Book Review: Humanizing the Education Machine

When I ask you to think about what problem you want to solve, I am asking you to take ownership of your learning. I am asking you to begin to create mastery for the most critical skills you will need. I want to give you the opportunity to think about purpose.Rex Miller, Humanizing the Education Machine, Location 2,722

What do you remember about your own high school experience?  I can sing a song that includes all of the helping verbs and recognize most of the periodic table.  Those two pieces of information are helpful…but not life changing.  What continues to be life changing from my high school graduation are the teachers and coaches that took an interest in me.  They noticed me.  They encouraged me to a higher standard.  I remember a high school principal that lived the Christian life in front of me day in and day out.  A godly basketball coach that clearly shared the gospel with me through his leadership in FCA.  The investment of those men and women truly changed the course of my entire eternity.  And their investment led me to my own calling in life…to invest in the hearts and minds of young men and women and those that teach and coach them.

Humanizing the Education Machine is a look at education from a group of people who feel like education should be done better.  And the best part about the group that participated in these discussions is that they weren’t all educators.  We have to open up this conversation and consider more perspectives.  We have to begin with the end in mind.  What is best for our students?  AND what is best for our teachers?  I don’t feel like those have to be mutually exclusive.  I firmly believe that the best schools are the ones where you have joy-filled teachers who have the time they need to thoughtfully invest in the students the Lord has placed in their care.  I know this because I see it happen on a pretty regular basis at the school I have the privilege of serving at.  Do we have room to grow?  YES…in fact the day that we say we don’t have room to grow is the day that we write our own letter of resignation.  Education that matters is education that impacts eternity.

I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those notes below…

  • You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. —R. Buckminster Fuller Location: 601
  • Public education does what it was designed to do. And in a previous era, that served America very well. With the passing of that era the model has become obsolete. Location: 611
  • The Education Machine does not have the capacity to care. And learning requires people who care. Location: 619
  • Digital technology is disrupting traditional power centers by distributing knowledge to anyone who choses to join this historical opportunity. Location: 684
  • Dan Pink describes as the three elements of total motivation: autonomy, purpose, and mastery. Location: 774
  • Then I saw that our conversation kept looping back to. .. the kids. Everyone in the room knew that the students are the whole point of education! Yet, it seems that the current state of K–12 education is about anything and everything but the kids. Location: 930
  • As we talked, the notion of “obsolete” education began to steer us into a different conversation and tone. We seemed to sail past consternation, recrimination, agitation, and seething frustration. From the circular debates we found a new rhythm in the form of a “from–to” stanza. The conversation took on an improvisational flow generating a clear cascade of insights.+ From tests to mastery+ From memorization to application+ From activity checklist to activities with purpose+ From custodial to engaged+ From competition to collaboration+ From achievement to character+ From college-ready to life-ready+ From fail-safe to safe-fail+ From batched learning to tailored learning Location: 961
  • + From compliance to agency
  • + From lagging indicators to leading indicators
  • + Extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation
  • + From individual to team player
  • + From taking directions to taking initiative
  • + From answers to inquiry
  • + From mind to mindfulness
  • + From content to context
  • + From Gutenberg to Google
  • What kind of learning experiences and environments enable kids to thrive? Location: 970
  • Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead Location: 1,005
  • The beauty of new questions is that they change the framework of our thinking; they also take everyone beyond their own wheelhouses. And that tends to make people less rigid, more respectful, and more cooperative. Location: 1,017
  • We should never forget that a child was the first one who saw that the emperor had no clothes. Location: 1,090
  • Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. —H. G. Wells Location: 1,094
  • Process is simply a proxy for the ethos behind it. However, that ethos must be examined over and over in order to keep our tools and processes in alignment with it. Location: 1,114
  • Attempting to run a Google race in a Gutenberg buggy is a futile strategy. We won’t be able to spend enough, test enough, train enough, hire enough, or hype enough. We can no longer keep our promise to the kids, for whom we ostensibly built the system. This generation and future generations have been scammed. Location: 1,184
  • It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. —Albert Einstein Location: 1,211
  • The Heart of Learning Learning is a uniquely human experience. Individuals are unique and learning engages that uniqueness. Curiosity is the gyroscope of learning and creativity. Life application is far more valuable than memorization and testing. The seed of learning requires care and hope. Learning is naturally valuable and intrinsically rewarding. Personal initiative supersedes compliance. Location: 1,259
  • The Education Machine Prefers and prioritizes achievement over character. When institutions exceed human scale they drive toward efficiency. The obsession with high stakes testing often denies students the safety to fail. Efficiency removes agency and common sense. Efficient systems can deliver good service but can no longer care. Every system has a perverse logic. When it exceeds human scale it begins to create the opposite of what it was originally designed for. Public education is a monopoly and no monopoly has ever reformed itself. Location: 1,265
  • Well-schooled does not equal well-educated. Fifty percent of kids are at risk. That is a crushing indictment. Zip code outweighs funding and programs in predicting success. Teacher and student disengagement is the product of the Education Machine. Kids know the difference between care and detachment. If both students and teachers are disengaged, then what’s the point of maintaining business as usual? Location: 1,272
  • The New World of Learning We have departed from high content and are now in a high concept and context volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA)5 world. That new world requires new skills of critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration. We believe that inquiry—teams, projects, and life relevance—define the context for learning. We should restore character and virtue by weaving it into the context of our learning, not viewing them as isolated subjects. We believe that learning will have to begin at the cradle to extend to competency in order to reflect world realities and deliver social justice. Technology, as it continues to lower costs and expand access, will continue to shift learning from the teacher at the front of the class to collaborative student-centered patterns. Location: 1,277
  • The “What Works” Revolution Holistic and locally led initiatives will resolve our program-rich and system-poor approaches to reform. The answers to providing enriched learning reside in the community and among its stakeholders. Creating social capital is the least expensive and most powerful lever for transformation. Millions spent in early education saves billions in later intervention. Location: 1,285
  • “What are kids actually walking away with at the end of their K-12 experience?” Location: 1,325
  • Education is the transmission of civilization. Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned again by each new generation. —David Kearns, former chair of Xerox Corporation Location: 1,430
  • ‘What are you learning?’ ‘Why are you learning it?’ ‘Why is it important?’ ‘How does this relate to what you’ve been learning in class?’” Location: 1,538
  • What is built and what endures represent the true test of human character. Location: 1,572
  • Culture is what everyone (in a company, family, school, association, an athletic team, or any other group) does when leadership is not present, watching, or directing. Location: 1,654
  • Culture is the real issue. It starts there. Culture is what everyone (in a company, family, school, association, an athletic team, or any other group) does when leadership is not present, watching, or directing. It represents, not the rules, but the collective set of “shared basic assumptions.” Culture is the “habits of the heart.” Location: 1,663
  • Vision not only means an inspired look into the future, it also means to see the present, clearly and realistically. Location: 1,676
  • If you run an education system based on standardization and conformity that suppresses individuality, imagination, and creativity, don’t be surprised if that’s what it does. —Ken Robinson Location: 1,713
  • We’re stuck in a zone your model calls “well-schooled but poorly educated.” We are meeting and exceeding requirements for testing, graduation levels, and college prep. But we’re not producing twenty-first century–ready kids. —Brian Dassler Location: 1,728
  • Our colleges are among the best in the world. We’re simply training them to provide the best nineteenth-century education possible. It’s no wonder they are unprepared for a Google world. Location: 1,773
  • History becomes an astonishing succession of new media toppling old empires by repatterning perceptions of time and space.1 —Michael Schrage Location: 1,923
  • When our communication tools change, our perceptions change. Location: 1,944
  • When the primary means of storing and distributing information changes, everything changes. Location: 1,949
  • education as an institution has been able to insulate its power structure and preserve its mindset and traditions from a rapidly changing world. Location: 1,989
  • What is your value proposition in a content-abundant world? Location: 2,026
  • We all—scientists and teachers—seem to be trapped within the silos of our disciplines and the dominant media environment that shaped us. Location: 2,039
  • Digital media opens up the world through search. Search then leads to connecting. When connected communication becomes interconnected, it leads to dialogue and sharing and then to cooperation. Cooperation leads to creating together; that grows into collaboration. Collaboration leads to community. Location: 2,156
  • Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring. . . . It’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen. —Clay Shirky Location: 2,290
  • “. . . Design Thinking is neither art nor science nor religion. It is the capacity, ultimately, for integrative thinking.” —Tim Brown, Change by Design Location: 2,366
  • “What if you could schedule time at a school Genius Bar to get help on a project or assignment?” Location: 2,397
  • Futuring utilizes different dimensions; the feasible, the possible, the plausible and the imaginable. Location: 2,506
  • The question is not what a classroom or school will look like in 30 years. It is whether it will exist at all in its current form. —Brian Cahill Location: 2,523
  • It is easier to build strong children than to fix broken men. —Frederick Douglass Location: 2,632
  • Often we ask our students the wrong question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I don’t like this question. First, there is a very good chance your “job” doesn’t exist yet. Instead, I want to ask you, “What problem do you want to solve?” —Jaime Casap Location: 2,716
  • When I ask you to think about what problem you want to solve, I am asking you to take ownership of your learning. I am asking you to begin to create mastery for the most critical skills you will need. I want to give you the opportunity to think about purpose. Location: 2,722
  • Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him and let him know that you trust him. —Booker T. Washington Location: 3,021
  • By design, institutions can deliver services, but they cannot care. Location: 3,023
  • Humanizing the Education Machine and taming the shadow beast of reform must begin by recognizing that learning is fundamentally human and humans are unique. Location: 3,063
  • “. . . a student’s ability to learn is deeply impacted by the quality of his or her attachment to teachers and peers.” —Lou Cozolino Location: 3,328
  • We are social creatures with brains attuned to those around us. This means that we should seriously consider placing the same emphasis on social and emotional learning in the classroom as we do on memorizing facts and problem solving. —Lou Cozolino, Professor of Psychology at Pepperdine Location: 3,389
  • Research suggests that our kids are highly influenced by their teachers’ personalities. Let’s make sure our teachers are emotionally and socially healthy! —Lisa Miller, Homeschool Educator Location: 3,406
  • Social and emotional literacy is the healing art that provides an open and adaptable brain, a brain that is eager and able to learn. The science that restores the over-stressed and traumatized mind is the same science that prepares all minds for deeper learning. This leads us to a discussion about student engagement, which describes the shift from externally motivated learning to the internal joy of learning. Engagement can also lead to a deeper level of absorption called flow. Location: 3,615
  • Shadow culture is happy to outlast, outlive, act out, passively resist, and even sabotage a new strategy to preserve itself. Location: 3,704
  • Never naming the shadow culture is why so many mission and value statements sound and feel hollow. Location: 3,751
  • If we apply the lens of culture to the larger challenge of the Education Machine we clearly see its true shadow nature. The machine values high test scores, following instructions, sitting still, and conformity. It consistently produces anxiety, insecurity, unfairness, loneliness, boredom, inflexibility, and gaming the system. The machine is impatient, unforgiving, and capricious. Location: 3,890
  • . . . technology keeps moving forward, which makes it easier for the artists to tell their stories. . . . —George Lucas Location: 3,903
  • If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking. —Buckminster Fuller Location: 3,986
  • Ken Robinson concludes, “The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”2 Location: 4,004
  • Our comfort zone acts as the choke valve controlling the fuel of learning to our students. Location: 4,021
  • Game designers are obsessed with emotion. How do we create the emotions that we want gamers to feel, and how can we really make it this intense, emotional experience?”7 —Jane McGonigal Location: 4,167
  • Wonder is the beginning of wisdom. —Socrates Location: 4,395
  • Children want to learn to the degree that they are unable to distinguish learning from fun. They keep this attitude until we adults convince them that learning is not fun. —Gina Shapira Location: 4,556
  • Do solutions that address the extremes and those on the margins hold insights for us all? Location: 4,572
  • If our mission in education is to prepare future-ready students, we will need a dramatic shift in our approach to designing our learning environments. Our school buildings can be used as catalysts for positive change and reinforcements of a future-ready culture, or they can impede our best intentions. Location: 4,739
  • Knowledge is power and enthusiasm pulls the switch. —Steve Droke Location: 4,761
  • Imagine having the opportunity to do what you naturally do best, and to do that every day. Location: 4,819
  • Intelligence is not to make no mistakes, but quickly to see how to make them good. —Bertolt Brecht Location: 4,865
  • “What do successful and happy people do differently?” Location: 4,911
  • The research is clear. By focusing on what people do naturally well, they flourish and perform. Location: 4,941
  • Common Traits of Engaged Learning Environments In our work across the nation, we identified eight common traits evident in highly engaged learning environments. They created close-knit tribal communities, thereby providing a safe, positive, and personalized learning environment. They provided hands-on active learning activities and environments. Teachers embraced their new roles as learning experience designers and learning facilitators. Several of the schools include multiage classrooms and kids with learning differences within an atmosphere of acceptance and mutual support. It was marvelous to see and hear directly from the kids what they valued from an inclusive classroom experience. Each school had a central philosophy that built on kid’s strengths. Teachers were trained to focus on bright spots instead of an emphasis on where their students fall short. Two schools, Birdville and Del Norte, took this to the next level, using assessment tools to better understand each child’s unique mix of talents. The curriculum was designed to use relevant and often local topics and issues. All used a variation of a “maker” approach to learning. They required students to design and produce content integrating several modes of learning; research, team dynamics, prototyping, testing, analysis, complex problem solving, script writing, videography, design, lab testing, production, and presentation. The Momentous Institute, Joy School, Shelton, and DaVerse Lounge succeed by creating a holistic experience of social and emotional learning: they apply brain science in practical and accessible ways to the teaching of at-risk and traumatized kids. Location: 5,019
  • Communication led to conversation, then to common interest, and on to coordination and collaboration. The whole process led to a deepened sense of community. Location: 5,369
  • That is part of our Stakeholder Engagement Process. Everyone in town has an investment, a stake, in what happens with our staff and our students. Location: 5,575

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