Finally, Consultants to Schools Who Actually Know What They Are Talking About
It's simply not possible.
Or is it?
Let's say you're a middle school principal. How can you engage a large group of consultants, each having anywhere between six to eight years of classroom experience, and have them conduct 90 days of observation between the beginning of the school year and November wherein they generate insights on improving curriculum, culture, and student morale? By the way, they won't charge your school district a dime. And the solutions they provide will be exactly what your school needs.
Do you write a grant to some well-intentioned reform-minded foundation?
Do you cajole some pro-bono work out of a prestigious consulting group?
Did I mention that the consultants are between 12 and 14 years old?
That's because they're your own students. The students in schools represent a crack consulting team just waiting to be tapped into. By their very nature they're observing, interacting, and working with teachers, staff and other students every day. All that's left for principals and teachers to do is extract the students' "consultant report," which is obtained by merely tuning in -- tuning in to the students' voice, that is. By asking students questions about their experiences, needs and desires, educators can gain greater understanding about what's important to students, leading to imaginative solutions on issues schools are facing.
In the book The Third Teacher: 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching & Learning, item 71 on the list is "Consult with Kids. Survey students about what they would like to study, then design spaces that let them learn what they want to learn" (p. 225). As Bruce Mau notes, "This is actually a pretty radical idea: to open source school, to say 'well, maybe the best source of information on this practice is the participants themselves.' We assume they don't know anything, and I think that's the biggest mistake we make" (p. 225).
As they say at the Stanford dSchool, "good design is grounded in a deep understanding of the person for whom you are designing."
If you want to solve a problem that has anything to do with the students in your school, ask some students what they'd do. You'll be surprised and delighted by the insights they offer.
[Image credit: Flickr user daveparker]
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Research by neuroscientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory helps explain how the brain regulates arousal.
The big day has come: You are taking your road test to get your driver's license. As you start your mom's car with a stern-faced evaluator in the passenger seat, you know you'll need to be alert but not so excited that you make mistakes. Even if you are simultaneously sleep-deprived and full of nervous energy, you need your brain to moderate your level of arousal so that you do your best.
A disturbing interview given by a KGB defector in 1984 describes America of today and outlines four stages of mass brainwashing used by the KGB.
- Bezmenov described this process as "a great brainwashing" which has four basic stages.
- The first stage is called "demoralization" which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve.
- According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country.
When these companies compete, in the current system, the people lose.
- When a company reaches the top of the ladder, they typically kick it away so that others cannot climb up on it. The aim? So that another company can't compete.
- When this phenomenon happens in the pharmaceutical world, companies quickly apply for broad protection of their patents, which can last up to 20 years, and fence off research areas for others. The result of this? They stay at the top of the ladder, at the cost of everyday people benefitting from increased competition.
- Since companies have worked out how to legally game the system, Amin argues we need to get rid of this "one size fits all" system, which treats product innovation the same as product invention. Companies should still receive an incentive for coming up with new products, he says, but not 20 years if the product is the result of "tweaking" an existing one.
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