“High-level innovative thinking” at pilot school

Karen Quartz of UCLA

Karen Hunter Quartz is Director of Research and Development of the UCLA Community School in Los Angeles. She’s a dynamic and accomplished educator with scores of awards and several books to her name. You can read more about her impressive accomplishments in Karen’s profile.

The UCLA Community School is unusual. It’s a pilot school, a partnership between UCLA, LAUSD Local District 4 and several community-based organizations, and situated in the mid-Wilshire (Pico Union/Koreatown) area. The school offers a unique perspective on education:

  • Educators have automony and bring personal expertise to the curriculum.
  • Many of the teachers and staff are bi- or trilingual.
  • Teachers stay with learning groups for 2 years to build community.
  • Youngsters are grouped into small classes, not by age but by learning level.
  • Math and science emphasize real-world problem-solving, tailored to kids’ interests.
  • In the older grades, UCLA students provide outreach about majors and careers.

The UCLA Community School

The teachers radiate understanding of their students’ cultural backgrounds and family situations and they instill passion for learning. Karen feels that creating this school has been a dream job for her. “The common vision is very distinct knowledge of culturally-relevant instruction. We engage students in high-level thinking – and innovative curriculum,” says Quartz.

Right-brain stimulation accelerates learning

Melanie West, M.A., educational psychologist

Melanie West is an educational psychologist, the author of The Right Side of Learning and the founder of The Right Side of Learning program. “I started my career as a school psychologist for public schools, testing and diagnosing students for learning disabilities. But as I accumulated experiences, I discovered that we have a very real obstacle in our approach to children who experience a problem with learning,” she says.

West left her position in the public schools and embarked on a journey. She sought to discover a solution for learners whose brains work differently.

Many parents have experienced frustration as children race through work, work at a snail’s pace, or suddenly do something unrelated to the task at hand. “If you ask a child like this what he or she is thinking about, he might not know!” says West. She understands these children, and has developed a different way of looking at how kids learn — and has had great success in improving kids’ learning rate, long term memory skills and strengthen their ability to conceptualize new ideas.

This has implications for how kids learn in schools. “Schools must design an education that fully engages the right hemisphere during the learning process. Right-brain stimulation not only accelerates learning, it engages creative thinking and develops the problem-solving skills our children need for future success – not just their personal success but the success of our country as a whole.”

Come hear Melanie West talk about her innovative approach to teaching right-brained learners at our TEDxManhattanBeach conference on education on Oct. 22, 2011.

Read more about Melanie West

Messy is good, says d.school

Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft will joining us on Oct. 22nd to talk innovation in education. They are leaders at Stanford’s d.school (the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design), where Stanford students and faculty trained in a broad range of disciplines work together to find solutions to the world’s messy problems. Kids K-12 can benefit too. The mindset that comes from innovative, breakthrough thinking can give kids the tools they will need to learn in the 21st century. Scott Dorley and Scott Witthoft offer some tips to get your mind into an innovative place:

Scott Doorley

1. Develop a bias toward action
2. Go ahead and fail. Fail early!
3. Embody things through prototypes. Make one!
4. Walk around and talk to people.
5. Share – display your work in progress.
6. Reflect, lean back, discuss.
7. Maybe take the team outside.

To prepare kids for success in the future, both Scotts advocate abandoning preconceptions that kids “shouldn’t fail” and that they should “work alone”.

Scott Witthoft

The d.school lab offers a great example of these ideas in action – it’s a moveable, gently disordered space, where innovators are encouraged to be a little messy, leave out their toys and move around. Says David Kelley, the founder of Stanford’s d.school: “The space isn’t precious. The whole culture of the place says ‘we’re looking for better ideas,’ not ‘keep your feet off the furniture’.”

Great news for busy parents: messy is good for you.

“Make IT Happen” winner weaves technology into education

Hall Davidson will speak at our TEDxMB conference on education on October 22, 2011. Davidson, winner of the prestigious “Make IT Happen” award, joined Discovery Education in 2005 and serves as Director of Global Learning Initiatives. He’s spoken about technology and education to audiences around the world.

At a recent  International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference, Davidson offered media-making fun for kids. Students created Web 2.0 videos and original videos and “curriculum mashups.” The students developed content on Web 2.0 sites (for instance Gizmoz, Blabberize and Wordle), then video-screen-captured it, and edited it with student work and other video material.

Davidson explains that these types of video clips are not dependent on internet access and work just fine on the desktop. Free downloadable files from GoogleLitTrips, GoogleEarth and Second Life can all work well in the classroom this way.

Davidson also shared a link to fantastic videos made by students. The students who made these videos won awards for their work at the 2011 California Student Media Festival.  These student-directors and actors show humor and media savvy as well as phenomenal passion for learning.

Davidson says, “Videos don’t have to be perfect – mine aren’t! The model is to let other teachers know it can be done!” Please join us to hear Hall Davidson speak at our TEDxManhattan Beach conference on education on October 22, 2011. (Scroll to the bottom to buy tickets.)

Impassioned school CEO boosts academics, self-esteem in So. L.A.

When you meet Dr. Yaw O. Adutwum his energy and impassioned committment to education immediately impresses you. An educator and community activist born in Ghana, he is today the founder and CEO of New Designs Charter School in Los Angeles. The high school dropout rate in Los Angeles is a disheartening 44%, and those most affected are African-American and Latino students. As an educator, Dr. Adutwum recognized that his students in South Los Angeles had solid intellectual skills but often lacked motivation and even more importantly academic self-esteem. He has dedicated himself to opening up better paths for students like these, designing programs that boost morale and teach crucial skills like math and science. In 2007 the school received a $150,000 grant from the Bill and Mellinda Gates Foundation through Edvisions Inc. to enhance curriculum development and instructional delivery. “Around campus we’re celebrating the highest G.P.A, the best science fair project, who is going to win student of the week, and most importantly who made it to the Honor Roll. These are our values,” emphasizes Dr. Adutwum.

Dr. Adutwum will be speaking to TEDxManhattanBeach this October, talking about how he created his phenomenally successful school. “We’re driving high academic student achievement while maintaining a stable, fiscally efficient, sound organization that is a responsible steward of public funds,” he says.

We invite you to join us on Oct 22nd to hear Dr. Adutwum and many other dynamic speakers to imagine the future of education with us.