Friday, March 09, 2007

Out of Box thinking needed to improve learning

In a previous post I provided a graphic intended to encourage people to think of the day in three segments, of school hours, 3-5 after-school hours and after 5pm evening hours.

In another I posted a graphic encouraging business leaders to point to school based, and non-school programs, when encouraging employees and customers to be volunteers or make donations.

Today I'm making another effort to encourage out of the box thinking. By that, I mean, let's think of solutions that are not focused at the school building or school day as being the only distribution channel we need to reach kids, build aspirations, and help them learn what they need to know to go through college and enter jobs and careers.

In a variety of forums such as at I'm meeting people who are innovating ways to connect networks. Today I talked with Richard Cherwitz, of the University of Texas. Dr. Cherwitz is an innovative thinker who seeks to "encourage academic engagement and collaborations across disciplines within the university community, as well as collaborations and partnerships with community that might produce solutions to society's most vexing problems."
In another post I've written about an advocacy project of the UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools. The leaders of this movement are basically saying that all the money spend on the government funding of No Child Left Behind won't have the desired result in high poverty neighborhoods because this money does not also fund the learning supports that are so important to help kids be able to learn and succeed in school.

While this is one of the most focused efforts I've seen, it still is not out of the box. It focuses on efforts that reach kids in the school, during the school day or right after. It does not focus on all the other people and activities that can mentor learning, or on the role of businesses in pulling kids through school and into careers.

In other articles I illustrate the use of maps to focus attention, and resources to every poverty neighborhood of the Chicago region, rather than to just a few visible areas. If generals in war can use maps to point troops at enemy territory, why can we teach leaders to use maps in our war on poverty.

My goal in using graphics is that they convey ideas more clearly than words. In a section of the T/MC web library, I post numerous other examples of how visual tools can aid innovation and collaboration.

As I write, my goal is that visual thinkers at universities and in industry, and others who are involved with complex problem solving, will respond to the vision of Dr. Cherwitz and reach out to help the Tutor/Mentor Connection in its efforts to create an army of leaders who think out of the box, and are willing to connect, collaborate, learn from each other and in short, build a better operating system for helping kids living in poverty connect with mentors and learning resources that help them move more successfully through school and in to careers.


Barbara Bray said...

I just learned about your forum and from you from Thanks! I also work with teachers in high poverty schools who try to challenge at-risk students. We work with new teachers and administrator programs around the country. Because of NCLB - accountability issues - teachers are concerned more about keeping test scores up so they can keep their jobs and schools open. High poverty schools are at-risk. We train mentors who then work with teachers on-site and online who want to find strategies to engage their students. This is tough! Yes - agree about thinking out of the box and outside of school but still want to find a way to motivate students anytime of the day.

Teachers love to collaborate (but are not sure how or have the time) and want to learn from each other (but need a guide to help them find others like them). That's why I created an online learning community for educators My eCoach) where some groups are reaching out to the community to make the curriculum come alive. Several schools in Florida are focusing on six 6-week cross-age cross curriculum projects. Think weather reports by Kindergartners videotaped by high schoolers based on data collected by 6th graders from their weather station. Cool eh?

I love the idea of using graphics and have a builder that allows teachers to create websites that upload graphics, podcasts, videos, embedded code, links and more - align to standards - collaborate - share resources. Check out Donna's Class Site. Willing to share more if interested. Thanks!

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Thanks Barbara. I hope you'll join the forums at and try to find a way to participate in the conferences at

I think there is a built in resistance among many adults, not just teachers, to using the internet in all of the ways it's being used by some teachers and leaders.

While I spend lots of time coaching and mentoring others, I think we have to build habits of elearning and collaboration starting with children.

If kids learn these habits as they grow up, and learn to use these tools to solve problems or innovate new ways to make the world a better place, they will apply these talents as adults.

While these habits can be learned in school, it's just as likely they can be learned in non-school programs where the people modling these uses of technology are people who use the technology every day on their jobs.

Thus, what can we do to convince the education policy makers that support of volunteer-based non-school tutor/mentoring is essential to building skills and aspirations that are not consistently modeled by parents and neighbors in the community (because of poverty) or the schools (because of lack of exposure and lack of time).

I predict a near future when the web sites created by kids, both in schools, and in non school programs, are models that teachers and others are learning from.