The IDEA Blog

Learning about Democratic Education from Colombia

Last month the New York Times published an op-ed from David Kirp that opened many people's eyes to one of the most comprehensive examples of democratic education anywhere in the world: the Escuela Nueva model in Colombia. Across Colombia, 20,000 schools have been influenced by the model, which features project-based learning, parent and community engagement, learning by doing and according to student interests, and democratic decision-making. As Kirp describes:

Rather than being run as a mini-dictatorship, with the principal as its unquestioned leader, the school operates as a self-governing community, where teachers, parents and students have a real say in how it is run.

I wrote a Letter to the Editor with a few comments in reply, and while it was not published, we're including it here on the IDEA Blog:

Those working for educational change in the United States could learn a great deal from Escuela Nueva in Colombia. Instead of creating ever more tests with high-stakes results, blaming the teachers or students, or looking to a new common curriculum to solve our problems, Escuela Nueva shows what is possible when schools are guided by what we know about how children learn and by the values and practices of democracy. In practice this looks like collaborative and hands-on learning, student work that's connected to the issues of the community, and shared decision-making that engages teachers, students, and parents. 

While Kirp may be right that schools like this are not currently the mainstream in the U.S., such schools can be found flourishing across the nation, from Mission Hill School in Boston to Jefferson County Open School in the suburbs of Denver to Minnesota New Country School in rural Minnesota, as well as networks of schools such as the New York Performance Standards Consortium, Big Picture Schools, and EdVisions Schools.

The most powerful lesson to learn from Escuela Nueva's work is that this approach to education is especially successful for...

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Posted on Mar 27, 2015 - 06:27 AM by Dana Bennis

Share Your Change Story

Share Your Change Story

 
At IDEA, we've made a habit of sharing stories. We want to track and learn from what's happening on the ground. Story Journals help us accomplish that goal by offering a place for you to describe what you’re seeing and learning.

Is something changing in your school? Is the conversation starting to shift? Have you been part of a powerful change effort in your community?
 
We invite you to Share Your Change Story now and anytime you see actions and changes that should be shared. The stories become part of Learning Reportsblogs, and our online library of resources.
 
No need for lengthy polished writing - short sentences and bullet-points are just fine. Without a doubt the work you're doing is important. We'd love to know more about it and share it with others.
 

ON THE IDEA BLOG

Shifting the Paradigm at Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry

 
 
Rachel Mason, a teacher at Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII), shares ways she understands PSII has succeeded in moving towards a paradigm shift in education.

"We are still inventing and creating every day."
 
...

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Posted on Mar 04, 2015 - 12:11 PM by Shawn Strader

Shifting the Paradigm at Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry

This is a guest post by Rachel Mason. Rachel lives in Victoria, British Columbia. She is interested in progressive education, youth voice, systems change, and social justice. She has worked as a teacher, youth worker, facilitator, project manager, and curriculum developer in a variety of settings. She currently works as a teacher at Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII) and as owner of Arrive Consulting, and is a parent of three young children. For more on PSII from Rachel, read about PSII's philosophy and opening days here.You can contact Rachel at rachelemason@gmail.com.

“The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning.”
― John Dewey, Experience and Education  (1938)
 
A year and a half ago I joined a team of people starting a new school in Victoria, British Columbia. Our school, Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII), is modeled on a philosophy that places the learner at the centre of their own education. What this means is that our learners work with teachers to co-create a curriculum based on their own questions and interests. It also means that we see education as being about the development of the whole person, both within and outside the school, and not just about academic learning that happens at school.
 
In the early days of opening our school, every day felt like an adrenaline high, a ride on a gut-wrenching roller-coaster. We had to invent a new process for teaching and learning, how we organize our school, how we relate and interact with learners, how we do assessment and reporting. Every decision brought up questions about our philosophy of education and our personal values.
 
A year and a half later we are still inventing and creating every day. There are many details we have not yet worked out, and we are constantly thinking about how we can put into practice the approach to learning that we envision. However, we do have some processes established and some experience...

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Posted on Feb 24, 2015 - 09:35 AM by Shawn Strader

At the Core of Every Move We Make

At the Core of Every Move We Make

As we push through what is hopefully the final stretch of winter (hang in there New England!), we're tilting even further toward new beginnings, projects, plans, and great work that's already taking place. We're thankful for everyone who was able to donate over the holidays. We're grateful for the ongoing work to influence positive change around the world. And without a doubt, we're ready for an incredible year of progress and change in education.

As we gear up for some seriously effective changework, we're paying attention to our values and intentionality. These values are at the core of every move we make. If you haven't read through them before, please take some time to. We're eager for what's coming and hope you are too.
 

ON THE IDEA BLOG

IDEC 2015 is Right Around the Corner


The International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC) is coming to New Zealand April 9-12, 2015. Register online (www.idec2015.org) before the end of February and be entered in a drawing to win a free adult ticket!

Engage in a multitude of hands-on and heartfelt approaches to explore questions like How do we want to learn and teach in the future?, How can we work together to provide learning experiences that support resilient community development and true democratic values? in an environment of trust, equality and enjoyment.

San Francisco USD is Hiring More Black...

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Posted on Feb 18, 2015 - 01:20 PM by Shawn Strader

IDEC 2015 is Right Around the Corner in New Zealand

The International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC) is coming to New Zealand April 9-12, 2015. Register online (www.idec2015.org) before the end of February and be entered in a drawing to win a FREE ADULT TICKET! 

This 4-day open-space hui (conference, meeting) is based around the experience of interactive natural ways of learning. Engage in a multitude of hands-on and heartfelt approaches to explore questions like How do we want to learn and teach in the future?, How can we work together to provide learning experiences that support resilient community development and true democratic values? in an environment of trust, equality and enjoyment.

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Posted on Feb 17, 2015 - 09:18 AM by Shawn Strader

When It’s a Good Thing - Social Media in the Classroom

When It’s a Good Thing - Social Media in the Classroom

If you haven't thought it inevitable before, perhaps you ought to now. More teachers are finding creative ways to enhance their teaching by incorporating social media into their daily and weekly lessons. Joy Nelson writes for Edudemic in Social Media in the Classroom: 16 Resources for 2015:

Social media is a powerful tool for keeping in touch with friends, getting coupons and deals from your favorite businesses, and seeing what your favorite celebrities are up to. It is also handy in your classroom; platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and others have the power to help you forge closer connections with students and parents and enhance the educational experience in your classroom.

How can you make it happen? Let the resources [linked above] lead the way.

What's more, teachers are finding ways to use Skype and similar web tools to connect their classrooms to a diverse and global community of other learners.

"The World Is As Big Or As Small As You Make It," a short documentary embedded below, offers a powerful example of how relationships in learning are not limited only to the classroom or local community, but can indeed exist globally thanks to some ingenuity and modern technology. 

What makes you happy? What are some stereotypes that people have about you? Have you experienced racism and, if so, how?

These are the questions kids from around the world are asking to learn about each other.

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Posted on Feb 16, 2015 - 10:35 AM by Shawn Strader

San Francisco USD is Hiring More Black Teachers

Yesterday, Huff Post: Black Voices published an article that's making the rounds titled, School District Wants To Close Achievement Gap By Recruiting More Black Teachers. Here's a snippet from the article:

The achievement gap between students of different races has been well-documented, and the San Francisco Unified School District is trying something it hopes will address the disparities early on: Hiring more black teachers.

... The effort ... revolves around a single finding: Students perform better when they can identify with their teachers.

For great reasons, more black and racially diverse teachers is an awesome step forward. However, it's also apparent that this isn't the only step forward we as a community will need to take in order to close the achievement gap.

Check out the original article here.

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Posted on Feb 10, 2015 - 08:56 AM by Shawn Strader

An Open Heart to Learning

The Heart of Oregon Learning Tour


Over the course of today and half of tomorrow, IDEA is teaming with Sisters School District and Heart of Oregon Corps to host a Learning Tour exploring some excellent sites of democratic education that actively seek to support meaningful change in their communities.

The tour has been designed as a professional development opportunity for an up-and-coming new school, Cloverdale Alternative School.

 
 

Learning Tours are one of our favorite ways to support deeper learning, professional development, and relationship building. Without a doubt, we'll be writing more about the event after it has taken place, but for now we hope you are excited to follow along on Twitter with #HOC_LearningTour.
 

WHAT'S MOVING - UPDATES FROM ACROSS NETWORKS

A University Recognizes a Third Gender: Neutral

It might seem a simple turn of events, but adding gender-neutral options to the University of Vermont’s information system took nearly a decade of lobbying, the creation of a task force of students, faculty members and administrators...
By Julie Scelfo, New York Times  |  Read story
 

Gap of All Gaps: ESEA/NCLB Reauthorization & the 'Purpose Gap'

An honest reckoning and re-visioning of the purpose of education is beginning to happen in schools and communities and systems across the country (rich and poor, urban and rural). 
By Scott Nine, Teacher in a Strange Land  |  Read story...

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Posted on Feb 05, 2015 - 12:06 PM by Shawn Strader

It’s About That Time

It's About That Time

In two days, IDEA's annual fundraiser will come to a close and we're hoping you've got a little to give.
If you're able, please take a moment to make a donation to IDEA today. Together we can facilitate change in the world. We're not the only ones doing the work, but right now we could use your support.

Help IDEA take things to the next level in 2015
crowdrise.com/ideaholiday


Thank you.

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Posted on Jan 30, 2015 - 11:27 AM by Shawn Strader

The Value of Values

The Value of Values

There's one week left in our 2014/2015 annual fundraiser. As this text is being written, our money raised is $16,079, with a goal of $40,000. We want to take a few more long strides towards that goal. We can only do that with your help.
 
 So we got to thinking: what gives IDEA value is in part the sum of the values which guide our every move. 
 

  

Many of you have shared with us that you find your own personal values to be highly aligned with IDEA's. If you haven't already expressed that, we think you might now that you're encountering this powerful list.

  

Whether or not you are able to make a donation to IDEA doesn't signify in any way shape or form that you are or are not aligned with these values. That all comes from the heart.

  


But we can't do the work without all that you've given, are giving, and will continue to give toward the movement for educational change.

Please make a donation today and help IDEA make a difference. Between courageous organizers around the USA and Puerto Rico, our small-but-mighty staff, and a tremendous amount of community support, we've got a lot of heart.

But it only makes a difference if we're able to show it.

Thank you.

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Posted on Jan 26, 2015 - 12:11 PM by Shawn Strader

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