Guest Blogger for Enstitute

I have been graciously invited to be a guest blogger for Enstitute.  As a teacher who is trying to change the education system, I am honored to be able to contribute to this innovative organization as they are trying to change how education happens too!

In case you have not heard of them…

“…Enstitute, a national non-profit, is reinventing apprenticeships for 21st century careers. Working to address both the growing cost of higher education as well as the current youth unemployment crisis, Enstitute provides young adults with one year, full-time, apprenticeships at high growth startups, small businesses, and corporations around the country to prepare them for the workforce and accelerate their career trajectory.”

I strongly believe in their model.  Unfortunately, they have decided to close their doors.  Perhaps in the future, we can build something similar here on the west coast of Canada.

As their site has been shut down, below is a sample of the work I did for them:

Innovating in education required – start early and carry on!

We have just packaged up the last exam of the semester to be sent back to the Ministry of Education in Victoria, BC.  Times like these make an educator reflect on things.  Especially for a teacher like me who is trying to change the entire system.  When I see questions on Science exams like:

What biome do penguins come from? (Showing a picture of a penguin with ice in the background).

It makes me wonder.  I am not sure how this is a true measure of a student’s scientific thinking and it clearly puts into perspective what we at the Pacific School of Innovation (PSII) are trying to do vs. what is still demanded of us by the current system.

What we are trying to do, like Enstitue, is provide a personalized learning experience.  Not a one size fits all approach from a hundred years ago where everyone must demonstrate their recall on exams and know where penguins come from.

Instead, we offer a more difficult path; difficult only because in most cases, the learner has been conditioned by a system that is opposite of how human beings actually learn.  We learn by asking questions.  We learn by doing.  Not by being told what to learn, when to learn it and then measured upon whether we can recall the information (back to penguins!).

Ironically, it can be a big switch to return to asking questions like we did in kindergarten.

I have been explaining it like this to our learners:

As an artist with boundless energy, I felt stifled sitting all day listening to boring lectures in high school (and university!).  I needed to learn by doing.  At the time, I was a huge snowboarder, it was my passion.  If I could have done all of my school through the lens of snowboarding, it would have totally changed the trajectory of my life.  I could have done science through snow research, chemical bonds, global warming, mountain geology and more.  I could have written about how the culture erupted from a bunch of rebels and grew into a multimillion dollar industry.  I could have designed a physical education program tailored to the muscle requirements of my sport.   I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

This is the opportunity in front of my learners now.  It is amazing to watch the learning that happens when you give people this freedom.  Currently, I have a learner who is a big time soccer player.  She is also fascinated by science and psychology. This learner has developed a multidisciplinary inquiry through an experiment about using visualization techniques to improve performance.  She is writing about it, reading about it and doing primary research through an upcoming meeting with the mental training coach for the Canadian women’s national soccer team.

She is learning about how to do science through doing science.  In June though, she will be asked to regurgitate where penguins come from.  You tell me, which is the more powerful learning experience?

I still have 2 more years with this student where we will continue to co-construct personalized, emergent curriculum.  My fear is that she will go to college after this amazing learning experience and get discouraged by having to return to knowing which one answer is correct on a multiple choice exam.  I am positive she can make it through, but why?  There needs to be an alternative.  It is why I strongly believe in the Ensitute model.  It continues on the personalized, learn by doing approach which is what I feel is absolutely necessary for our hyper-changing world of work.  Don’t get me wrong, I also believe in a liberal arts education, but that is an easy education to get with a free library card. It is much more difficult to get the direct, hands on experience gaining the exact skills that organizations need to survive in real time.

One of my favorite quotes is, “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.”  The time has come to change how education gets done.  It is why I believe Enstitute will succeed.

To read more from Jake, go here.


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