Learning Revolution

The Education Strikes Back

Just posting to say that original content might be at a premium over the next few days as the education system has found a temporary way of stopping EduCoup in its tracks: A glut of assignments. I’ll still be posting something of value every day but it’ll be short and sweet. You see, I have three essays and a feature article due in for college over the next two weeks so I’m going to focus on getting those essays done as they’re hanging over me at the moment.

I won’t deny allegations of hypocrisy in my availing of a system I’m criticizing so much. However I will say that I did drop out of secondary school for six months to try to control my own learning, but I had absolutely no support and the usual teenage problems, and just found I couldn’t do it without the support of anyone around me, and having just begun using the internet, that wasn’t much of a help either.

College has had its pros though – meeting an amazing girlfriend and making great friends too, but its all been on the social side of things. Somehow I don’t think me meeting my girlfriend in college is a great argument for other people to pursue a degree, there are plenty of other groups and organizations one can use to socialize.

In analysing the value of college I would focus more on the fact that I have assignments now which are distracting me and preventing me from actual journalistic work that could help me make an impact and a wage – the two main ‘official’ reasons people go to college. If I could have found a way of living in a city and directing my own learning there without agreeing to go to college, I certainly would have. The essays I’ve been assigned are on arbitrary topics like ‘food in society’, which would be more interesting except that anything you say has to be backed up by a source and consequently you are not allowed say anything original. These essays are simply glorified and excessively large exercises in learning not to plagiarise/to reference. Which is indeed a useful skill when it doesn’t interfere with you doing your most bountiful work. Luckily I can write the feature article on whatever I want so that doesn’t get in the way.

Anyway, the point I would like to make is that doing a college course has only served to strengthen my belief that while college is not without merit, self directed learning has far more potential to tap the learner’s full potential. Unfortunately at the moment personally directed education does not have the independent framework, accreditation or cultural familiarity to be a seriously considered option for many. Including, for the moment, myself.

Thanks for all the comments, likes and support. I’m absolutely chuffed and love hearing from people and discussing ideas together.

The Flaws In Our Education System

Here’s a quick list of what I see as some of the main flaws in our education system. By ‘Our Education System’ I mean Ireland, China, the US, India and many others – there may be some differences but most education systems today and throughout the short history of public education, suffer from these shortcomings to some degree or another. Pardon the pun.

Some of our Education Systems most glaring flaws:

  • Standardized Testing: Life isn’t standardized. Does anyone care what Einsteins results were? No, because he dropped out when he was fifteen to go change the world. Do all the A grade college grads working in retail and bars care that their scores were so good when they’re not in the career they wanted? This is taking the joy out of learning and placing undue pressure on students at a time in their lives where they need to be given room to explore and experiment.
  • Excessive Rote Learning: The whole of human knowledge is a couple of clicks away, we need to be learning how to process and analyse all that info, not memorize so much of it when computers are so much more efficient at that. Even in Ireland where education has been as sleepy and out of touch as anywhere else, there is a growing awareness for the need to change, even in the political and educational establishments themselves.
  • Factory based education. Universal public education came about when adult factory workers became disgruntled with all the cheap labour children and teens taking their jobs. A compromise was made: An education system that would produce well-drilled, obedient factory workers was put in place. The workers got their jobs back, and the factory owners got a steady production line of unquestioning, reliable drones.
  • Teacher Training: While we all know wonderfully passionate and hardworking teachers, too often I or my friends were treated as obstacles to an end of week pay-cheque. Teacher training needs to change to shift the emphasis from one right answer, being obedient and memorizing, to asking questions, coming up with different ideas and viewpoints, and creating. Aswell as teachers loving the kids and wanting with all their hearts to help them succeed. For an example in the kinds of teachers we need, check out this post by Jamie Lee from Kids at SWiTCH

I experienced this alot in school myself. Though not with that specific question.

The following article on Forbes touches on the majority of the above points and I’d recommend reading it.

I’ll be following this post up with a similar list of possible solutions over the next couple of days, so stay tuned!

What, in your opinion, are the education systems’ flaws?

Ken Robinson Ignites The Spark Of The Learning Revolution


The first of Ken Robinsons spoken word anthems on the movement to defend the qualities that make children so wonderful, that are under attack by our education systems. Its funny, moving, eye opening and inspirational – watch it.

Unoccupy Schools To Occupy Minds?

Education systems worldwide are in drastic need of not just reform but a complete re-imagining. But with so much red tape in the way of such change, its hard to see it happening before we see the full potential of yet another generation go to waste. So perhaps its time for the many students and educators and parents who are disillusioned with current practice, to make themselves heard, and make their concerns visible.

Why not hold a day (or more) of organized truancy –  hear me out – where rather than going off smoking, drinking and causing trouble – we show the educational establishment how it should be done. We try out methods that fit the neuroscience of how we learn – action based learning, peer-to-peer learning, the use of technology. Where we make learning fun and colorful and spectacular. All we need is a large enough space with an internet connection and we can hold our own conference where students, parents and educators discuss what they really want and need from education and how best we can achieve that.

This would be far from an angry ‘spit-in-the-eye’ of authority type event, but I do think it should happen on a school day. That way more people are likely to sit up and take notice, and when they see that we’re all learning more from these protests, or conferences, than we are at school – they’re bound to be more sympathetic to our cause. Like Mark Twain said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” And we all want to raise historically quotable younglings right?

Seriously though – maybe a number of similar events could be coordinated around the world?Perhaps big names like Ken Robinson and Seth Godin would partake. Perhaps education ministers would show up. But we can’t let it turn into a speech fest with luminaries hogging the limelight. They’re already luminaries, they don’t need lights to stand out. It should be a place where the big names speak to the dissenting students and old school teachers at the same time, and all on equal footing.

Recently the world became alive with discussion as the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement spread around the world. Angry at the disparities between rich and poor, or as their slogans put it, “The 1% and the 99%”, the Occupy Movement as a whole experienced a lot of internal debate over what it actually wanted. Some members pointed at Income inequality and corruption on Wall St. While others debated whether the movement should have any concrete demands at all. Some on-the-ground participants I spoke to myself in Dublin seemed to have no more than a vague but powerful feeling of dissatisfaction at ‘the system’. All they knew was they longed for something more humane.

People like this attracted a lot of criticism, as Bob Dylan sang “I’ll know my song well before I start singing”. These people, it was said, should have known exactly what they wanted or what was wrong before they started demanding our attention with protests. But had they not had the courage to go out on the streets and give expression to their gut feeling of unease, how many dinner table conversations would not have happened? How many new and interesting thoughts would have gone unprovoked? And how many times less might the status quo have been challenged? Later in his career Dylan also sang “One of these days and it won’t be long, I’m going down in the valley to sing my song, I’m gonna sing it loud, sing it strong, let the echo decide if I was right or wrong.”

The courage of those people in expressing themselves, even if it wasn’t in the most articulate fashion, started a conversation and brought the issues into focus. Bringing an issue into the focus of the collective social consciousness is a very important step towards solving it.

That’s what we need to do – bring the problem of education into the public focus. Give it some pizzaz! If we can invite some official types and celebrities to give the protest or conference or whatever more news worthiness than all the better! But this is a grassroots movement and its down to teachers and learners and parents on the ground to take our fate into our own hands, not look to so-called higher-ups to fix things for us.

Please leave your thoughts, suggestions and criticisms in the comments. Providing the best education possible is not a pet peeve of some boarded up blogger, its important to our whole society! It affects every one of our nearest and dearest, and as for our enemies – perhaps we’d get along if we’d learned more effectively from the beginning how to communicate and treat others? So get involved, as Edmund Burke said. “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for men(and women) of good will to do nothing”.

The Learning Revolution On Facebook

There are now over a billion Facebook users worldwide. That means that if Facebook were a country, it would be right up there with India and China –

I wonder what Facebooks GDP and other stats would be were we to measure its population like that of a country?

Anyway, Its important that the Learning Revolution has a platform in such a huge forum. And there is indeed a facebook group called ‘The learning revolution’. It has over two thousand members, and although that may seem no more than a phytoplankton in the ocean compared to a billion facebook members, the group posts a steady stream of quality content on innovation in education.

It would be nice to see a jump in numbers though, as the page is of good quality. Perhaps there could be room for a website fully dedicated to the learning revolution some time in the future? It all depends on the demand and interest of people like you and me.

So if you’re looking for a good resource on this stuff, head on over to BookFace and check out ‘The Learning Revolution’ Group.

PS. I’m working on a ‘Get Involved’ Page at the moment, and ways for this movement to translate from theory into action. If you have any suggestions please leave a comment. Thank you!

Think your teenager is naturally unruly? Think again!

This ‘Born To Learn’ Animation shows how we’re wired to explore, not rebel. The school system suppresses our natural drive to learn and experiment resulting in the ‘grumpy teen’ stereotype, hanging out by corners with their hoods up and heads down. Teenagers aren’t wired to be moody, distant and rude – but they are wired to question things and experiment.

So when we try to prevent that natural urge which has been so important to the survival of our race, we end up with some pissed off adolescents. Its important to encourage teen curiousity by providing a safety net for exploration. Students questioning their teacher should be a valued trait, not a punishable crime. What if we had questioned economists and bankers? We could have significantly lowered the damage from the recession. Or in Ireland, where I ‘m from, if we’d challenged the authority of the Catholic Church we could have prevented the abuse of who knows how many children. The rebellious teen is part of the engine of societal progress, and should be mentored, not disciplined. Its time we reconsidered where the fault lies in a young persons misbehaviour. With them? Or with the environments and attitudes they’ve grown up around?

What do you think?

Seth Godin’s Stop Stealing Dreams Ted Talk

An excellent talk given by one of the worlds’ most successful marketers Seth Godin. From the origins of public education as a rehearsal for factory work to eight cures for our current educational conundrums, Godin is in full flow here. Don’t forget to check out his free pdf/e-book – The Stop Stealing Dreams Manifesto. There is a version for your PC monitor to be e-mailed aswell as a version for printing.

Baring in mind plenty of people including myself would pay twenty quid for this I’d recommend grabbing it as it is free.

Please leave a comment or follow and let’s be the change we want to see in the world!