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Variability Matters

We design for variability we can see. But what about the variability we can’t?

By default, we tend to design learning environments for efficiency and the average student, but in doing so do we limit the potential inherent in the unseen variability of students’ brains? Are we, by default, failing to capitalize on one our nation’s most underutilized assets: diversity? Todd Rose thinks so.

Here is a short 10-minute lecture by Dr. Rose, whose biography at Harvard’s Mind, Brain and Education website reads:

Todd Rose is a research scientist with CAST and a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he teaches Educational Neuroscience. His work is organized around six themes: human variability; course design and pedagogy in higher education; adaptive learning analytics; interdisciplinary thinking; the synergistic relationship between neuroscience, technology, and design in education; and the application of dynamic systems models to the study of behavior, learning, and development.

He makes a strong case for re-thinking how we go about designing learning environments that “genuinely support the full range of the learners in our classrooms.” He argues for cultivating an ecosystem of “learning opportunities” through “understanding variability and understanding how to design for it” as a method for leveraging the diversity of our student body, and making schools/cyberlearning more relevant, meaningful, and valuable in the process. We could not agree more.

It is a concept whose time has come.

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Want to know more about variability and designing for it in the classroom? Check out these resources:

Feel free to share other resources in the comments below.

This post is part of our Transformational Learning series and relates to Culture, Curriculum Goals, Academic Access, and Personalization.  

Photo Credit: ThreeHeadedMonkey via Compfight cc

Chris Emdin on Hip-hop, Obama Effect & Urban Science Education

about-picBelow is a short video of Chris Emdin, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University. In it he lays out some of the intersections of urban education, hip hop and the potential impact of President Obama on the black youth of today.

These are important considerations to wrestle with as we look to transform schools into communities where all students find they have a place, a voice, and no small amount of hope and purpose. Too often we mistake rigor for relevance, achievement for well being, and accountability for quality. Perhaps we need to step back and rethink engagement, vigor, and the meaningfulness of curricula to ensure the experiences we provide students reflect their needs, interests, and affinities.

You can learn more about Dr. Christopher Emdin’s work on his website and read his paper on the topic of this video at Teachers College Record.

Image: Chris Emdin dot com
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