Monday, January 31, 2011

But How Will Kids Know? – Learning with out Testing

Kate Fridkis blogs at Un-schooled and Eat the Damn Cake.

People ask me how kids will know how good they are at something without tests. It’s a question I get a lot. Possibly because I go through life saying things like, “Can you believe how many tests kids have to take? How much better would the world be if they were drinking milkshakes instead?”

Milkshakes are so good.

OK, I don’t really think kids should drink milkshakes ALL the time. But I think they’d be better off drinking them than taking tests. Especially if they are chocolate peanut butter milkshakes.

I’m a little sad right now, because my mom just gave me this huge lecture about how I need to stop drinking so much diet soda, because it’s definitely going to kill me. I don’t remember why. Calcium was involved. Maybe my bones are going to turn to dust really soon. And diet soda was my healthiest option, since water tastes completely boring to me. She doesn’t know how close I am to drinking milkshakes all the time.
(Vanilla peanut butter is pretty amazing, too. Source)

But that’s not the point.

People explain to me how important tests are, for the kids. They emphasize that part. For the kids. You know, rather than for the maniacal pleasure of power-drunk adults who think tests are hilarious? Pick C., sucker! Fill in the C bubble on #29! You know you want to! DOO IT!!!!!!!! Actually, they mean rather than for maintaining the balance of society, which, they are pretty sure, tests are also good at.

I love the question about kids and tests. Because it’s really easy to answer. Which makes me feel smart.

I say, “Do you take tests?”

They say, “Not anymore,” and smile like, “You’ve got to be kidding…”

I say, “Are you great at everything you do?”

They say, “Um…No. Obviously.” And laugh uncomfortably.

I say, “How do you know?”

Here’s what I think kids should do instead of taking tests AND drinking milkshakes: They should work on real projects. What I mean by “real” is something that has an impact on a larger world than the classroom, the teacher, or a grade. This can mean things like a brief apprenticeship with a chosen expert (it’s amazing how willing and excited adults are to accept apprentices. Everyone loves to feel that they’re doing something important enough to teach), starting a little business, or putting together an art show that will have an opening, with everyone in the community invited. It can mean a huge number of things.

Interesting things happen when kids undertake real projects. They have specific real-life models for success to emulate, they feel very responsible for their participation and production, since other people will be impacted by it, their work is often fluid, so that when they do something wrong, they can correct it without that mistake defining the outcome of the entire project. They learn skills that apply to the real world, and they often actually learn them, rather than memorizing and forgetting, because they HAVE to learn them. Just memorizing how to lay a floor or coordinate topics on a newspaper page isn’t enough. And it doesn’t really work that way in any case. Because these skills are much more comprehensive than the sets of often disconnected facts that tests require students to hold briefly in their heads.

I took a lot of tests in college. I barely remember a thing I was supposed to have learned. I apprenticed with a local artist when I was fourteen, and I remember everything she said about light, because after she said those things, I had to teach them to a class of young children. And I had to demonstrate them myself, with paint.

I spent a day as a photographer’s assistant, and I learned immediately how bad I was at standing for hours on end, and how uncomfortable I was with answering the phone for his studio. I also didn’t like hauling the garbage out back and having to order lunch for everyone. He was taking photos of dogs in giant pink satin ribbon collars, their proud owners dipping in to fluff them and hovering anxiously on the margins. I learned so much about myself that day, and I never went back. I knew exactly how bad I’d been at practically everything that happened in that environment, and while I also knew that I was interested in photography, it was clearly not the right place to learn more.

It’s really, really easy to tell when you aren’t doing something well. But that information doesn’t always cause you to want to get better. It depends what the subject is. What the project is. What the reward might be. When the reward is another good grade and a higher GPA, it’s easy for students to get good at tests without having to deal very often with how good they are at doing things in the world. And when your world is about doing well on tests, what happens when you find yourself doing something totally different? Something that requires real mastery of a subject or practical thinking or creativity? You might figure out just how to handle the situation. Or you might not know how to fail and keep going until you get it right. You might not realize what a big deal it is to be responsible for other people. you might not have learned how good you are at… life.

(I followed this dragonfly around a stream bed for an hour or more before I finally got this shot. I took a lot of terrible pictures first. And I didn’t have to answer any phones at all.)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Compute Long and Prosper; 18 Ways to Keep your Computer Healthy


by Jacob Gutnicki

Since the dawn of the computer age we have often complained about computers that are non-responsive, crashing constantly, and susceptible to all the other technical glitches that are a part of a computing life. Despite all of our computing advances, it seems that viruses, trojan horses, and corrupt flash drives still rampage our desktops and laptops.
I often get phone calls that include the following talking points; “How did this happen? My computer used to work great. Why does my computer stutter when I play my favorite Flash game or You Tube movie? I only purchased that computer 3 years ago! Help!!!”
In truth, there are a number of simple techniques that can great improve your computing experience. With this in mind, I will share with you a few of these techniques.
Buy a Mac- At first glance; many people will shake their head at this advice. Aren’t Macs costly? While this is true, one must carefully analyze the total cost of ownership. Total Cost of Ownership studies will often look at the shelf life of the computer, break/fix issues, as well as other items. With this in mind, consider the following;
o Macs by in large typically outlive their PC counterparts by a ratio of 3:1.
o Macs (for the most part) do not fall victim to the assortment of viruses, Trojan horses, and malware prevalent in the Internet age.
o The standard and 3 year warranty services for Mac computers have been rated higher than its PC counterparts for the past 10 years. For more on this story read http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-10467112-37.html
Avoid the Warm Reboot- What would you do if your computer crashes or appears to be crashing? Do you hold the power button forcing it to reboot? Hopefully not. Do you Force Quit the application? Perhaps. Are there other considerations to make? Start by taking a deep breath and not panicking. Carefully, determine the source of the alleged crash. Are you on the Internet? If you are on the Internet, wait one moment. Perhaps the computer is responding slowly to a media rich web site. Usually, patience with the web site will resolve that problem. If the application is still not responsive, try holding down the Control Key down and toggling through the applications using the Tab key. (Mac users should hold down the Apple key and toggle through the applications using the Tab key.) If this does not work, one can proceed to Force Quit the application using the Control- Alt-Delete combination for Windows users and Apple-Option-Escape for Mac users. Hopefully, the Force Quitting technique will work. If it does work, do not re-launch the application. Instead, restart the computer as applications that are re-launched after a crash are usually in a volatile state.
Avoid the Cold Reboot!!- A cold reboot occurs when someone pulls the plug out of the computer and plugs it back in. Seriously, didn’t your parents tell you to not play with electricity?
Don’t Yank The Flash Drive- Computer users frequently do not properly remove their flash drive. They tend to yank the drive out and wonder why their files become corrupt.
Back Up Your Work- The cost of portable flash drives continue to drop. With this in mind, get into the habit of backing up your work. If you forgot your flash drive, you can still back up your work using Drop Box. What is Drop Box? Drop Box provides you with a 2 gigabyte web based account for storing your files; free of charge. Drop Box can be accessed at http://www.dropbox.com.
Purchase a boatload of memory- Whether you purchase a PC or Mac, do not skimp on memory. I usually increase the memory by a factor of 4. For example, nowadays-standard units include 1 GB of memory. Therefore, I recommend 4 GB of memory. This in turn will allow your computer to use real memory as opposed to virtual memory thereby improving your computing experience. This will also assure that your machine will continue to perform well; even in its twilight years.
Use a Powered USB Hub- Thanks to the advent of USB we enjoy peripherals such as printers, scanners, cameras iPods, and other devices that are minimal in its cost. This is made possible by the low power structure inherent in the USB architecture. However, low powered devices are prone to crashing and corruption. If a Flash Drive is connected to a USB powered hub, your flash drive or USB peripheral is far less likely to lose power and become corrupt.
Check your Cable Connections- Sometimes a mouse or keyboard cable becomes loose during active use. It is always worth checking before panicking.
Clean your Peripherals- Over time our computers tends to gather all kinds of dust and gunk that even impact the responsiveness of the optical mouse. So… get a dry cloth and start cleaning!
Limit your Upgrades- As a general rule; it is not a good idea to upgrade your machine’s software more than 2 major versions. If your machine has limited RAM; it is not a good idea to upgrade your machine’s software more than 1 major version. It is also a good idea to check the manufacturers recommendations prior to upgrading software on your machine. For example, my G5 tower from 2003 is running Photoshop CS3, iLife 06, Tiger 10.4.11, and so on. In each case, I did not upgrade any software more than 2 major versions. The notable exception is the Internet browser, iTunes application, and Acrobat Reader. However, I did check hardware and memory requirements prior to installing the software. This in turn has enabled my G5 to continue performing effectively even during its eighth year of service.
Install the Latest Updaters- Software programs like MS Office tend to release updaters on a regular basis that address software bugs and security issues. Needless to say these updaters help improve the computer’s performance.
Shutdown the Computer at Least Once a Week- Regardless of your computer’s age and operating system all computer systems suffer from what is called a “memory leak”. Simply put, as a user opens and closes applications the computer is supposed to return the memory being used. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Computers used for a sustained time leak memory thereby slowing its responsiveness. This holds true for both Mac and Windows machines. That being said, hit the RESTART button.
Computers and Coffee are not a good idea- I think this one is self-explanatory. So… please, have some mercy on your computer.
Provide adequate power to your computer- If you are a teacher in a computer lab and your computers are involuntary powering down its time to examine the wiring in your room and check whether you have too many devices connected to one power source. If the problem still persists, your classroom might need an electrical upgrade.
Don’t Open Strange E-Mails- If you do not know the person, hit DELETE. If the e-mail is titled “Check this Out”, hit DELETE. Even if you know the person, hit DELETE as they probably were scammed with the same e-mail.
Look, before you Install- Most software packages will include a description of hardware requirements as well as a ”Known Software Problems” document. Read this document, it could save you some misery.
Practice Caution with New Technology- New products typically are inundated with hardware problems. For example, the iPhone4 initially had many problems with dropped phone calls. Similarly, iPads still have problems with its printing feature as it only supports select printers. With this in mind, it is always a good idea to wait a minimum of 3 months before buying a new product. Of course if it is a Microsoft product wait 3 years. (just kidding… or maybe not)
Be Careful About What You Download- Simply put, downloading software, media, or documents from an unknown file sharing site is a terrible idea. It is both illegal and an invite to hackers to infect your computer.
Editor’s Note- These are some tips that can promote healthy computing. This is by no means a complete list and with that I encourage to add your own ideas via the comments link below.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A District by District Evaluation of Educational Productivity

To spark a national dialogue about educational productivity, The Center for American Progress has attempted to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of almost every major school district in the country. They have created an interactive map to look at how much learning a district produces for every dollar spent, after controlling for factors such as cost of living and students in poverty. You can use the map to see how each district performs and click on the tabs to toggle between our three different approaches. They call them Basic ROI, Adjusted ROI, and Predicted Index.

Of course, I've made it pretty clear, that I think current measurements are flawed, however the data is rather interesting.  Especially looking at per pupil spending.  What do I recommend as an assessment measure?  Well, tracking where students end up as adults of course...Then measuring items such as happiness, joy, career satisfaction, life satisfaction, and impact they felt school had on contributing to their success.

Til then if you want to see the ROI with our current measures, check it out by clicking on the map below. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

10 Ways Technology Supports 21st Century Learners in Being Self Directed

Life in the 21st century provides a whole-new world of opportunities for self-directed, passion-driven, personalized learning.  Educators who are ready to move on from teaching the way they were taught, and administrators who will let them, can begin supporting students using tools and strategies available to the 21st century learner. 

  1. Personal Learning Networks
    Perhaps the core of passion driven, self-directed learning is the development of personal learning networks which can be developed through blogs, social networks like Facebook, Ning, or Group.ly, Twitter, and discussion boards.  Read
    5 Things You Can Do to Begin Developing Your Personal Learning Network, The PLN Matures. The Progression of the 21st Century Personal Learning Network and 5 Ways to Build Your 1.0 and 2.0 Personal Learning Network to learn how to get started.
  2. Tweet to Connect with Experts
    If you have an interest, Twitter is the place to connect with others who share that interest.  Simply do a search on Twitter for the topic and you’ll be connected to a many others interested in the same topic. Follow them. Reply to them. Use the search term in your Tweets and others interested in that topic will see your Tweet.  Students can even have their own newspapers created instantly about their topic of interest using a service called
    Paper.li.   
  3. Skype an Expert
    You can
    make your classroom a global communication center for free with Skype by connecting with anyone around the world about topics of interests.  These experts may be people you have conversations with or perhaps they are people you learn from.  Author, blogevangelist, teacher, thought leader and father, Will Richarson uses Skype to supplement his children’s learning. Paul Bogush, an 8th grade social studies teacher not only supports his students in doing this, they take it up a notch with a program they produce called Lunchtime Leaders.  Students interview leaders from around the world on their opinions about what they should do to be prepared for the future. Paul and his students do most of their interviews using Skype and they turn the interviews into Podcast. You can listen to their podcasts at http://lunchtimeleaders.podbean.com.  where students choose to interview experts in topics they are interested in and then turn their interview into a podcast.  
  4. Free Online Educational Resources
    Learn about whatever you want with
    free online education resources (OER).  The purpose of this coordinated movement is to move toward a common goal of providing quality courses for learning for free. “At the heart of the movement toward Open Educational Resources is the simple and powerful idea that the world’s knowledge is a public good and that technology in general, and the Worldwide Web in particular, provide an extraordinary opportunity for everyone to share, use, and re-use knowledge.” – The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Many of these resources do not require a teacher for students to learn.  
  5. Online Learning
    When given the choice,
    students often say they LOVE learning online and not just because it lets them sleep in.  They find that they are exposed to many more possible courses in alignment with areas of interest and moving at their own pace without distractions of classmates enables them to learn more effectively.  Many public schools, universities, and colleges are starting to jump on board and companies like Zulama.com are popping up which offer High-interest online courses students can’t find at their high school. Access to unique subjects they’re passionate about makes Zulama a place teenagers want to go to learn. With Zulama, students connect, teachers simplify, parents stay involved, and schools get ahead.
  6. Authentic Publishing In the 21st century, irrelevant hand-it-in teaching should be a thing of the past.  If a student’s work has no authentic audience beyond the teacher, it shouldn’t be assigned.  A student who is self-motivated to do something, counts, btw.  A teacher directing him/her to do it does not.  Most 21st century kids love to share with real audiences and are doing it outside school already.  Inside school, work should not sit lifeless on a computer, or even just the school website.  Support students in finding real audiences for their work in their Global Community.  If you’re not sure how find out by reading, “21st Century Educators Don’t Say, “Hand It In.” They say, “Publish It!”
  7. Use YouTube and iTunes to Learn Anything It’s rather outrageous that many schools still block one of the most powerful tools for learning available for students today. YouTube.  While iTunes is a powerful option for learners on the go, YouTube adds the visual element, making learning even more powerful and FREE!  With YouTube Education and iTunes University, more and more colleges, universities, and their professors are sharing content for free.  While some schools are paying for pre-packaged online learning options, they’re really all already out there for free.  Empower teachers and/or students to design their own learning and learn about whatever they want with these free resources.  Not only are these good resources to go to learn from others, they’re also a smart place to ask for help like this student did who needed help with his bowdrill set.  
  8. Passion (or talent) Profiles
    When we start collecting
    profiles of students passions, talents, interests, abilities and learning styles, suddenly students and teachers have an awareness that they may never have considered previously. A passion (or talent) profile is not only value for teachers and student self-awareness, it is also a helpful tool for students to connect with others who might share a passion.  These students could connect on a topic of interest, collaborate, and share ideas.  These profiles can be purchased using a company like Renzulli learning or they can be made for free with Google Forms and Spreadsheets.  Either way, it’s much easier to differentiate instruction when teachers and students can quickly and easily see where they stand and sort by interest, learning style, talents, or abilities.  
  9. Develop Authentic Learning Portfolios
    When done write ePortfolios can be a powerful tool that not only helps remind students of all their accomplishments, but it also enables them to share these with the world.  In the 21st century, creating an ePortfolio is free and easy.  Student simply select a container (blog, wiki, website, Google site), decide how they’d like to organize it, and then post their work.  I strongly advise against using any paid for portfolio site.  It is important that students have ownership of their own work and that it can travel with them wherever they are.  When it comes to ePortfolios, Helen Barrett is the go-to person.  To learn more, visit her blog
    http://blog.helenbarrett.org where she shares fantastic ideas.  
  10. Empower Students to Assess and Learn Themselves
    The days of teacher as gatekeeper of the answer key or teacher edition are gone!  Educators need to stop hiding and start sharing information with students including enabling them to learn how to assess themselves.  If a student wants to know their reading level, show them how with resources like those you can find
    here.  If a student creates a video, honor the built in authentic assessment like number of views and comments and the child’s ability to find audience.  Show him/her how to share with appropriate audiences and get feedback for improvement.  If a student wants to know how well they might do on a test let them find a test prep review site where they can take practice tests and see how they’ve done.  Empower students to develop their own learning plans and assessments so they can learn and assess independently.  After all, they are the ones who own the learning.  
In our globally connected world, it is no longer acceptable for teachers to teach the way they were taught nor is it okay for administrators to allow it.  It is also no longer acceptable for administrators to take the easy way out and require connected kids to learn in a disconnected environment where they are banned from accessing sites or bringing to school the tools and technologies they love and need to succeed in the world.  In the 21st century, if we truly care about student success we will lift the bans, unblock the filters and connect our students to the world so they can learn effectively. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Story of How I Learned How To Read and Write Without School


Kate Fridkis writes about being a young woman at Eat the Damn Cake and alternative education at Un-schooled.

This is going to be shocking, so please hold on to something steady: kids learn at different paces.

Wait, there’s more…They learn from doing things, rather than just being told about how to do things. And here’s the most terrifying, overwhelming part: they don’t really need to be “taught.”

The Innovative Educator writes about how problematic standardized reading tests are. They fail to measure how well a student will be able to read (which is usually quite well, given some time and support), and instead place enormous amounts of pressure on students to be at the same level as their peers, even when we have plenty of information about how the factors that influence when students will begin to read fluently have nothing to do with the classroom.

And what about writing? Lisa worries that too much emphasis is being placed on formalized written communication. She suggests that writing doesn’t feel relevant for students, because their projects stay within the classroom, rather than relating to the world outside it. They could be writing blogs and columns and letters to the editor. But they write essays that begin with a thesis statement, are followed with two points in defense of the thesis, then a counterpoint, a summary, and a neat conclusion.

She asked me how I learned to write. Which is something I remember much better than I remember a lot of things that happened that long ago.

But first, this is how I learned to read: my parents read to me. All the time.
(My dad was a pro at reading this one. source)

Books were exciting and mysterious and magical. I don’t know a single unschooled kid who didn’t learn to love reading. We learned at different ages, of course, but no one had to take a test, and so no one got left behind.

Teachers are sometimes amazed to learn that a kid who started reading at four and a kid who started learning at twelve will read with the same fluency at thirteen.

As the founder and leader of The Manhattan Free School, Pat Werner recently explained to a group of educators, kids never stop learning. They are learning all along. They don’t “learn to read” the moment when they pick up a book and can sound out the words. They’ve been processing relevant information since they were born, and that moment is only the moment when the information begins to fit together in a way others can plainly observe and categorize.

My mother worked with me, showing me how to shape letters with my pen. And then she gave me a journal. Every day, from the time I turned seven or so, I wrote a sentence or two in my journal. I wrote about my life. What toys I wanted for the next big holiday. Why my brother had hurt my feelings. How much it was snowing. How much I enjoyed going to the Sam’s Club because of the free snacks they gave out. Lots of scintillating, forbidden, and provocative pieces about my secret desire for more ice cream. The subject matter wasn’t the point– what was important was my connection to it.
(I always wanted one that looked like this. source)

Later, when I was nine or so, I wrote stories about stories. Stories inspired by the books we were reading together and I was reading on my own. And I illustrated those stories. There aren’t very many stories from that time in my life that aren’t accompanied by marker and colored pencil sketches of princesses in gowns speckled with fat pearls. I don’t know why, but they always had pearls on their dresses. I think that meant they were really rich.

It seems like I shouldn’t have any concept of grammar. Mom used to sit me down with a purple grammar book, and one with a picture of an owl on the cover. I memorized a string of prepositions once. But we weren’t thorough. And we didn’t need to be. I already knew how to write in complete sentences. Grammar was memorization. It was meaningless. Writing was expression. It was natural.

I learned grammar from every book I read, from the way my parents spoke, from Mom reading over what I wrote and saying, “Why does this sound wrong? What would you change to make it sound right?” Grammar is what sounds right. You know how words fit together when you read for hours every day. You also get pretty good at punctuating.

My very smart schooled friends sometimes make grammar jokes that I don’t get. They reference past participles, dangling modifiers, and synecdoches. I put in a polite laugh and nod to show that I’m educated. And then when I write something that doesn’t seem right I read it aloud. How does it sound?

My grammar isn’t perfect. But not a single college professor has ever had a problem with it. Freshman year, one of them even nominated me for a writing fellowship.

It sounds too simple. How can people learn things if they aren’t taught the proper way? If information isn’t broken down for them into bite-sized, manageable little chunks? It’s almost like magic, and no one seems willing to believe in it. No one seems willing to believe in how much children are capable of learning and doing when they’re permitted to exist in a world where everything is interconnected.

As a kid, everything I wrote was related to my life. Everything I wrote was part of something bigger. It was never an isolated essay, it was part of a collection; a journal, an illustrated fairytale about a larger fairytale with much sturdier binding and better cover design.
Writing was connected to drawing which was connected to reading which was connected to experiencing the world which was connected to fairy princesses. The world could not be separated from writing the world. Even now, I want to write about all of the interesting things I read. Luckily, I no longer have the urge to draw princesses in pearled gowns in the margins.

So Lisa, I hope that helps answer your question.
(source)

Choice!

by Jeff Branzburg

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Helping Students Become Experts at The iSchool

The iSchool which I featured as the Immunization to an Uninteresting Curriculum has become even more interesting!  Their Area of Focus program allows juniors to select a two-year focus for their studies enabling them to really focus on their area of passion.  In it’s first year, the program is already increasing motivation and attracting college interest. This is really something that could/should be done at any school in any grade and likely already is.  I look forward to learning more at this weekend’s Educon conference.  

 

I’d also love to know what other schools are doing to tap into students passions.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Passion (Not Drugs) As Treatment for ADD/ADHD

I’m having a respectful debate with Stephen Glassner on Twitter and over on his blog about the belief I share with Sir Ken Robinson that rather than anesthetizing students labeled with ADD/ADHD instead, we should consider "Fixing Boring Schools, Not Kids Who Are Bored." In my post on the topic I share how both I and 20-something multi-millionaire, Aaron Iba were both labeled as hyperactive/problem children (this was before ADHD had become a widely available condition to have). Yes, we both had issues listening to teachers drone on about things we could care less about, and sitting still all day and listening to 12 years of classes I never signed up for was maddening. Would drugs that dulled mine or his very active brains made this more tolerable? Sure. BUT THAT’S NOT THE ANSWER!

You hear that students with ADHD can’t focus. I say really? If there’s something they’re very passionate about, I’ve seen such individuals focus with laser precision for hours. For Aaron Iba it was computer games. His psychological eval said this was a huge problem. He focused on the games like nothing else mattered. That passion later made him the happy, successful passionate multi-millionaire, living in Australia that he is today. Their advice was to take away such “distractions.”

So, yes, while I acknowledge and agree that drugging kids helps them get through the unnecessary drudgery of school, I contend there is a better solution. The solution is making schools relevant, connected and interesting. As I recently shared in my post "The War on Kids. Zero Tolerance" for many, schools feel like a prison. In fact in the movie when shown photos of prisons and schools it often is impossible to tell the difference with prisons looking more appealing in many cases. While these drugs are helping students survive their days, there's evidence it is damaging their brains. If ADD or ADHD was an available condition when I was in school, I certainly would have been drugged which would have made my brain more dull and my teacher's lives much easier. Same with Aaron Iba and I have no doubt people like Einstein would also have been drugged.

In his post Mr. Glassner complains that while folks like Sir Ken Robinson share the frustration over the failure of schools, there are few answers...just problems shared. So, now I’ll move from the problem to some solutions.

First, purchase the book "The Element - How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything." Angela Maiers has also written a book on the topic of Passion Driven learning. I suggest you purchase that too. I might also recommend following the Twitter Tag #passiondriven

If you're wondering what a passion driven school looks like read
You Can Get a Dalton Education at a NYC Public School
and Immunization for an Uninteresting Curriculum Found at the iSchool and Hey Teacher! Leave Us Kids Alone!!!- There’s A School for That! and Lessons Learned at The Science Leadership Academy.

If you want to know important elements of passion based learning read Preparing Students for Success by Helping Them Discover and Develop Their Passions. If you’re wondering what it looks like when a student is driven by passion read Profile of a Passion-Driven Student.

My prescription for those with ADHD is simple.  Forget the drugs and empower students to pursue and develop their passions...either at their school, at home, or at a school that honors this type of learning.  Only after giving that a try, should meds be considered as treatment.

-----------------------------
Newly added information:
I coincidentally, just found this piece of information about freedom/democracy schooling.
 
My child has been diagnosed with "ADD/ADHD" ; what about him or her?

Experience at democratic free schools indicates that this is not a problem. They find that when children are allowed to expend their excess energy through play, they can then focus. According to John Holt in Learning All the Time, research by specialists in learning disabilities links so-called "perceptual handicaps" with stress. Such research has shown that when students with supposedly severe learning disabilities were placed in a relatively stress-free situation, their disabilities soon vanished. Millions of children in the United States are on prescription medication, sometimes called the "school drug", to control their behavior and promote learning. Democratic free schools have found that there is no longer a perceived need for these drugs when children are not coerced into learning, and when the need to be responsible for their behavior comes from within. The democratic process in particular promotes development of this internalized sense of responsibility for one's own behavior through honest, direct interaction with a community of friends and peers.
 
More newly added information
When I read this doctor's thoughts on ADD/ADHD, I felt as though I had almost plagiarized his words though I had never read them.   
 
 
When parents hear me say that attention deficit disorder is a myth, they sometimes become very upset. They think I'm saying that their kids aren't jumpy, distractible, forgetful, impulsive, or disorganized. That's not what I'm saying at all! It's quite obvious to me that our nation's children have probably never been so hyperactive. 

The question is, what accounts for this? Is it a medical disorder called ADD (or ADHD as it's sometimes called)? 

I think not. I think instead that what we've learned to call ADD is instead a number of things all jumbled up together under this simplistic label. Kids can be hyperactive for any number of reasons: because they're anxious or depressed, because they're allergic to milk, because they're bored with school, because they have a different kind of mind and aren't being challenged, because they're overstimulated from television and video games.

I could go on. The point is that the ADD label makes it too easy to ignore what might be going on beneath the surface of things.
 
Studies suggest that many children hate taking Ritalin, yet you don't see this reported anywhere in the ADD literature. For kids who have that wide-focus attention span (e.g. paying attention to lots of different things rather than one single stimulus}, Ritalin can close them down to a fine point of attention, which is great for doing a math page, but can hamper more divergent forms of thinking associated with creativity. 
 
I'm very concerned that the literature on ADD has so much to say about what these kids can't do, and virtually nothing about what they can do. In my own informal research, I've seen countless examples of kids labeled ADD who are musicians, dancers, athletes, leaders, and creative in many other ways. Why don't we see these kids as basically healthy and creative individuals who may not function as well in certain kinds of environments (for example, the worksheet wasteland of many classrooms), but do great when given a chance to learn in their own way. Many kids labeled ADD in fact do great when they're fixing an automobile, or doing experiments in their nature lab, or performing in a theater piece. Many kids with behavior difficulties grow up to become great individuals. People like Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Sara Bernhardt, Louie Armstrong, and Albert Einstein. Why don't we start using models of growth to describe our highly energetic kids and throw this ADD disease label in the trash basket where it belongs?
 
In Rid of Him Chris Mercogliano co-director of the Albany Free School explains
My purpose will be to describe an approach to working with the kinds of kids who would otherwise be controlled by medication in conventional school environments that eliminates the need for any drugs whatsoever. It is not a new approach, but one which has been tested by time in the little school where I have taught for over twenty-five years known simply as the Free School.
Download Dr. Fred Baughman's free report here: ADHD fraud and the chemical holocaust against a generation of children.
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