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Learning at its Best

Android and Antibodies

This is cross-posted from the Disruption Department Blog, an organization in St. Louis seeking to build a platform that fines inspiration in many of the fine ideas my fellow coopsters are thinking about.

I had a great chat with my good friend and tip-top AP chemistry teacher in St. Louis, Andrew Goodin (@desertdiver).  He’s the perfect kind of friend, always there, and always makes you feel smarter after talking with him.

One of the ideas we fleshed out during our conversation is the type of organization the Disrupt Department will eventually be.

We talked about how we’re a platform, a shared architecture for forward thinking “education developers” to build upon.  This led us to think about how we’re more like Android (google’s mobile operating system), as compared to the modern “urban education reform movement” (standardized testing, strong teacher centered pedagogy, accountability, etc.) being more like apple’s mobile os.

If you’ve ever used either of these platforms, you’ll anticipated the excellent point Mr. Goodin raised next:

“so [like android] taken over by a bunch of crappy apps?”.

Andrew is a funny (and super smart) guy, but he was raising a critical issue behind the tongue in his cheek: with freedom comes risk.

But of course, with greater risk also comes a higher return.  We might be asking a lot to convince people risks are worth taking, especially when many students are so behind in reading and mathematics.  However, it’s the lack of risk taking, the lack of forward thinking ideas, the lack of relationships, and the lack of ability to re imagine what schooling is that keeps these students behind.  We need sustainable solutions.

So how do we mitigate these risks?  The reality of viruses in open systems necessitated anti-virus software, a barrier (created by a 3rd party) that protects a user from malicious applications.  But fear is still the main motivator, and the system isn’t improved by the actions of the program.  The same exact virus could be unleashed on a system.  Anti-virus software is also a zero-sum game.  Protection can sometimes be limiting.  And when people rely on that protection, they’re unlikely to learn how to learn from mistakes they made in the first place.

So we propose we think about systemic response to risk.  Something that learns over time, is organic, and is shared over a large group.

The metaphor we came up with was that of antibodies.  Unlike an antivirus, antibodies respond to an intrusion.  They learn from the makeup of the intrusion, and they make the entire body stronger.  They are produced by a system, that supports the over health of the organism.

As a platform, the Disrupt Department has a similar function: spread risk from ideation and application over an entire community.  But through this process, we can learn from mistakes, we can share our trials, and we can get better as a system.

A more free approach to learning, but protected by the community, and constantly becoming stronger through risk and iteration.

Is it a little scary? Yes.  Is it perfect? No.

But it’s essential.

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About mrsenorhill

Yo soy el profesor de español en la escuela Confluence - Academy Walunt Park.

Discussion

6 thoughts on “Android and Antibodies

  1. wow Gregory.. thank you for sharing that.

    i just finished this book, Faith, Madness and Spontaneous Human Combustion. it was recommended in Paul Hawken’s Blessed Unrest, with was highly recommended by Will Richardson.

    the book is about what immunology teaches us. how the immune system’s job is to determine what is you and what is not you. how if we start being fearful of things.. we quit living.

    connected.
    all of it.
    all of us.

    Posted by monika hardy | July 12, 2011, 1:46 pm
    • Thanks Monika! I’ll pick that book up next week.

      I’m still trying to refine this metaphor; so I think the book will help.

      Schools do the same thing. They define what is and what isn’t you. This is especially true at many urban schools, where you are either a “scholar” (someone who achieves on tests) or not. There hasn’t been a lot of room for students to define who they are independent of a preconstructed schema.

      It’s sad because it’s oftentimes the times students are most excited when we shut them down to “get back on task”.

      Historically, madness has always been an interesting conundrum. There’s a fine line between disorder and pushing the envelope of what society imposes on its less than conventional individuals.

      Posted by mrsenorhill | July 13, 2011, 8:50 am
  2. Greg, as this develops, can you tell us more about how colleagues are protecting one another and their risk taking in challenging the bureaucratic system through the work of yours? How does it look for one Disruption Department member to protect another?

    I’m excited to learn about this -

    All the best,
    C

    Posted by Chad Sansing | July 12, 2011, 6:03 pm
    • Chad,

      I would love to. Thanks as always for reading my posts and responding thoughtfully.

      What you mention is certainly an aspect of what community members involved in the Disruption Department could provide each other.

      One example of this principle in action comes from my own experience. Working together with other teachers at other schools, we’ve been able to implement ideas that run counter to the prevailing pedagogical preferences of our schools.

      Using social networking is a good example of this. It was a difficult sell to instructional coaches at my district to use twitter for learning. Not only did it have to be unblocked, but it also let in a range of “safety” issues (placed in quotes because the nature of these claims was legitimate, but their description was wildly exaggerated).

      However, because I had been working with other teachers at other schools to devise this (both on twitter and at other city public schools), we were able to “protect” ourselves by pointing to the successes of other projects. I was also able to point to the plans teachers and schools had in place while using social networking. I could show the possible outcomes, not just describe the potential upsides.

      Of course, this all still rests on our ability to “sell” ideas to power holders, an idea that doesn’t exactly drip with revolutionary ferver. However, the plan is to continue to log these successes, thereby building up momentum to tip the scale in the direction of deeper, more individualized, more collaborative, more relevant, and more creative learning.

      I will update you in the future as future projects and examples emerge.

      Thanks again!

      Posted by mrsenorhill | July 13, 2011, 9:01 am

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