Learning is transformational, can schooling come close?

February 7, 2011 2 comments

Image credit: University of Gloucestershire

This post has been originally posted at the Cooperative Catalyst. I am reposting here — with minor edits — to broaden the audience and hopefully get additional feedback.

After reading Gatto, I make a distinction between education and schooling. Schooling is, at least in its current form, a way to govern education, but more often than not, education can happen without it — as millions of home-schoolers in US and many other countries and numerous important people through history that didn’t go to school can attest to!

What I came to realize lately is that despite the fact that we mostly think of education and learning to be similar, they’re different in two important aspects. Education and learning are usually described as the acts of acquiring knowledge, behaviors or skills — when defining education, Wikipedia refers to these as formative effects on the mind, character and physical abilities, but those are just different technical definitions of the same things.

Though learning and education sound like synonyms, learning goes beyond and includes the act of acquiring (or changing) values and preferences. On top of that, learning may involve synthesizing different types of information. I think these two aspects of learning are greatly important to anyone looking at reforming the current schooling system. Moreover, they should be considered by all parents and teachers when thinking about education choices and methods.

I’ll try to explain this with three stories, but before that, let me give you some thoughts to keep in mind when reading the stories.
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There’s no age limit for passion — meet Perry Chen, a 10-yr-old film critic, radio show host, animator…

February 4, 2011 6 comments

Perry Chen with Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim post interview at LA Film Festival, June 2010 -- Photo by Zhu Shen -- © Perry's Previews

When 8 years old Perry Chen entered 3rd grade, his teacher was in for a surprise. Perry was an avid reader and was able to understand the meaning of words at high school level. Instead of drilling him with the same homework practice as expected by an average 3rd grader, the teacher encouraged him to write — and changed his life forever!

Today, less than a month shy of his 11th birthday, Perry is famous as the youngest film critic in the world and gets free passes to screenings of the newest films for kids, interviews movie makers and actors, even joins them on the red carpet. As a young reviewer, he has a unique way of rating movies by giving them starfish and is not looking just for the visual effects and their appeal to kids, but is very interested in the story — particularly the moral message coming out of it.

You would think he’s too excited about being a movie critic, but Perry’s passion doesn’t end with film reviews. He already had an interesting career doing book reviews in the past and recently added restaurant reviews to his growing portfolio. He enjoys drawing and essentially turning any kind of materials into art and have recently ventured into doing animation films. Since his interests are far and wide, there’s no knowing what he may end up doing next! 😉
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The (truth about) fear of change

January 25, 2011 6 comments

25% of my contacts on Linkedin have started in a new job last year

Just over a year ago, on January 24, 2010, I posted the big news to my family and friends — I am starting a blog! Haven’t yet figured out what it was going to be exactly about, but I was convinced it would be another New Year’s resolution that will stay out of the drawer for few months only — before it would go back to the pile of other ideas that for some reason people usually deliberate around the turn of the new year and never truly take the effort to follow up on them. Still, I thought, it would be fun to try — little did I know how much so!
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You’re 14 & grandpa needs help to sell his old camera online – What would you do? Ben Lang chose to start a business!

January 24, 2011 4 comments

Benjamin Lang, at age 14 started selling used goods on eBay - now runs a business online and a very successful blog for young entrepreneurs EpicLaunch.com

How do you become a successful entrepreneur and run your business online if you’re a teenager and the world is in recession? In our interview with Ben Lang, he shares his story and inspires other young kids to pursue their dreams!

Your story started with eBay and a blog. Can you tell us a bit more about it? What or who inspired you to enter the world of entrepreneurship?

It all started when my grandfather asked me if I could sell his camera equipment for him online. I agreed because it sounded interesting and the commission was quite promising. The truth is I made quite a hefty sum from the deal which convinced me to continue. Why not sell for my friends, family and even strangers?

From there it only went uphill. I created a website, started marketing to my network and neighborhood, be it through flyers, business cards and Craigslist. Eventually someone from Channel 12 saw my website and decided to interview me on “Surviving the Economic Crisis.” The video was featured on TV and to this day has over 30,000 views on YouTube.

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Want a chimp for a pet? 10 years old Brandon says you better make one smile!

January 19, 2011 2 comments

Brandon Wood and Dr. Goodall ~ Copyright ©JGI 2010

We are so pleased to introduce 10 years old Brandon Wood — another greatly inspiring kid in our interview series!

As most 10 years old boys, Brandon has a great love for animals, but not in the way you would expect. He is passionate about saving his favorites — our closest cousins among the Great Apes — from captivity!

Back in 2009, Brandon decided he wanted a chimp as a pet. Being curios if that is possible, he decided to research and learn more about these amazing animals, but what he found out caused a change of heart — instead of getting one as a pet, he decided he wanted to help save those held in captivity!

Since then, Brandon has been successfully raising awareness about the bad conditions in which chimps held in captivity for biomedical and other research live. He continually raises money to organize adoptions and transfer for such chimps to the Save the Chimps Sanctuary using his Make a Chimp Smile blog.

Brandon recently spoke at the TEDxYouth@TampaBay conference organized on Universal Children’s Day on November 20, 2010 (see video below) and is actively engaged with people and organizations that are interested in helping these endangered species!
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Our split identities

January 14, 2011 4 comments

Today, I had a chance to meet Judge Robert Watt, an appointed Citizenship Judge for Vancouver, BC. Yes, you guessed it, I got the honor to sing “O Canada, our home and native land” together with him, my family and 77 other immigrants to Canada — who like us, have come to this country about 4-5 years ago, leaving their home land, extended families, even parents, brothers and sisters, seeking a better life!

As Judge Robert was using his charming baritone and inspiring words to warm our hearts giving us one of the best motivational speeches I have ever listened to and congratulating us on our wise choice to pick Canada as our new home, I started thinking — Why is it that we care so much which piece of land we are going to call home country? Is there an intrinsic value that one could claim when choosing to “belong” to this and not another part of the world?

“Albania, Argentina, Bangladesh, …, Macedonia, Myanmar, … United Stated of America, Vietnam” — Judge Robert’s voice still echoes in my head, as he was reading the 24 countries we, the 77 immigrants, called our home land before coming to Canada … 24 countries!! … What a diversity! … I still can’t grasp the grandeur of this number … it means that there were very few countries represented with more than one family in  that room today … For real, the diversity is striking! … It made me appreciate the total number of countries in the world! 😉
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Please don’t take my blanket away!

January 13, 2011 Leave a comment

This post was originally posted at the Cooperative Catalyst.

Image credit: Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts

As I was taking my younger daughter to her daycare this morning, making sure I don’t forget her favorite stuffed toy — Piglet, of Winnie the Pooh fame 😉 — a sequence of pictures flashed in front of my eyes:

The warmth of our home, causing my brain to recall familiar smells from the baking in the oven and family voices mixing in a symphony of noise my ears could enjoy forever, making me forgetting all about the milk my daughters spilled this morning on the floor as they were chasing around the dining table.

The inviting playfulness of my daughter’s daycare, with the chaos of toys, crayons, drawings providing happy food to my soul, despite the fact I am late for a meeting and getting to the exit door seems to take forever as me and a handful of other parents try to avoid stepping on the little fingers that seem to be in almost every square foot of the floor.

The messy desk at work is full of family photos, yellowing old paper with some uplifting message I must have printed ages ago that says I should chin up to challenges , my daughters’ pile of drawings and crafts mixed up with project plans and architecture diagrams — all bringing comfort to my emotional brain, even though I feel stressed as I can’t find that report I printed for the customer meeting in 5 minutes.

Suddenly, my older daughter’s tidy classroom full of organized boxes, lined up tables and chairs, sorted books, etc. looked strangely uncomfortable. As I was puzzling why I didn’t noticed that 30 minutes ago as I was dropping her off first before driving to the daycare, I realized I couldn’t see any object in the classroom that had emotional value for me or that I could connect with any of the other three pictures that popped in my brain just before.
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