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.

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