovation). Learning nowadays is considered socio-constructivist, meaning that in any given context, learning is actively constructed and socially negotiated. The ultimate goal is adaptive expertise--being able to use knowledge and skills in new situations. Adaptive expertise is developed through guided (teacher-led), action (student-led) and experimental (play) learning. This leads into lifelong learning. Learning is also determined by emotion and motivation, so students need to feel positive and confident yet realistic in their learning goals.
The 7 principles of learning are the following:
The building blocks for innovative learning environments are cooperative learning, service learning, technology, home-school partnerships, formative assessment and inquiry-based approaches (project, problem, design).
The school’s motto is “Learners at the Centre” and I think that pretty much sums up what happens in the school. So, anything that doesn’t contribute to learning (books or materials that sit in cardboard boxes) must be taken home. Even the shelves are considered “sacred,” so they must be essential for the teacher. The mission statement goes on to add: To meet learner needs we differentiate instruction, focus on Learner strengths, infuse technology in meaningful ways and collaborate with each other to be the best we can be.
With such a clear and powerful mission statement, and with strong buy-in by teachers, there seems to be a sense of pride, ownership, and joy in striving for success of all students.
TEACHER AND STUDENT RELATIONSHIPS
The professional office space allows for constant collaboration, beyond actual set times, and a weekly timetable helps organize that collaboration into overall teaching goals and plans. Teachers spend only about a third of their time in one learning space, and will often work with a variety of students, depending on the learning that’s happening. Students are often ability grouped, so individualized student learning is targeted.
Inquiry learning is also a key concept at this school. Inquiry learning is student-dependent, and each inquiry is different for each student. This is closely connected with Genius Hour and passion-based learning, as well. I liked how they thought of engaging ideas, such as “Ted Talks,” “Kickstarter,” “Star Wars University,” and “CSI.”
Learning is visible in more ways than one. In the most basic sense, the openness of the learning spaces--classrooms with lots of clear glass and moving doors--allows clear lines of sight of all students. Beyond that, of course, is the notion of taking what students are thinking in their brains and then showing it in a tangible way; for example, electronic and physical portfolios. Also, learning celebrations held every few months are the culmination of that learning. They sound like student-led interviews, but on a much grander and festive scale.
Another interesting relationship was even between students and classroom supervisors. These supervisors are considered staff and treated with respect. Even more so, they help give additional collaborative time to teachers, by leading learning activities like the Daily 5 in classrooms.
Finally, there was emphasis on students being able to self-regulate, using ideas of restorative justice and zones of regulation. If students are struggling with their emotions or conflict with others, then learning will suffer, so they need the tools and skills to be able to bring themselves back to the proper state of well-being.
It occurs to me that the layout and design and sharing of materials and tools are reminiscent of kindergarten and early primary. Individuality and personal space, which is keenly represented by a student's desk, does not exist. Instead, tables, floors and the outdoors now represents where learning happens--which is everywhere. What's equally interesting in my mind is that if you look at the most creative, innovative, in particular high-tech companies, you will find a similar layout and design: open space concept, communal living and working, bright lighting, and all-inclusive campus look and feel. In other words, it feels like home, not a place of work (even though you are working hard, in most cases!) Of course, individuality and a sense of uniqueness clearly exists, with their portfolio systems, differentiated learning, ability groups, and more.
Technology is a big part of the school, with a ratio of about 3:1 iPads currently, and probably lower if you include devices from home. They have short-throw projectors, a media room with some desktops and a green screen room. The Learning Resource Centre has a 3-D printer and some computers. What's most interesting is that technology was never really discussed in the two-hour tour session with principal Rosa Fazio. Maybe because it had become second nature or because it was naturally integrated into the entire learning system. It was simply another tool used for research, presentations, expression and creativity, but it never superseded other types of tools. I think the belief that "learners are at the centre" is the key, and while they "infuse technology in meaningful ways" according to their mission statement, their mindset is that learning comes from all areas of life, not simply technology.
Lisa Brahms and Peter Wardrip, University of Pittsburgh researchers, have recognized learning practices in making.
1) Inquire: openness and curiosity
2) Tinker: "purposeful play, risk-taking, testing" using a variety of tools, materials and processes
3) Seek and Share Resources: sharing knowledge and expertise
4) Hack and Repurpose: reuse and combine components in new ways
5) Express Intent: find one's passion and identity
6) Develop Fluency: gain confidence in one's ability through learning and practice
7) Simplify and Complexify: gain understanding of new ways to create meaningful things
Source: Free To Make, Dale Dougherty, 2016
Scott Gilmore wrote an interesting article on manufacturing. The good news is manufacturing jobs are returning to North America. The bad news is that the work is being done by robots.
As we continue to make machines smarter with machine learning and artificial intelligence, they're able to do the jobs that at one point we thought could not be doable. But then again, we live the era of computers that have beaten the world chess champion, Jeopardy champion, and the Go champion.
Autonomous transport trucks are hitting the highways shortly, which could replace over a quarter of a million drivers in Canada (the 2nd most common job for men) and about 9 million jobs in the US.
Henry Siu, professor at UBC specializing in automation has an interesting solution to these future losses, which I found fascinating as a teacher. He suggested avoiding STEM-related disciplines. In other words, these graduates are only contributing and speeding up the process of their own future demise. Instead, a more open-ended arts degree might be the way to go. Students need to be able to think laterally, creatively, and outside the box. That is the kind of thinking that computers will not be able to do for quite some time.
Source: Macleans, February 2017
Daniel H. Lee
This blog will be dedicated to sharing in three areas: happenings in my classroom and school; analysis and distillation of other educators' wealth of knowledge in various texts; insights from other disciplines and areas of expertise that relate and connect with educational practices.