Sampling some web dialogue around ‘Education Is Upside-Down’

In the past few months I’ve been recommending something I never thought I would, and to more people than I probably should. It happens a little like this: some person and I are in the middle of a conversation, I’m all interested in the person’s story, and I just up and say, ‘You know what? You should write about that.’

Now I’m not sure why, but I can tell you this: if you say this to someone, you should be ready for it to strike them as more confusing than anything else. Not intellectually confusing, exactly, but more like an ‘I-just-took-an-Ali-hook-to-the-temple’ confusing. You’ll notice a weird glaze: like the person can’t quite tell what just happened to them, but they feel, absolutely, that something just happened to them. The 2-3 times I’ve said it, in fact, my conversation partners’ expressions seemed concerned — like they thought I was experiencing some profound brain trauma or something.

Still, however, I mean it. Every time I’ve said it, I meant it. When I’ve encouraged someone to write about something, I’ve truly believed the speaker’s story to be that interest-provoking, and their voice to be that compelling. Confident in that, I blow right through their bewildered, gear-grinding expression and urge them to consider getting that story or some further exploration of that story down somewhere (in an essay, a short story, a poem, whatever). It could, I implore, very well help someone else — the writer, even, at a later time — get through their own thinking. And hey, that’s just a good thing.

At bottom, I can’t resist making these kinds of offbeat encouragements. For simply, I’m getting so much satisfaction from the dialogue I’ve been able to have around my own book (Education Is Upside-Down: Reframing Reform to Focus on the Right Problems) that I want more people to experience the same. More folks are picking the book up and reacting to it on the web, and I’m finding myself, thanks to Twitter (follow me!) and Facebook (like me!), in more fulfilling and instructive conversations about education than I may ever have before — which is saying something, considering that ed has been my day-in-day-out field for nearly twenty years. These folks and I don’t always agree, but I always appreciate the dialogue. As the amazing Karin Chenoweth (to give an example of the kind of brilliant thinkers I’ve been able to converse with recently) said to me in a recent correspondence, ‘This is how we get smarter.’

All of the above in mind, below are a few people who have engaged with Education Is Upside-Down and recorded some takeaways in their own web forums. I am happy to have met and conversed with them all, and I hope you make them regular stops in your blog browsing. I guarantee that they’ll teach you a lot. And hey, if you have your own reactions to the work and decide to write about it, well…first, THANK YOU for doing so (the exposure is appreciated), and second, please pass it on to me.

Greg Ashman, Teacher/Blogger/Researcher, Australia – Book Review at his ‘Filling the Pail’ blog

Very favorable review (thanks, Greg!) from a very thoughtful, dedicated, and funny — that’s important — educator. Greg’s blogs and writing projects have become daily reading staples for me since stumbling on them. The review’s primary focus is on Education Is Upside-Down‘s exploration of character/noncognitive education (‘institutional virtues’, per EIUD) and its relationship to academic study.

David Didau, Educator/Writer, Great Britain – Mention of above Ashman review at ‘The Learning Spy’ blog

In his post about character education (clearly, we’re all wrestling with this in the enterprise), David references Greg’s review of my book and says I offer an ‘intriguing solution’. I, consequently, head straight for the clouds, floating on happiness. This guy is a force. (And he’s funny. Again, that’s crucial.) Do check him out.

[BONUS NOTE: Appearing as these two mentions did the week before May’s researchED conference in NY, several British (Daisy Christodoulou and Tom Bennett, for instance) and U.S. (Dan Willingham and Ben Riley) heroes of mine in attendance actually knew who I was and seemed okay with me fawning all over them.]

 Didau, again. This time referencing EIUD‘s takes on teacher evaluation, the Charlotte Danielson Framework in particular.

Was thrilled to be ref’d here, as teacher evaluation and available tools/descriptors are huge professional emphases of mine. David’s take is comprehensive and covers all kinds of ground (I told you, he’s a force), and I am very pleased with where he chose to fit me in. Check it for yourself!

Josh Fisher, Math Educator/Writer, U.S. – Quotes EIUD in blog post about motivation gap and ed’s typical reaction.

At his sineof1 site, the unfailingly logical and precise Josh Fisher shares some data he’d collected independently from math educators about students’ limiting factors, explores the results, and provides his concerned take. As support, he quotes an aligning message from Education Is Upside-Down and puts it alongside some heavy-hitters (like CK’s Lisa Hansel, another of my personal ed heroes) communicating similar themes.

I could go on here, but this should be a blog-worthy sample for now. Go visit these fine folks’ work, and consider this writing thing for yourself. My experience is showing me that going into the danger of writing can open amazing amounts of learning — learning that somehow only begins when the writing project itself is complete. Indeed, Karin: ‘This is how we get smarter.’


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