80 episodes

Education is at a crossroads, and it’s becoming more and more clear that a full reimagination of school is now needed to best prepare our children for a fast-changing, globally-networked world of learning, work, and life. In our Modern Learners podcast, we discuss how these principles can provide a framework for educational change in your school.

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Education is at a crossroads, and it’s becoming more and more clear that a full reimagination of school is now needed to best prepare our children for a fast-changing, globally-networked world of learning, work, and life. In our Modern Learners podcast, we discuss how these principles can provide a framework for educational change in your school.

    Desmos and the Modern Math Classroom

    Desmos and the Modern Math Classroom

    Today, we welcome Eli Luberoff, founder and CEO of Desmos to the podcast. His math identity began to take shape when he was just four years old, but it didn't help him stay engaged in the k-12 curriculum. To this day, he does not have a high school diploma. He does, however, have a degree from Yale. So how does a high school drop out graduate from Yale and create an ed tech tool that impacts hundreds of thousands of learners around the globe?

    Accessible and Visible

    He set out to make math accessible and visible. He wanted to provide a tool to do math that didn't require a separate, expensive technology when the tech in our pockets had all the necessary computing power. Desmos is most well known for being and online, graphing calculator, and it's free to use. I asked Eli about the business model behind Desmos. We also discussed the modern context of math, and it's impact on math instruction. It doesn't have to be a constant battle of relevance.

    Desmos Teacher Fellow

    Each year Desmos accepts applications for their teacher fellow program. The Desmos fellows gather for an intense weekend of learning face to face, and then the fellowship continues in asynchronous online learning opportunities throughout the year. Here is a link to the application.

    And They Are Doing Curriculum Too?

    Eli mentioned the middle school math curriculum they are piloting in the upcoming school year. I told him we'd invite him back to follow up on that work. Check it out here.

    Did you miss last week's podcast with Conrad Wolfram? It's a good one! He really digs into the importance of computational thinking.

    Be sure to come to Modernlearners.community and either sign up or sign in. We continue the conversation over there. It's 24/7 professional learning at a level that will push you just a bit further than you expect.


    • 40 min
    Conrad Wolfram on the Relevance of Math Education

    Conrad Wolfram on the Relevance of Math Education

    Today's show is the kickoff to our math theme in Modern Learners community. We'll be exploring our beliefs about math education. We'll look at what's working, what's not, and what's possible! Considering the impact that machine learning and AI are having on the world, it's important we start to consider how these fields will impact what our learners need to know and be able to do. In order to move our math classrooms forward in the next decade, we must consider our current practices and really question if they match our beliefs and serve our learners.

    In just a second, I'll be replaying the podcast episode Bruce Dixon recorded with Conrad Wolfram. But before I play that for you, I want to share the stories of my math education that shape my math identity. Math identity is on of the concepts we'll explore in MLC. My math identity started to take shape in the first grade when I was the first one to slam down my pencil with thirteen seconds to spare for the mad minute worksheet. Later that day I won "Around the World" twice. I was a math person! That all changed in eighth grade when my math teacher recommended the Algebra A/B track instead of Algebra. I was not a math person. I've always been self-determined and a little "sassy by design", and I was going to stand for that. I'd just work harder in Algebra, but I definitely wasn't going the down the slow track. Fast forward a couple of years, and I was copying every assignment in my Saxon Algebra II math book. I wasn't the only one, and the answers to the odds were in the back! I wasn't a math person.

    But why wasn't I a math person? What were the conditions in the environment that initiated and nurtured those thoughts? I'm also curious about the implication of those thoughts on my adult life...my parenting, my career choices and options, my finances? What opportunities have I missed out on because I'm not a math person? I really want to know what math classrooms around the world are doing to build every learners math identity. Truth be told, we are all math people. It's time we all work to understand and foster that!

    Conrad Wolfram has been advocating for an overhaul to math curriculum for years. He is the founder and CEO of Wolfram/Alfa and Mathamatica. He is particularly interested in how technology and computation can move our lives and economies forward and in turn how that affects education. He believes math in school is almost totally irrelevant from it's real-world application.

    In this conversation with Bruce, Conrad says there are four parts to using math in real life. They are:

    1. Define the problem

    2. Turn it to symbolic representation if we can

    3. Take questions to answer

    4 Determine what this means and does it make sense

    There is so much to digest after listening to the conversation. Please join us in Modern Learners Community to continue the discourse. Simply click here and sign up or sign in!

    • 49 min
    #77 – Attention Literacy with Alec Couros

    #77 – Attention Literacy with Alec Couros

    It’s hard to believe that we’re entering the holiday season already here in the US. It’s a couple of days before Thanksgiving and the real insanity is about to begin. And most of that insanity stems from the multi-billion dollar month-long war for capturing our attention. You don’t even have to turn on the television or go on Facebook to realize that the marketing beast here at the end of the second decade of the 21st Century is getting bolder, louder, and even more unending.

    Couple that with the avalanche of media that’s heading our way as we gear up for an election next year and I’m feeling pretty tired already. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that 2020 may be the greatest and most complex test ever for the collective literacy of our nation. Deep fake videos and Russian interference and Super PAC ads ad god knows what other stuff we’re going to have to sort through and make sense of and divine truth from. No pressure right.

    All of which makes this conversation on attention literacy with award-winning professor Alec Couros timely, relevant, and interesting. Alec teaches at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, and he teaches and writes extensively around the topic of understanding literacy in a connected world. In this discussion, we touch on how difficult the search for truth is these days, the idea of a literacy “curriculum,” and ways in which we use technologies to keep our attention focused. It’s a conversation that probably could have gone on for hours.

    Some links discussed in the podcast:

    The Attention Economy and the Net


    Distraction Free YouTube

     Century of the Self  

    "Epistemic Crisis"

    Duck Duck Go

    Ze Frank



    • 40 min
    #76 – The Power of the System with Özlem Sensoy

    #76 – The Power of the System with Özlem Sensoy

    Welcome to the fourth and final episode in my month-long exploration of "power" in schools. I don't know about you, but I found all of these conversations fascinating in terms of how much the power relationships we have in schools impact the experience that kids have, and the extent to which we are functionally unaware of the many ways in which power influences almost every decision you make.

    But what I think I may have learned more than anything is the ways in which power is inherent in the system. The ways that we interact with one another happen in large measure because of the underlying structures and norms and expectations that are baked into a system that was created at a time that looks much different from today in terms of our individual power to learn and to create and connect.

    And so in today's podcast, we dive into the power that the system holds over us with Dr. Özlem Sensoy, a professor of education at Simon Fraser University and the co-author of Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education, now in its second edition. Dr. Sensoy, whose forthcoming book Why Take Media Seriously? comes out next year, talks powerfully about how we need to reflect deeply on how our actions are molded by the system, ways in which we can turn our classrooms and cultures into more equitable and more just environments, and how to work with colleagues and students to develop a greater sensitivity to the power of the system and ways to act to change it. I think it's an important conversation that I totally enjoyed.

    • 43 min
    #75 – Power and Success in the Era of Technology with Dr. Craig Watkins

    #75 – Power and Success in the Era of Technology with Dr. Craig Watkins

    This is our third podcast on the theme of power, and when you think about both the good and the bad aspects of technology and the Internet and social media over the last decade, it's hard not to conclude that like it or not, the individual has much more power in her hands today than ever before. We have unprecedented power to connect, to communicate, to create and to publish, and the reality is that many of our young adults and even younger children are beginning to take advantage of that in powerful ways for both good and bad. Look no further than the ways in which students at Stoneman Douglas have used technology to create a movement around gun control, or how Greta Thunburg has amassed millions of followers from around the world to take on climate change. There's no question that the potential of these technologies to empower every one of us to make change happen in the world is amazing. And it changes the way we think about power and success in the world today.

    And that potential is an important context for the work we do in schools, right? It begs all sorts of questions about our responsibilities as educators in this moment in terms of how we should be preparing kids to use their newfound power well. Or about the literacies that we ourselves have to exhibit to help students understand these opportunities at a deep level. Or about the stories that we tell students about what a "successful" path forward looks like today.

    Which is why I reached out to Dr. Craig Watkins to be my guest in this weeks podcast. Craig is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas in Austin, and he's the author of five books that explore young people's engagement with media and technology. He works with the Connected Learning Research Network, and is the founding director of the Institute for Media Innovation in the Moody college of Communication.

    In this discussion we cover the changing nature of power in the world, how technologies are impacting the way we learn and interact with the world, how the concept of work is quickly changing, and much, much more. I think you're going to enjoy it.

    • 38 min
    #74 – The Power of Learners with Sylvia Martinez

    #74 – The Power of Learners with Sylvia Martinez

    We're in our second week of exploring power and power relationships in schools which is a topic that I don't think we reflect on nearly enough in schools. (Here's the first "power" podcast with Rob Fried.) There's an inherent tension when it comes to learning and power, namely how much power do you as a learner have in any learning interaction to choose not just what you learn but how and where and when. And one of the things that casts such a long shadow over this conversation is the fact that going to school is compulsory. Learners have no or very little choice but to attend a school which then decides almost everything about the what, where and when of learning. So right from the start, we take agency away from kids, and we rarely seem to think about the implications of that.

    Someone who has been thinking about that for quite some time is my guest on this week's podcast. Sylvia Martinez is the co-author of what I think may be one of the best books on learning and schools in the last five years, Invent to Learn which has come to be known as "the bible of the maker movement." She's an advisor to the Stanford University FabLearn Fellows, and she has a long history in leading educational non-profits and in product design and development in educational games. And, she was one of the early designers of the software for that GPS navigational system that gets all of us to where we want to go in today's world.

    All that aside, what I love about Sylvia is her genuine passion for creating environments in schools where teachers and students can explore learning on their own terms, and in this podcast, we talk about that as well as the dynamics of power in classrooms, the cultural movements that lead to change in schools, and the complexities around the idea of empowerment in the various hierarchies of schools. It's an important, and on many levels fascinating conversation.

    As always, if you enjoy the conversation, why not head over to iTunes and give us a review and a rating? And tell your friends about our podcast as well. Thanks for listening everyone!

    For more resources and links about this podcast, check out the "Podcasts" topic in the Modern Learners Community.

    • 48 min

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