EdRev’s second keynote speaker on April 13, 2013 in San Francisco was Todd Rose, co-founder and president of Project Variability, This organization is dedicated to providing leadership around the emerging new science of the individual and its implications for education, the workforce, and society. Todd is also a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education teaching Educational Neuroscience.
Todd Rose’s presentation was built around a premise of the need for society to change a belief, one that gives credit to the myth of the average person. Our education system is build on averages rather than supporting the different needs of the individual.
Todd knows whereof he speaks. He was a high school dropout. His education did not support his learning differences. When he discovered that boredom, not laziness was the issue, ideas and the drive to create a different life emerged.
A high school dropout he accepted that he needed an education. Perseverance at night school resulted in obtaining his GED. A teacher in a community college gave him the encouragement and support and with hard work on his behalf he graduated cum laude. He was accepted at Harvard. His initial experience at this institution gave him the feeling that Harvard’s process of education and his ADHD were at odds. A Harvard professor challenged him, commenting that it wasn’t Todd it was the education system that was the problem. Harvard did not nurture individual talent. This gave him the drive to challenge Harvard. He began to focus on designing a new approach, away from the concept that our education is about a science of averages. His study promoted the need to find a way to evaluate individual talents, rather than comparing one individual to another individual.
Todd along with others have initiated Project Variability which focuses on the science of the individual, creating flexible environments. Its sole purpose is to bring to the public an awareness and new approaches to ensure a means of learning that lives up to our capabilities.
Todd offered the EdRev audience a challenge: start shifting. The change is about a mindshift. He asked this PEN membership who knows there is a problem with the education system to become a part of creating the solution.
He offered a first step involving one week of effort.
When there is a behavior, be it your child’s or your own, that needs correction find a context for making that change. Begin by asking yourself what is your default habit. State it and see what change you need to make. The goal is to allow your or your child’s true potential to emerge? Consider:
- What environment do you or he/she need?
- What relationships are important?
- Spell the information out for yourself or your child and put it into action.
- Ask yourself what do you need to do to be ready for this change
- How can you contribute to this?
- Discover the first step.
Remember we can build technologies. Ultimately, however, it’s not the technologies but individuals, parents and educators who need to take the responsibility to make this shift. PEN membership knows there is a problem and that when solutions start to exist more will come.
Todd Rose has written a must successful book, Square Peg.
On April 13, 2013 in San Francisco the 5th annual EdRev returned to the Giants Ballpark. It was a huge success. Parents Education Network, the producers of this model event, offered a wide variety of programming for those passionate about understanding, finding solutions, and resolving issues facing those with dyslexia, ADD/ADHD and other learning disabilities. Students, parents, teachers and other were treated to a wide variety of new ideas, new technologies, new skills and much more. The energy at the event, gathering 2,000 people together, was very high.
There were two keynote speakers with a similar theme; the need for a different education process.
Sir Ken Robinson, an education and creativity expert and author of the New York Times best-selling book ‘Finding Your Element’ set the tone stating:
The challenge with the education system is a world-wide problem. One word describes the cause: Conformity. Currently the education process is based on the belief that everyone must conform to basic principles. This denies the fact that we are all biologically different which means students are spending time on what they must do instead of what they can do.
A recent study has shown that 30% of students in 9th grade don’t finish the 12th grade. Many of these students end up in jail. The current solution is to pour more money into the correction system ($25,000 a year for an individual). If that funding was redirected to the education system to address the learning needs of the dropouts, the costs to state government would decrease. Educating a student has the average cost of $10,000. Cutting by half the number of dropouts from grade nine the net gain result in 10 – 11 years would be twelve Trillan dollars.
Sir Ken promotes three principles for an evolving education system.
Accept the principle that we are all different with unique talents. We are different because we are biologically different. Human life relies on diversity. It is why human life is so interesting. The reason the current education process is unsuccessful is its lack of focus on diversity.
Creativity is at the heart of what it is to be a human being. The opportunity for each student to explore their creativity is essential. Our imagination gives us the ability to bring into mind what doesn’t exit. Sir Ken asked us to remember that creativity is what has driven this country, the United States of America, to be successful. It’s a national asset. Now is the time to re-energize the education system allowing creativity which presents itself differently in different people to flourish.
We need an education system that supports students in finding what is their true talent, what do they love to do. It will result in them defining who they are so they can discover a path that is satisfying and provide a lifestyle that supports their life. The goal is to do something you have a natural talent for. Something you get. It is time those administrators leading the educational process think differently.
In light of the above he offered a commemt about ADHD and the high % of students currently being diagnosed with ADHD. If students are required to sit and listen to boring things, don’t be surprised if they develop ADHD behavior.
3. Life is organic, not linear
We can’t predict how a life will shape up. The key is following the passion that comes from creative exploration. Keep the focus on what is it that you love to do. It is the parent’s responsibility to help their child discover his or her talent, to encourage, support and expect it to go in different directions. The path will not be linear. Remember, we compose our lives. It’s time to accept that one’s life is about diversity and being creative.
We have to press for a different education system. The academic world needs broad curriculum that embraces the fact that we learn differently. We have to get governments away from trying to impose standardization. Education has to be radically personalized so individuals can identify their special talents. There is no reason why students should do the same things every day. Conformity doesn’t work.
If you are teacher, parent or student take up the challenge and be the change you want to see. Collectively teachers, students, and parents are the ones who can change the system. The movement is powerful enough.
And, don’t waste time on those who are stuck in the old model. They are never going to change.
Sir Ken Robinson’s new book is titled Finding Your Element: How to discovery your talents and passions and transform your life.
Parents Education Network presented its 4th Annual EdRev (Education Revolution) Event on Saturday, April 21st, 2012 at the San Francisco Giants Ballpark. It is amazing to me that no matter how much rain or fog we get during April, in San Francisco, somehow the sun comes out on EdRev day. A huge crowd, around 1,500 hundred (we await the final count) showed up to learn more about dyslexia and ADD. This blog focuses on the Keynote activities.
Up first was Safe Voices, a student community within PEN that strives to educate, mentor and support students, parents and teachers about the challenges and strengths of Learning Difficulties (LD) and Attention Deficit Disorder(ADHD) Through this program LD students discover that what they perceive as their greatest weakness, in fact, can become their greatest strength. A first step is learning how to speak up for what one needs and who one is.
At the Keynote, Safe Voices students were dotted amongst the crowd in the ballpark adjacent to first base. Each had a soap box and a microphone. Each spoke up for themselves sharing short phrases which have been instrumental in helping them change their attitudes about themselves. Phrases like:
- If you teach me 1,000 times and I don’t get it, who is the slow learner?
- Learning different students think outside the box. If they didn’t, what would the world would be like?
- We own our differences, we accept them.
- I am much more than my learning difference. The only thing that matters is: I am who I am.
- I get up on a box and am heard and am sparking a revolution in education.
- And, so it went.
Jonathan Mooney, a much respected dyslexic who has no trouble in speaking up for himself, took over as moderator. He posed questions to guest speakers, all successful dyslexics, who have found careers that take advantage of their ability to think outside the box. Joining Jonathan were:
Eric McGehearty CEO of Globe Runner SEO, a top-performing, Dallas-based SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and digital marketing firm. In an addition he’s an award-winning artist. Filmmaker Leah H. Bell, produced the documentary Access Denied about the intersection of Eric’s life, art and dyslexia. His told us: Nothing in school worked for me. In Grade One I had a teacher who didn’t get me. She shook me very hard. I was very shy, very scared to interact. In middle school I began being an advocate for myself and my life began to turn around. I had suicidal thoughts until being
connected to people who supported me.
Tracy Johnson, was not diagnosed with dyslexia until college age. Her story is notable a) for the many hurdles she had to overcome, b) for persevering and c) being willing to work harder than most college students do. She was recently featured in the HBO documentary, Journey into Dyslexia, Great Minds Think Differently. In grade school, Johnson was diagnosed as “learning disabled,” a label that stuck through high school and a failed try at community college. The education system broke down for her as the label didn’t identify her LD. Then, her self-esteem plummeted. Tracy realized she was dyslexic when she was cleaning classrooms for a living. Now, she is an enrollment advisor at Eastern University.
Steve Walker is a self-taught dyslexic, engineer and entrepreneur who founded and is now President & CEO of New England Wood Pellet LLC. A true visionary, Steve has been a leader in promotion of renewable energy policy for biomass thermal technologies at the state, national and international level. He, too, is featured in Journey into Dyslexia. Steve told us that if an ally had been around to help him when he went to school he would have been a doctor. Instead, he stared at the clock. When he had to write the letters on the yellow paper with lines he was stumped. In high school he couldn’t read the math questions. Instead he developed low self-esteem. To make matters worse his mother told him if he didn’t go to college he would work in the factory. Well, now, he owns factories and has ended up hiring people who gave him a rough time. Yes, he said, I had a lot of anger.
Each of these speakers and moderator have different backgrounds, but there are common threads in themes and solutions they see and some are outlined below.
- The education system needs to be re-engineered. The system is not serving more than 20% of its population. Dyslexics need to take the lead. We have to look at where does the education system break down? Teachers don’t know how much these 20% really know because their processes can’t give their LD students away to explain. Vocational training and all activities involving creativity needs to re-instated. The Special Ed’s focus of fixing a dyslexic’s shortcomings needs to flip to support what LD students can do best, refocusing on the positives. School must be the time to find out what you are good at. Innovation and creativity go hand in hand. LD students need to learn how to be a leader feeling capable of listening to different points of view. Remember there is no normal.
- Communication. Dyslexics have many different dimensions. Vision is how we see it, not what we see. Learning how to communicate ideas is what a dyslexic’s life wants to be about: communicating the vision, getting my team to go with me. This means dyslexics need to understand concepts to be successful. Communicating a vision is central to success. Dyslexics always want to grow as a person,
- Parents must assume an advocate role to support and care for their LD student. Listen and explore what the child really needs. Go from strength of your LD child. Don’t let the education process drive your decisions. Find a school where your child fits, where they can excel. Leave your ego at the door , which means let go thinking your child has to go to a fancy school. Your concern ought to be: how do I make my kid’s lifetime experience a positive one.
- Dyslexics are often artists, starters, builders, teachers. Finding a way to leverage these talents is the challenge not only for parents and teachers but also dyslexics. A successful artist who has dyslexia and who has a dream to help others may not always be successful as an administrator, which requires a lot of busy work. Dyslexics need to sell their team on what he or she needs. One goal is to get to the point where you have no fear of shouting out from the door: How do I spell this word? Dyslexics need to learn how to back off if someone is trying to make them be someone they aren’t.
- Leveraging growth after school. Taking what seems to be a menial job can open doors. a) Steve was working in a factory. The engineers were all struggling with how to solve a program. One night he had a great idea and stayed up all night solving their problem. That’s when he turned around. He started his own company at 18 – a lawn mower company. Tracy was cleaning school rooms to make a living. She kept thinking, there is something wrong here. I am as smart as some of these students. One night watching the Cosby Show, Tracy learned about dyslexia. The light went on, and she kept going. She re-iterates we need the right, light soil.