Saturday, February 5, 2011

EduKare- Starting with the story...

So I am delighted at the attention my first EduKare post garnered over the last two weeks. The conversation has been very involved; the contributors diverse. @ToughLoveForX (Michael J.) has been connecting the social media dots and it's pretty exciting to see a network of thought-brokers evolve in real time. I think this is an idea worth spreading.

The #EduKare Twitter stream has been active, and for the last two Wednesday evenings, the #ecosys chat (9:00 EST) around the idea has been lively and reflective. People are challenging their convictions as a result of the EduKare reform concept, and that's a good thing. The questions have been coming fast and furious. It's been difficult to keep up, but the energy I'm feeling around this idea and the interest it's generated has ignited a follow-up sooner than I expected; perhaps an indication that EduKare is beginning to scale.

I was going to apologize for getting philosophical to start this second edition of EduKare, but I caught myself. Many of the questions I've received about EduKare over the last two weeks have been the sort of "how will this look on the ground," or "what are some strategies you can share so I can get working on this," variety, and that is completely understandable. Taking action empowers us to feel like we're getting somewhere; that change or improvement is happening... it's measurable and provides us with context and focus. However, misinformed action, or action without thoughtful consideration leading up to it can be damaging, so here is some background to support incremental, thoughtful EduKare action.

 EduKare is a complex adaptive system of intervention; one that values people as its primary asset, and one that measures the actions of these people to assess its system quality attributes (SQA), those elements that define how EduKare is to be... its architecture. As an organic and responsive system to address specific, individual needs in particular educational environments, the architecture of EduKare will be consistent, but the functional requirements in each setting will be unique and situational. Like water flowing across the river rapids full of rocks, there are many paths leading in the same direction over and around the obstacles... different flows will take the path of least resistance, but the pattern of currents navigating obstacles is repeated infinitely as the river flows onward. The river takes on a fractal nature.

There is a fractal nature to EduKare also. At the most basic level, EduKare is designed to support individuals.The function of EduKare is to grow resilient kids through exposure to resilient school systems and significant resilient others in the form of teachers, coaches, counselors, family members, community mentors, older schoolmates... whomever can effectively support the child in ways the child needs supporting- variables ultimately determined by each child. Here's how the first fractal layer of the process begins- how the SQA of simplicity is applied at the most fundamental level.

Children enter school five years into their learning story. At present, schools don't have any tangible control over how the pages of these stories are written in the preschool years, (I think there are ways to mitigate this reality, but that's for a future EduKare post...) but we are definitely responsible for uniting at the school entry point to help students write their learning stories for the next thirteen years; no small responsibility. An EduKare lens perceives the imperative that each individual child feels a sense of ownership and purpose in his/her own learning; a stark removal from contemporary educational programming. Even when we design specialized programming for individual kids, the "plan" doesn't always translate for them... I have interviewed dozens of kids who have Individual Program Plans written for them in special education environments who had absolutely no clue what any of their learning goals were within the plan. This is an extreme and absurd example of how disconnected kids are to their own learning paths.

How do we write these stories? The specific actionable process is no different than any within an EduKare teaching and learning environment in that through a redistribution of time, energy and resources, EduKare takes a hard look at current practice and makes it more efficient, less costly and more meaningful to the student. As it stands, when children enter school we begin assessing their deficiencies within our deficit-based medical model. We get to work determining what kids don't know or can't do, and get busy trying to mitigate these weaknesses. We fail to acknowledge that kids have lived an entire lifetime of learning in their eyes up to the point they enter school (unless we are criticizing parents about how poorly they have prepared their child for school.) As a result, we certainly don't honor the widely accepted notion that kids have the capacity to learn more before entering school than they will collectively for the rest of their lives. From the Raising Children Network...
In the first five years of life, your child’s brain develops more and faster than at any other time in his life. The early experiences your child has – the things he sees, hears, touches, smells and tastes – stimulate his brain, creating millions of connections. This is when foundations for learning, health and behaviour throughout life are laid down.
It appears clear to me that we are very privileged as professionals to have such adept and capable subjects to work with right off the bat. In an EduKare teaching and learning environment, expensive time usually spent mitigating weakness in the contemporary education system is replaced with action toward determining the strengths, interests and learning styles (SQA of learnability) of kids by talking to them, their parents and significant others in their lives who have helped them write their learning stories before entering school... these kids are not blank slates. EduKare replaces the educational perspective of the child as a blank slate... tabula rasa, with tabula abundans... the child as an abundant slate.

This simple and free of charge perspective shift allows the time spent determining deficits in early childhood students to be redistributed toward defining strengths and creating purpose around them. They are already intellectually curious and creative thinkers: they think; they do; they dream... we can't let them lose their dreams. In special education jargon, the process of writing kid's stories with them and their families is called transition planning, but the typical practice is to begin this process in the teen years; way too late from an EduKare perspective. Our privilege to become collaborative authors in writing kid's stories starts the minute we meet them in kindergarten- this is when our work begins.

The form this process takes is an open question. I would say there is value in a uniform approach (SQA of repeatability) to recording student's stories in a document of some form, especially within a District that will see kids transfer from school to school bringing their personal learning story with them. However, as a complex adaptive system, flexibility and customizability are elemental SQA's of EduKare that recognize undoubtedly that there are many effective ways to record this process, and to share the information with all stakeholders supporting each child. We write the best stories about ourselves. Teachers can even incorporate the personal learning story writing process into classroom writing projects offering exciting possibilities for students, whether reluctant writers or kids who love to write... The process points to authentic learning possibilities for every child.

This work is done in individual classrooms by individual teachers for individual students. The simple, grassroots process is a small shift that's easy to make for an individual teacher. Morphic resonance dictates that the effort to support students at this basic level in a classroom will scale in a school building so that other teachers will begin to emulate the efforts of their EduKare teaching peers. One teacher's efforts to truly notice students, focus on their unique learning strengths and think deeply about how to engage them effectively would have then scaled to another becoming fractal in nature.

When teachers see the value-added element of reading the stories already written in previous grades and detailing preschool chapters as well, I think the learning story writing process will become even more relevant and replicate quicker. By soliciting the support of parents in the learning story writing process, the concept will also resonate within their social networks and reality tubes. Parents are largely and without explanation excluded from the educational planning process in contemporary education... the process of writing learning stories draws them in as the most informed and passionate contributing authors with more at stake than anyone regarding the future of their children. Engaging parents at the outset of a child's K-12 experience makes sense if we want to keep them involved and consider them an integral part of the EduKare school environment.

My intent is to continue writing in this series of posts. The EduKare approach to teaching and learning is nothing more than new thinking applied to tried and true social and educational truths.  Nikolai Pizarro (@) tweeted it like it is today in reference to EduKare when she said, "a compilation of tried and true plus new technology to deliver, and customize, usually wins... parents plus teachers plus good curriculum plus small groups plus emotional connection is an old concept but guess what... it works."

It certainly does.


  1. As always thought-provoking. In raising the early-childhood education question you remind me of something I've learned recently. While the ability to establish a sound knowledge structure early on is relevant, it can also be insignificant in the grander scheme -- that is, try as we may to influence a child, there are far too many variables that we have no influence over that are far more likely to change their path.

    Do we give up? No, but we simply get more realistic about level of effort, investments, and focus.

    From which I speak, a personal example. Almost 3 decades ago a friend of mine spent considerable time with her son's early skills. He was reading, fluidly, by age 4. He ended up getting a degree in English -- maybe even an advanced degree. In the end, he became a driver for UPS.

    Not to diminish the reality that any contribution to society is a noble one, we still have to also ask: to what end are we educating our children and how much is enough? And how do we know?

  2. Paula, thanks for your comment. I would ask if you think the "goal" of a nurturing and high quality K-12 experience is a means to an end or an end to a means?

    I agree that there are reasonable parameters to which we make the effort to teach kids in preparation for work life, but I think the manner in which we prepare kids for "life" has a much greater influence on their happiness- to me the ultimate goal of any living and learning effort.
    My mom used to say when I was young, "find something that makes you happy, and then look for ways to make money doing it." The wisdom of moms...

    What EduKare is saying really is no matter what a child chooses to "do" with their life, if happiness is present, the likelihood that child will make a positive contribution to society, their loved ones and themselves is good.

    What do you think?

  3. I like this and I largely agree; as someone who has been writing my life for as long as I can remember, I know that getting my kids to write their lives and edu goals in important. My daughter this year, at little more than three, made a poster at preschool (all the kids did), called "All About Me." The teacher wrote down all the things they liked, didn't like, their goals, and their three wishes (I'd like to brag that my daughter was the only one who had one wish that wasn't entirely "selfish": she wished that her little brother would start talking). I hope they do this every year, and even if they don't, I would like to do this with my kids as they grow up.

    But, I do worry about the narratives becoming set in stone; it is one thing to read a previous student's narrative; it is another to understand that where the student is at that moment may be very different and that they want to actively change the narrative. All through school, I experienced "fresh starts" and took the opportunity to reshape who I was and where I wanted to go. Sometimes the changes were "forced" on me (divorce, economic instability) and others time, I chose the direction.

    I teach at the university level, mostly rural students from small schools whose narratives were set by their families, peers, and teachers. Their story, either consciously or unconsciously, were not there own. Even if they wanted to change, they couldn't. We write narrative essays in order for them to realize that college is a fresh start and that they can take back some or all the control on their narratives. Here are some links:

    And from a peer who does literacy narratives with her students:

    I think you're moving in the right direction. And I think that these narratives can provide direction. My younger brother, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law all floundered in school and it has taken them a lot of years to figure out just what they wanted to do. Perhaps if they had been encouraged to explore earlier, they could have saved some time. Just because someone is "smart" or "capable" doesn't mean that a) it will shine through immediately or b) that it will lead where we think it should.

  4. Lee, I couldn't agree more... the entire process is based on finding one's own voice... ironically something we start out with, and then lose in so many cases, for whatever reason.

    If kids can be the primary writer, and teller, of their personal stories, perhaps it would help them become independent and self-determinant as they travel their learning journey through school. I dare say, the product would be much more telling than the deficit-based cumulative files we keep on their behalf at present.

    Thanks so much for you comments.

  5. Long before I became a teacher I was a news reporter. While I started off covering crime and corruption, I soon changed my focus because I realized that EVERYONE has a story to tell and most people are eager to tell their story if they think someone is listening.

    An individual's narrative can be powerful in what it says, what is doesn't say and with what use of language is employed. Writing one's narrative can be a transformative experience but for it to be fully useful in an educational setting the skills, insights and training of the reader take prominence because it is the reader who prescribes, proscribes and provides for the future development of the writer. Training the readers, the teachers and administrators, will be essential to the success of this interesting program.

  6. News guys get it... thanks for your comments.

    @ToughLoveForX (Brooklyn), another NY publishing guy and I have been formulating the concept for a while now- seems simple, I know, but that's the biggest asset EduKare has. The simple approach to ed reform makes it sustainable, cost effective and engaging for people on emotional and visceral levels.

    Would really appreciate your POV moving forward... check out #EduKare tag via Twitter and the #ecosys wiki at A fine group of idea-tappers at #ecosys for sure.


  7. cool. love what you're doing/working on.

    this is spot on:
    I have interviewed dozens of kids who have Individual Program Plans written for them in special education environments who had absolutely no clue what any of their learning goals were within the plan. This is an extreme and absurd example of how disconnected kids are to their own learning paths.

    we're doing some similar things in colorado..definitely believe it can facilitate a better world.

  8. ... and I am aware of the good work you do in Colorado and through your contributions at Coop Catalyst. Thanks for your comment.

    Perhaps we should talk about a "Rocky Mountain Summit" to further the good work and ideas going on in Colorado and Alberta... would be fun to get like-minded positive ed advocates together for a think-tank in person.


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