065 – Taking Back Education with Linda Polin

065 – Taking Back Education with Linda Polin

Profound and Powerful Podcasts – Year 1

Taking Back Education with Dr. Linda Polin

“We need to retake EDUCATION.  We need a movement. We need pitchforks and torches and then to storm the castle… We need to tell the powers that be to give it back. It’s ours. We want to own it again. Go focus your spotlight on some other thing, and leave us to do OUR thing. We’re professionals we know what we’re doing.”

Linda Polin - Profound and Powerful Podcast

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[In This Episode][Video Interview][Guest Bio][Additional Notes][Text Transcript]

In This Episode – 12/10/15

Hi, I’m Steve, the host of the Table Top Inventing Podcast. For the next three weeks we are going to bring back six of our best podcast episodes. Since you are smart, you noticed that we’re going to release 2 episodes every week. We’ll be releasing an episode on Thursday as usual, but we’ll also be releasing one every Monday.

008-polin01In this episode, originally airing on November 6, 2014, Dr. Linda Polin and I have a lively discussion about taking back education from the forces that have corrupted it, including the answers to questions such as: 

  • How can you learn secrets directly from a great inventor?
  • How do we take back education from the dark forces of the universe?
  • How can we help students become who they were meant to be?

This was one of my favorite episodes! Dr. Linda Polin is a rockstar educator and not your run-of-the-mill boring college professor. She keeps threatening to retire, but there are many good teachers out there because they sat in her classroom to learn the true art of teaching.

Unfortunately, not all classrooms are created equal. If you are a little dissatisfied with the education of your teenager, you need to know about the Resonance Innovation Fellowship.

This next year we will be taking a select group of 10-15 teens on a journey of self-discovery, excellence with integrity, and innovation leadership. This is not a club, social gathering, or homework tutoring. The students in the Resonance Innovation Fellowship will be on a quest to find impact and world-change through the backdrop of technology. Only a few will be chosen… are you ready to help your teen become a world changer? Email steveATttinventDOTcom to set up an interview today!

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Video Interview

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Guest Bio

gameAvatarDr. Linda Polin teaches courses in learning, technology, and design, as well as in research design. Her research interests focus on learning and knowledge sharing in online communities. Her current research interests focus on knowledge co-construction and sharing, such as learning in informal online communities. Linda (aka LindaX) is studying informal yet self-organized learning communities in massively multiplayer online gaming and literature-based role-playing communities on the Web.

She is the Davidson Professor of Education and Technology in the Education Division of the Graduate School of Education and Psychology. She has served for many years as program chair of the doctoral program in learning technologies. Currently she teaches courses in innovation and change, qualitative research methods, knowledge creation and collaboration, and the imagining futures capstone course. In 2011 she received the Howard White Teaching Award. Her research interests focus on learning and knowledge sharing in networked formal and informal communities, currently focusing on massively multiplayer online game players, and large hobby communities. In 2012 she initiated the Minecraft Challenge League, which works with three middle schools and learning technologies doctoral students to explore computational thinking and problem solving within a constructible virtual world.

minecraftAvatarLinda consults with school districts, universities, and software developers. She is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (AMC) and faculty sponsor of the Pepperdine GSEP student chapter of ACM. Polin is a member of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Division C Learning and Instruction. She enjoys gardening, networked gaming, constructing with Legos and Arduino, and all things Studio Chibli. When she’s not wearing her “professor” hat, you might find her in a stronghold in Minecraft, battling beasts in League of Legends, or knitting a Hufflepuff scarf.


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Additional Notes

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Text Transcript

Intro: Do you dream of a classroom where learning is natural? Can we inspire students to lifelong learning? What exactly is the purpose of an education? Inspiring students to be curious, independent, creative, innovative, deep-thinking, confident, pro-active, collaborative, determined, educated. Rise to the challenge of changing the world. This is teaching, this is learning, this is who we are. Welcome to the Table Top Inventing podcast.

“I see education as sort of moving you off of information through knowledge which might be sort of more abstract ideas, into wisdom which is sort of the abstract ideas that you glimpse through and tested and have learned from and know a little bit better about. So I think the ideal setup for education is to move you through those stages.” – Dr. Linda Polin

Steve: How can you learn secrets directly from a great inventor? How do we take back education from the dark forces of the universe? How can we help students become who they’re meant to be? Stay tuned! On the podcast today, we’re going to reveal the answers to these and other questions. Today, Linda Polin and I will talk about taking back education from the forces that have corrupted it. Some of her answers may surprise you.

Hey innovation nation! We want to recognize your excitement about the Table Top Inventing podcast. Leave us a 5-star rating in ITunes and we’ll give you a shout out here on the podcast. If you connect to us via email after leaving your feedback, you’ll have a chance to get a special gift from us. Every week, we’ll choose a special person to receive a $50 credit for the upcoming inventor’s bootcamp. To learn more about inventor’s boot camp, visit www.ttinvent.com/bootcamp.

And now the moment you’ve been waiting for, the great inventor secret of the week. I know that many of you are interested in Table Top Inventing because you want to learn how to become a great inventor. And so we’ve decided to add a little section here every week to help you understand that inventing is not a mysterious process. Inventing is actually something that most people can do. There are lots of very doable things that you can learn to become a great inventor. So, here’s this week’s secret. One of the best ways to become a great inventor is to learn from other great inventors. “But Steve, I don’t know any great inventors!” Don’t worry. There are more ways than you think to learn from great inventors. Did you know that you can invite a great inventor right into your kitchen or classroom? Here’s how to get a great inventor to visit you: First, we’ll need to visit your garage. I know my garage is a scary place too. In the garage, find that old computer or VCR or radio that’s been sitting on the shelf because it mysteriously quit working. You couldn’t really bring yourself to throw it away because you paid so much for it. But the truth is, that’ll probably still be there in a few months or even a year or two if you don’t find a way to fix it. Grab it and some tools and we’ll head back to your table top to contact the inventor.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “What inventor in their right mind would visit some random stranger to help them fix a broken invention?” But here’s the secret, use the tools to open up the treasure from the garage. It’s already broken and taking up space, just open it up. With the covers off, the device begins to reveal the inventor’s thinking. Look at each piece to see what you think they do. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong. Over time, this exercise will turn you into a super reverse engineering genius. I’ve learned more from inventors by looking into their inventions than you can imagine. Once you have the device apart, it turns out that most broken devices can be fixed by finding a blown out fuse or a broken switch. Then there’s power supplies and the bad capacitor, broken plastic bits that can be glued together or placed by other household items, and of course, there is the possibility that everything will look mysteriously foreboding. Believe me, the first couple times you open something up that dark foreboding or somehow entering into a technological twilight zone will push into your thinking. Just push it out of the way and allow your curiosity to take over. After a while, you’ll want to start taking things apart that aren’t broken. Believe me, it’s addictive and fun and that’s how to get great inventors to spill the beans about their best inventions.

008-polin02And now our featured guest. Our guest today is Dr. Linda Polin. Dr. Polin teaches courses in learning technology and design as well as in research design. Her interests focus on learning and knowledge sharing in online communities. Her current research interest focused knowledge co-construction and sharing such as learning in informal online communities. Dr. Polin is studying informal, yet, self-organized learning communities and massively multiplayer online gaming and literature based role playing communities on the web.

We’re here with Linda Polin from Pepperdine University and I’m going to ask Linda to tell us a little bit about herself.

Linda: Alright, I am a professor of Learning and Technology at Pepperdine. I run the doctoral program that we have here and it’s now on its 20th year, so we’ve been doing it for 20 years.

It’s a hardwired program partially online, partially face to face. We also have the masters and it is in learning technologies. It’s an applied program. I come from the humanities. We were discussing earlier about English majors. I was an English major and it was pre-computers and I just sort of fell into these stuff and it became a fascination. And in the early days when shortly after the Apple give away in ’83 to schools here in California, the state colleges were looking for people who could step up and teach classes. And I happen to have had a little tiny bit of background on technology on a grant I was doing had a bit address, you know did my dissertation in WordStar on punch cards. So I got these jobs and the rest was history. I just sort of fell into this and thought this stuff’s cool and having a kid of course keeps you current and get to find out what all the cool toys are and it’s just a hobby out of control basically.

Steve: So what’s the unique perspective that the English background brings to your technology focus now?

Linda: Oh, probably a couple of things. The first is the obvious two cultures issue of you know is technology something that’s really oriented towards STEM and hard sciences. And people who do coding and people who can’t do Math, they’re going to have trouble or sometimes you see humanities people that allegedly, I say allegedly are reluctant. That plus I also tend to be more conceptually oriented and be interested in sort of the big ideas around technology I think so. But I’ll tell you, when we first started our master’s program, the people who were the quickest to jump on board and get involved were in fact these humanities people and then the math and science people. The last people who sort of got in the game were the history people and I can totally see why that would be, because you know history are like holding on to the past.

Steve: Interesting. I know a history major. I don’t think he’s like that at all but he’s probably unusual (Linda laughs). He fits way over in the other side of the spectrum (laughs).

Linda: What a way to classify a whole group of people.

Steve: I’m not actually sure. I know very many history people either than him. That’s interesting. So, we’re going to narrow our way down through a couple of questions here. But one of the first ones that I like to spring on people is when we lived in a time when we can hop on the internet and we can get an answer from Google or Wikipedia and effectively look like we raised our IQ by you know 20 points or so. In that type of environment, what does it mean to be educated?

Linda: Okay well I think it’s important to differentiate information from knowledge and maybe even knowledge from wisdom and I think it’s easier for people to get information. And I think the question about education becomes problematic and confusing for people if they equate education with information. So if school is about getting information you know learning this fact  or, learning that procedure and you can find those things out online, and yes school looks hugely irrelevant or unnecessary. But if school’s a place where you talk about or engage with using that material or looking it up for some purpose that you need help accomplishing, then I think there’s a place for education. So I see education as sort of moving you off of information through knowledge which might be sort of more abstract ideas into wisdom which is sort of the abstract ideas that you glimpse through and tested and have learned from and know a little bit better about. So I think the ideal setup for education is to move you through those stages.

Steve: So we’ve briefly touched on the job market for a little bit. That is kind of used to as best strong motivator for education. In fact, I sort of heard that last night in one of the discussion that we had with someone who remarked that, you know part of the purpose of an education is to feel… how did she put it… to feel a sense of accomplishment after you’re done and then to apply that to finding a job or something like that. What is the relationship between education and the job market do you think right now?

On the relationship between the job market and education: “Oh, I think it’s especially important now because jobs are just moving all over the place and changing and it becomes less about the skill set that you’re bringing through the door that’s specific to the job and more about your ability to learn on the job and bring skills that make you a good communicator. Someone who understands the social, political, technological milieu, someone who’s got a critical perspective, doesn’t just drink kool-aid every time something new comes along. There’s a lot of sophisticated thinking and that’s where I like to think an education can help out a life to think you know in the best setting” – Dr. Linda Polin

Linda: Oh, I think it’s especially important now because jobs are just moving all over the place and changing and it becomes less about… the skill set that you’re bringing through the door that’s specific to the job and more about your ability to learn on the job and bring skills that make you a good communicator. Someone who understands the social, political, technological milieu, someone who’s got a critical perspective, doesn’t just drink kool aid every time something new comes along. So there’s a lot of sophisticated thinking and that’s where I like to think an education can help out, a life to think you know in the best setting. But there is this tendency to look at school in terms of what it gets you for Monday you know and I think that’s partly because schooling’s become very political. Partly it’s publicly funded. For the most part we had a crisis with jobs and it’s always easy to kick education. We’re just like everybody’s scapegoat and you know what you are doing for jobs. And that’s sort of is why I get a little nervous with all the STEM stuff because STEM alone isn’t going to get us where we need to go. We need to have some thoughtful STEM and we need to have some humanitarian perspectives on our STEM efforts.

Steve: Well I definitely come from a STEM background and certainly looking at the idea of starting a business or the idea of fitting into a workplace. There’s so much about understanding people that we don’t get told in STEM subjects. I mean my classical background is Physics and so I went through and had a lot of Math classes, Physics classes. I have the fortune early on to actually have a minor in Education. So I had to had to go through some Psychology classes and a few other things and so I feel like I have a little more rounded view of, although it isn’t my first natural language to understand people. So I think I agree with that that there’s certainly a lot more instructions out there or we need to inform ourselves a little better on the STEM side and not to get so stuck on STEM that we don’t see the other pieces there.

Linda: You know I have one class, I think a class of innovation where I made them listen to Kennedy’s original “We’re going to the moon” speech because if you think about it, you could take the perspective that that was launching a huge STEM effort. You know there was a lot of Science, Technology, and Engineering involved in getting us there. But the only reason that sucker got off the ground was because people just fell in love with that idea. He sold the vision you know. It was like a thing people got into. You know I can remember being hearded  into the auditorium to watch on TV the launch of… I’m going to reveal my age now (Steve laughs)… Alan Shepard which was like just a little blooper but… you know. I mean it was like a big deal. We left the planet’s surface and that really captured people’s imagination and there was a lot of engagement around that. Nobody’s offering us that right now. I don’t feel it in the dialog about STEM.

Steve: No, and that’s unfortunate because there’s certainly a lot of passionate technology people out there. I mean certainly the Google guys and the Facebook guys have a very specific vision not all of which has to do with technology. A lot of it has to do with how we interact and how we… Google has a reputation as being the company that is fun to work for, for instance and you can’t do that without understanding people at least a little bit. So when it comes to education, maybe a different question to ask is, so I’m a parent or I’m an educator looking for a job or looking for place to relocate, how do I think about choosing education?

Linda: As a career?

Steve: No, not necessarily as a career. So from a student’s perspective, do I think carefully about the local school system before I just got my kids into? I think hard you know as an educator before just jumping into teaching in particular system. Is that a question I should think hard about?

Linda: Mm-hmm (laughs) the problem is that you can’t answer it because education is this horrible onion. You know so you pick a school district that’s good but it’s got bad parts and you pick a school that’s good but not all the teachers are equivalently tuned in to what you’re looking for. So it’s sort of at some level sort of not possible to second guess that. But you can have a critical eye and you can be that annoying parent that goes in and asks the hard questions (Steve laughs). I used to write notes. I would go to the back to school night  and tell the teachers “Look, I work in education alright so I’m going to be sending you notes. You can pull on out or not. You know you don’t have to… I’m just sharing my thoughts with you.” and I think of more parents did that. You know maybe teachers have sort of tuned in to that but it also would help the parents know what’s going on and make them more connected. As far as profession and you may want to edit this out but (both laughs) when my daughter went to college said you can do anything but education. Don’t be an Ed major, don’t go into education. It’s just so constrained right now. It’s just so under the political gun and under the corporate gun. It’s just a very difficult profession at the moment.

Steve: I’m probably not going to edit that out mostly because I want to start a conversation. I think we need to be honest with each other about the status of education and I think we need to talk honestly about the question we loved to ask. You know, “what is the purpose of an education” and then follow that up with “how do we do it in this context”.

Linda: We take it. We need to retake it. We need like a movement. We need you know pitchforks and torches (Steve laughs) and we need to stay in the castle and tell Pierson and tell legislators you know, “Give it back. It’s ours. You guys don’t know what you’re talking about and we want to own it again and get it off. You know go focus your spotlight on some other thing and leave us to do our thing. We’re professionals. We know what we’re doing.” I think that would help a lot.

Steve: Yeah. Well I’ve heard that from a couple of people and as a… you see a lot of teachers coming through. How often do you get that teacher that doesn’t get treated as a professional in their organization?

Linda: Well this is a self-selected group (laughs).

Steve: Okay, it’s probably not representative.

Linda: And even there, even there you get people who… well the very fact that they don’t have internet access to the things they need to get to at their school site because the district just decided what’s dangerous and what’s not. But they’re capability as an instructor is to safeguard or not even safeguard. You can’t safeguard kids but you can inform them and make them intelligent consumers of whatever they run into. You know the very fact that they’re treated like children, I mean that’s something you do to a child. You know you lock up the sharp knives. That’s kind of… you know and I get people coming in from districts where you know where can’t get to skype, where we can’t get to Minecraft. Oh, come on, Minecraft? And I understand there’s port reasons why and “blah-blah-blah” but there’s a disconnect between IT and the teaching profession in school districts. There’s disconnected university between IT and the people who are doing the instruction. So there are some places where we don’t have good collaborative engagement.

On the purpose of an education: “Well, I have a point of view. This is not truth. This is Linda’s point of view. I think the purpose of an education is to learn to engage deeply with world you live in. I think that you can acquire some habits of mind, some skill sets, some background basic knowledge that enables you to be a more powerful person in your own life and I think that’s what an education is about and I’m kind of freirian in that perspective. I think it’s an agency question.” – Dr. Linda Polin

Steve: So you laid a really good foundation for this… and I don’t even hardly have to say it. This is a conversation. It’s an ongoing conversation and it could use a little tinkering and a lot of work. But in that, we want to continue to ask those who are influencing this conversation. A central question and we’ll start off with this, what is the purpose of an education?

Linda: Well, I have a point of view. This is not truth. This is Linda’s point of view. I think the purpose of an education is to learn to engage deeply with world you live in. I think that you can acquire some habits of mind, some skill sets, some background basic knowledge that enables  you to be a more powerful person in your own life and I think that’s what an education is about and I’m kind of freirian  in that perspective. I think it’s an agency question.

Steve: I like that. We got lots of answers to that but I always like that particular one because it brings it back to us. You know the idea of learning, how to learn, and why that might be important because it is…

Linda: We should tell people that though. We don’t tell kids.

Steve: Why don’t we tell people that?

Linda: That’s a really good question. Why don’t we tell people that? Because then we lose control of them because once you tell people you’re in this in order to be a more powerful you, well then people get ideas (both laughs). You know it’s like “Oh, yeah? Okay, well here’s what I want to do.” and you know someone who’s in charge of a box of 32 kids might not need 32 independent spirits or might feel like they can’t handle 32 independent spirits.

Steve: Or a thousand or whatever (laughs)

Linda: Yeah or if you’re in high school, yeah, or on and on and on… So you know school in some ways is a lot about controlling. Controlling groups of people, controlling curriculum, and you know I mean it’s almost like… how am I going to say this? It’s almost like a prison system and there’s like bell schedules and we move it in chunks and you know we take a role. You know it’s like bed check you know. I mean it’s a very controlled environment and there’s good reasons for it. I don’t think we can just let go of everything. But the problem is we don’t stop to negotiate these differences when we hit them. We just bang into each other over and over and over. We don’t sit down and say “Let’s talk with IT about that issue around access or let’s talk with other teachers about maybe opening up the schedule so we’re not doing this compartmentalized units.” We’re not good at negotiating to a better space so dialog’s really actually a good thing to start with.

Steve: That’s interesting. I had never thought of it like that before but we’re the education system, we should know better than that (both laughs).

Linda: But you know it’s a system so you can’t just focus on one piece because all the other pieces move when you move the one system so you got to get everybody together. And you know these good reasons for what they do, IT’s got good reasons.

Steve: Yeah. So I wanted to come back to the purpose of an education because the question I would like to follow up with that one is, how do we do this in a practical way? So in your view, the idea of you know this being about agency, about personally actualizing in some way. How do we create an education system for… maybe a system is too big… in the classroom, in the day to day. How do we do that? Because that’s what really matters, it’s in the day to day classroom. That’s where we’re in contact with the students. How do we create an environment that fosters that?

Linda: Well, (laughs) and you know what and I get to make money with the golden answer. I think the first step is to re-empower teachers. We had this conversation in class a little while ago and someone was saying well you know, if I feel comfortable not knowing, if I feel comfortable learning with the students, if I feel comfortable going off the script you know where it’s not… it’s Friday at 10 o’clock, we’re all on page 20 in the history book. You know if we can return some of that freedom to the teachers and we’d give them the ability to do what they should know how to do and not then change the game on them later. Yeah, “Go experiment and play. But oh by the way, in June if your kids don’t move up on any points on the test then I have no interest in what you’ve done. You’re going back to the old way.” So we have to sort of re-empower the teachers to do what they can do. I trust that good teachers know what they’re doing and could find ways to… if you’ll pardon the expression… accomplish the curriculum just by doing interesting things and by tuning in to kids. I used to do this thing where I’d make people or teachers make a list of you know what are the 10 things they you’re average whatever graders’ thinking about on a regular basis, you know skateboards, girls, whatever, and then 10 things you want to teach. And then we would make little spinners and we would spin them until we get the two things lined up and you’d say “Alright, skateboards and the Civil War make a connection.” (Both laughs) think about it. You know because I remember as a kid being totally stunned by the fact that there were observation balloons in the Civil War. I said, “Wow! Those things were like totally present? I thought that was a different world of Science. I didn’t know there were submarines. What a trip. I thought that was the old days.” You know so there’s ways in which you can probably connect up with student’s interests and still manage a curriculum.

Steve: Alright so we have trust, anything else in accomplishing that goal of self-actualization in the classroom?

Linda: Opportunity, you got to have some more interesting things in there.

Steve: Opportunity within the classroom or opportunity after the classroom?

Linda: Yeah (laughs)

Steve: Okay. Alright, expand on that a little bit.

Linda: Well historically we always put the good stuff at home. You know it’s you sit in class to get at the info and then you got home and try things and obviously what you should be doing is trying things in the classroom and getting the information at home where you probably have better internet access anyway or at the library where it’s not filtered hopefully. Yeah, more sort of a moving around getting up doing things, trying things out, experimenting. Opportunity to muck around. That would be really wonderful within school because then when you went into a problem, you’re with somebody you know when you have homework issues. The kids at home with mom and dad may or may not game to engage with them around Algebra. You know you’re kind of stuck.  Yeah, you can get on skype and ask somebody what the answer was but they’re not going to explain it to you that well, necessarily. So if you’re in the classroom somebody would go… my understanding is that most of us who teach for teachable moments that moment where the person really needs to know and you actually can help them figure it out (Steve laughs) and it’s of the same moment. You need more of those so you create space for that to happen.

Steve: So is that… do you think that involves tools? Does that involve environments? Does that involve experiences or…

Linda: Probably all of that, yeah. But I’m kind of big on making tools to make things not just having tools to make things. I think an important part of subject matter is in the tool of the subject matter. So one of the things that always bug me about history… (I’m going to pick on history. I’ll bring the whole thing.) Is that it always comes to you as a pre-packaged essay. You know we give history text. Somebody’s figured out what’s important, what the leading causes of this war about treaty wasn’t… you know it’s all there and you just have to… your job is to like take that in. But if you talk to historians, they work in primary source documents and you may get a snippet on the side bar in a text book but nobody’s handing you a sheeth of letters and saying “So, what did this guy think? Was he an abolitionist or not? And how do you know?” You know that doing history and I think that’d be super cool to let people do it. You know I’d be cool to walk into a classroom and say “Well kids this year on 6th grade, we’re going to be writing a textbook about the Civil War.”

Steve: That might change how we think about subjects. Instead of handing out the answers, we talk about “what does it mean” to be whatever it is.

Linda: What constitutes evidence? What is truth? How does this subject area think about content? You know up here in Science class instead of handing me a beaker, said “Well, how am I going to boil this stuff up?” We’re going to need to make some stuff. You know first half of the year we’re going to make stuff and then we use that stuff to do things.

Steve: Interesting because I never thought about history so I’m still stuck in the history thing here (Linda laughs) because usually in history it’s what we do is we remember a bunch of facts. I’m not against the idea of setting up a timeline where there are kind of like major hinging events that we use as a hook to hang things. But I wonder we might not get a different view of history if instead of taking the book as the absolute truth about what happened in history. We did look at primary documents and ask “Well what do I think happened based on the evidence that I see?” I’d never thought of history like that.

Linda: Why, you can take now. You could say, “Well, let’s write the book for 50 years from now about what’s going on in the Ukraine. What do we need?”

Steve: That’s an interesting idea.

Linda: What’s going to constitute evidence? What events seem to be worth noting at this point in time and why? Have you decided what’s an important event? And, are we being American in our perspective? Do we need to maybe go in the internet (Steve laughs) and see what Spain thinks?

Steve: Yeah, important is pretty subjective. It depends on who you are as to what important it was.

Linda: Yes, absolutely!

Steve: And history might also be able to tell you what’s important because if you trace up and you know something happened and then like down the road you don’t see any evidence that that did anything, well maybe it’s not important.

Linda: That’s a great conversation I have and if I we’re running a business, I would want someone who could think about things that way.

Steve: Yeah, I think I agree with you. Alright, so we have truth and we have opportunities. Is there anything else that we would add to this self-actualization in the classroom? How do we do that in a practical way?

Linda: Well, we had trust not truth.

Steve: Oh, did I say truth? I’m sorry, trust yes trust.

Linda: Because we have to have a lot of iteration, I’m big iteration that’s because I’m an English major.

Steve: Trust and opportunity in iteration. I agree with the iteration. Iteration is something that I’m very open with.

Linda: I don’t even like the cause of failure consideration and they’re not good at iteration in schools. You know it’s usually a one shot deal. You do a paper and you get a grade and there’s not a lot of opportunity to try again. I have a couple of times told people if they weren’t happy with their grades, they could do it again. The problem is that all the people who didn’t do well choose not to redo it generally (Steve laughs) and the people who got an A- you know when they’re trying to get the A… and I’m just so not a grade grabber. It’s really hard for me to identify with that. But the idea… for me I have been training people in iteration. We haven’t gotten them to a habit of mind that you do stuff more than once. You know you fix it. It’s got problems. And in education in particular I think as a field, we have a tendency to try something once and if it doesn’t works we’d throw it out and you know iPads and LA unified was great example. It’s going to be a long time before that gets to see the light of day again.

Steve: So if we overemphasized efficiency in education somehow…? I’m going to understand…

Linda: I don’t know if it’s efficiency. There are sort of constraints around time. You know we were racing to get somewhere you know. We have to get to June and we have things we have to do get to June or I have to get to the end of the semester and I’ve got so much I got to cover. You know do I have time to stop and say “You know we really need to spend some time on this because we’re all confused.” or “We really need to revisit this. What do you think after you’ve done that if you have to do it again?” Time is a luxury in education. Unfortunately, there’s this weird thing…

Steve: Do we create some of that though, but on the shelves content then instead of asking about the learning?

Linda: I think it’s historical. I think its socio-culture. You know schools had been this way for a really long time. The semester has been a semester for a really long time.

Steve: How do you know that? How long has this been semester been this semester?

On the critical components of an education: “We’ve got trust, opportunity, time, and I would add reflection and that’s sort of related to time.” – Dr. Linda Polin

Linda: I don’t know but I’m old and it was there when I was a kid (both laughs) so. But I mean it’s hard to break you know sorts of pattern and then you know I’m a systems thinker. So that pattern, a lot of stuff has been built on that pattern (Steve laughs). You know there’s a lot of employment and maintenance and reporting and it was just like it’s this huge system. So if you want to break that you know you’ve got all these ripples down the road but time is a real gift in education. And when you look at how people learn outside of school, they’ve pretty much have a lot of leisure time to do it. No one says you’d better be in an immediate skier by next species and you’re screwed bro, we’ll have to… you know you’ll be in there forever. You know you’ll do remedial skiing and you know pros take lessons. We know that pro-athletes have mentors and lessons but we don’t do a lot of iteration in education. We’re on this conveyor belt. So the last thing, so we’ve got trust, opportunity, time, and I would add reflection and that’s sort of related to time. To stop and think about things and I’m guilty of it myself. When here even in our doctoral program, when they get to the Capstone which is a big synthesis project and it’s the first time that they had really think across all this stuff and step back and go “Well, what do I know? What have I learned?” (Steve laughs) “Oh, that’s a thing. I know that and that’s a thing to know and I can say I know that thing.” We don’t let people do that and that’s kind of good because that’s part of the agency too as sort of to have power you have to know what your powers are. You know I can be invisible. If you don’t know you can be invisible, it doesn’t do you any good (Steve laughs). So we need reflection time where people can sort of sit back and go “Yeah, I know that. I know that thing. I’ve mastered that thing.” I think those were the four. I would go with those four. There’s probably more.

Steve: I like it so I’m just going to recap. So we ask about the purpose of education and you indicated that that would have a lot to do with agency and about self-actualization about knowing yourself and being really truly being yourself. And then I asked how we might accomplish that and you indicated that we need trust, particularly trust at the teachers and probably also trust at the students. We need opportunity for the students in the classroom, outside the classroom.

Linda: To go off road.

Steve: Yeah, to go off road to try stuff and you know that kind of leads right into the third one which is time to iterate. You know try it, try it again. Try it in a different way. And then lastly, to reflect on all of that and see what patterns you see emerging. And before we started the conversation, we’re talking a little bit about self-reflection. You know, what am I supposed to be when I grow up? And we can’t really even answer those questions later in life unless we have those skills.

Linda: We don’t even ask them.

Steve: I think I sort of agree that maybe the middle school, high school student isn’t ready to truly answer those questions. But I think they should have the skills…

Linda: Well they can ask them for now.

Steve: To answer those questions once they have the data but you know… and they’ll continue to get data. But if they don’t know how to trust themselves, trust others, you know trust their mentors, that they aren’t trusted themselves and they don’t have that sense of confidence of being trusted. Often they don’t have opportunity to use to try things you know. They have a large enough range to know what that might be and then they don’t take the time to tinker out a little further to see if maybe they missed something or maybe they tried and they need to try it two-three times before they get it. And then once they get it, they realized they love it and that is the best thing in the universe and they just never knew they were good at it. You know and then take the time to sit and reflect back about that. You know those are good. I’m glad we had a chance to talk about that and that clarifies some things for me (Linda laughs).

Linda: Well you know it’s a perfect world scenario (Steve laughs) you described. But you know if we can get a stronger sense in the professional educational community from Daycare worker up to president of the university and we can get a sense of taking back the field from other entities that we have allowed to encroach with agendas that are counterproductive to the things we want to do. You know if we could all get our act together, I think that would be a very important first step.

Steve: I think I agree. Well we could keep going on. I have about a thousand questions I’d like to ask you at this point. That’s always my problems in these interviews is I get here and I realized there’s just a bunch more I need to ask. But thank you for taking a few minutes and answering these questions.

Linda: You asked good questions, very good questions.

Outro: Have you been enjoying the Table Top Inventing podcast? Have comments or questions you’d like us to address? Contact us and we’ll think through the comments and answer your questions here on the podcast. And be sure to let us know if you like a shout out or to remain anonymous. You can share your comments and questions at www.ttinvent.com/podcast or by emailing us at podcast@ttinvent.com. Let’s discuss your thoughts and questions. Join us again next time when we will again seek to answer the question, what is the purpose of an education? And as educators, how do we awaken the inventor in each of our students?


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