The 50 Best Videos For Teachers Interested In Gamification

Image by Sezzles via Flickr Creative Commons

Gaming in education is a really big deal, and a very fun way to get students more involved and interested in education.

Board games, video games, even active outdoor games all have an important place in education, and these videos share more about their role in learning.

Check out our list of 50 awesome videos for gaming teachers to discover what experts, teachers, and even students have to say about using games for education.

Gabe Zichermann: How games make kids smarter:
Check out Gabe Zichermann’s TED talk to find out how video games can actually make kids smarter and better problem solvers.

Johnny Lee demos Wii Remote hacks:
Check out this video to see how you can turn a cheap Wii Remote into a sophisticated educational tool.
Professor Henry Jenkins on games-based learning at SxSWi 2009:
MIT professor Henry Jenkins discusses why he thinks games are great learning tools in this video from SxSWi 2009.
Game-based Learning:
This video offers an excellent introduction into the idea of game-based learning, exploring how digital games can share enriched learning experiences.
Games and Education Scholar James Paul Gee on Video Games, Learning, and Literacy:
Learn about game learning from expert James Paul Gee, who explains the idea of situated and embodied learning, and how to helps students learn about problem solving.
Katie Salen on Game Design and Learning:
Quest2Learn’s Katie Salen explains the philosophy of using game design for learning in the classroom in this video.

John Hunter: Teaching with the World Peace Game:
John Hunter explains how he puts all of the world’s problems on a plywood board and uses the “World Peace Game” to encourage his 4th graders to solve them all, engaging them in learning and teaching complex lessons.
Game for Good Design Camp:
Gaming in education comes full circle in this video from Generation Cures Game for Good Design Camp. Students learn about science, technology, engineering, and math while they design video games that help others learn.
Immersive learning: it’s game on!:
Find out how immersive gaming environments can be useful for students and educators.
Stuart Brown: Play is more than fun:Dr. Stuart Brown discusses his research on play, explaining that gaming and play are important to healthy childhood development into adulthood.
What is Game Based Learning:
Check out this video to find a brief introduction to game-based learning.

Game On! How Playful Learning Works:
MIT’s video explains how playful learning works in an anywhere/everywhere state of play.
Teaching with Games: GLPC Case Study: Joel:
This video case study explores Joel Levin’s work as a school technology integrator, following him as he shares MinecraftEDU with second graders in New York City.
Game-Based Learning:
This video explains the application of game-based learning with video presentation and resources.
Classroom Game Design: Paul Andersen at TEDxBozeman:
Paul Andersen’s classroom is a video game, and you can learn how he puts video games to work in AP biology.
Video Games and the Future of Learning:
Jan Plass and Bruce Horner lecture in this video, explaining the research and science behind video games and their future in education.

Game Based Learning in Special Education:
Andre Chercka discusses his experience with game-based learning and how it can be applied to special education in this talk.
Steve Keil: A manifesto for play, for Bulgaria and beyond:
View this talk to find out why Bulgarian Steve Keil thinks play is so important to education and society, and how we can reinvent learning to better share a sense of play.
Mission Impossible Physical Education Game:
Check out this fun physical education game to see how kids can come together to think critically and work as a team.
The Gaming of Education:
In this video, you’ll see how gaming can help kids learn and engage more deeply, and enjoy “The Great Brain Debate” as experts question whether gaming in education negatively contributes to digital information overload.
Brenda Brathwaite: Gaming for understanding:
Game designer Brenda Brathwaite discusses how she created a game to help her daughter better understand the concept of slavery.
EdmodoCon 2011: Game Based Learning:
Watch this video to see how high school teacher Hyle Daley integrates educational gaming into curriculum.
Integrating Games-based Learning: A Conversation with Tim Rylands:
In this video, you’ll learn how to integrate games-based learning in your classroom.

Tim Brown: Tales of creativity and play:
Designer Tim Brown explains how important play is to creative thinking, offering great ideas for bringing play into our lives and classrooms.
Teaching with Games: GLPC Case Study: Lisa:
Check out this video with 4th grade teacher Lisa Parisi as she uses freely available games from BrainPOP and Manga High to challenge them in math and science content.
Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world:
Jane McGonigal’s talk explains how we can harness the power of gaming to solve real-world problems.
Nolan Bushnell Talks About Making Learning a Game:
View this video from Atari founder Nolan Bushnell as he talks about changing the way kids learn in and out of school with gaming.
Game-based learning: what do e-learning designers need to know?:
What makes educational games different? This video takes a look at what e-learning designers have to do differently when it comes to learning games.
Dawn Hallybone, Teacher, Learning Without Frontiers, London:
In this video, British teacher Dawn Hallybone shares her strategies for bringing commercial video game technology to learning in order to motivate her students and improve educational outcomes.
Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!:
Sir Ken Robinson shares his ideas for a radical shift in learning, bringing personalization and creativity to education, and allowing kids’ natural talents to grow.
Games and Learning in the Classroom with Teacher Prantika Das:
Follow this Microsoft Most Innovative Teachers Forum winner as she explains how she uses games to stimulate learning in her classroom.

Net Gen Ed: Game-based Learning:This video from Net Gen Ed explains the fundamentals of game-based learning and how to use games for educational purposes.
A Vision for 21st Century Learning:
Check out this presentation on game based learning to better understand the ideas behind immersive learning environments.
Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning:
How do you get boys interested in learning? Encourage them to play video games. Ali Carr-Chellman’s talk explains a great plan to engage boys in the classroom by bringing video games in.
Gaming in Libraries Class:
See what Paul Waelchli has to say about teaching through game learning in this Gaming in Libraries course.
Ian Bogost on Serious Games:
Get gaming expert Ian Bogost view on what serious games can do for education and beyond.

School Mods: Gaming the Education System:
Jonathan Schneker’s talk is all about how video games can actually help us learn.
Education & business find uses for Serious Games:
This piece from Euronews explains how computer games are breaking beyond entertainment and moving into the education and business world.
Game based Learning-How computer games and their design can be used in schools:
Watch this video from the Festival of Education explaining why computer games are an essential part of 21st century curriculum.
James Paul Gee on Learning with Video Games:
Gaming expert James Paul Gee shares his insight into why video games make great learning tools.
Tom Chatfield: 7 ways games reward the brain:
Watch Tom Chatfield’s TED talk to find out how games engage and reward our brains to keep us going for more.
Consolarium on BBC News: Gaming in Education:
Scottish educators explain how the Nintendo DS is making a difference in engagement and educational attainment for Scottish students.
Dr. Paul Howard-Jones – Neuroscience, Games & Learning:
Dr. Paul Howard-Jones discusses the science of game-based learning as he explains how gaming engages the brain in education.
Welcome to the Digital Generation:
This series of videos from Edutopia explains great ideas for teaching today’s digital generation

The Money Game:
In this financial education game, students learn basic money management and wealth creation principles, making personal finance education fun and easy.
Brenda Laurel:
Brenda Laurel’s talk on games for girls offers interesting ideas for getting female students more engaged in game learning.
Game-Based Learning in Higher Education:
Game-based learning isn’t just for kids. Watch this talk from the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching to find out why and how game-based learning can be used for higher education.
James Paul Gee on Grading with Games:
Game-based learning expert James Paul Gee explains how kids can learn, and be graded, with games.
Teaching with Games: GLPC Video Case Study: Steve:
Technology instructor Steve Isaacs discusses how he uses video game design and development in 7th grade curriculum, developing 21st century skills and helping to motivate students.
Douglas Thomas on Video Game Learning: Interacting with Media:
Watch this video from the MacArthur Foundation to find out how video games can serve as powerful learning tools for students.


Community Colleges see an INCREASE in students entering with Academic Needs | In Hawaii 70% need remediation | WHY? asks Jeff Piontek

This is nothing new to anyone with a heartbeat or a pulse in education, who work in the Pre K-20 or P-12/P-16 continuum. The fact that so many students drop out of high school in 9th grade, take the GED route instead of attending classes (and some pass) and then go on to CC, and of course those who eventually graduate in 5/6 years just shows that the high school system is fatally flawed and needs to be revamped NOW.

If you want to know more about my views on this topic watch the presentation I did in 2007, yes 2007 to the entire STEM, Political and Education committees in Hawaii which showcases our data, it is disturbing.

But, you know what is even more disturbing is the fact that under our current administration, our current superintendent and our current BOE nothing has changed!!!!

This year though during the election or re-election campaigns they will though promise to do it AGAIN, promise to make things better AGAIN and unfortunately we will see in another 2/4/6 years at the end of their term what has actually been done. There are people like Linda Lingle who as Governor did more for education that her prior three Governor’s and unfortunately in a wildly Democratic State like Hawaii did not receive the credit for her attempts to move Hawaii into the national spotlight with Robotics, STEM education and partnerships with organizations like the National Governor’s Association.

Maybe someday Hawaii will have a strong, healthy, diverse economy, but not if the “Good Old Boys” network keeps on doing what they are doing, NOTHING to change it, because it benefits them.

Presentation Link:

Community colleges should tailor remedial curriculum for students who are unprepared for introductory English and math courses, and in some cases, developmental classes “hinder” student progress, according to a report released by the Education Department (ED) during an April 27 virtual symposium.

ED Secretary Arne Duncan and Second Lady Jill Biden spoke to educators and students at a symposium broadcast on the internet from Montgomery College in Silver Spring, Md., a two-year school with more than 60,000 students on three campuses.

ED officials and educators who led sessions at the symposium outlined “bridge programs” for adult learners who want to return to college after many years in the workforce, and customizing those remedial classes that come with high costs to colleges, students, and taxpayers.

ED released the report to coincide with the symposium that said as much as 60 percent of incoming community college students enroll “in at least one developmental education course to bring their reading, writing, and mathematics skills up to college level.”

Developmental classes that help new community college students catch up with their peers can be critical to earning a degree, according to the ED report, but remedial education “may not improve students’ persistence or completion rates and, in some cases, may actually hinder their progress toward educational goals.”

A more flexible slate of remedial class options on two-year campuses would have educators pinpoint precisely where a student needs improvement, said Shanna Smith Jaggars, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center in New York.

Targeting specific academic vulnerabilities, Smith Jaggars said, would allow a student to move through remedial classes quickly without redundant lessons that lead to high drop-out rates among remedial students.

“We need a system that diagnoses student weaknesses and determines which areas require quick redress [that] gives students less opportunity to get disheartened and a chance to drop out,” she said.

Early intervention was stressed by several speakers who addressed remedial classes in community colleges. College officials and policy analysts said summer bridge programs would help high school students prepare for college without having to enroll in non-credit-bearing remedial courses.

Duncan and Biden, as they have since President Obama entered the White House in 2009, said continued help – including federal funds – for two-year colleges would help unemployed Americans find jobs and prove to be a centerpiece in the country’s economic recovery.

ED introduced the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grants Program on Jan. 20, inviting community colleges—and other two-year degree-granting institutions—to apply for up to $5 million per institution, or up to $20 million to applicants who apply for funds in a consortium of schools.

ED will dole out about $500 million in 2011, and $2 billion will be distributed in the next four years overall, according to the announcement.

“These funds will support programs that use proven or innovative strategies to prepare students for high-demand careers,” Biden said.

The Obama administration in October invited more than 100 community college decision makers to the White House’s first-ever Summit on Community Colleges, where top federal officials lauded two-year colleges as a bridge to jobs and four-year universities, and a way to lead the world in college graduates by 2020.

Education analysts said last year that the expansion of online classes at two-year colleges would be key in increasing community college enrollment.

Distance-learning enrollment in American community colleges jumped by 22 percent during the 2008-09 academic year, an increase fueled in part by an influx of nontraditional students who require the flexibility of online courses, according to a survey conducted by the Instructional Technology Council (ITC).

The ITC, which is affiliated with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), collected 226 responses from community colleges in its annual survey, “Trends in eLearning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges,” which revealed the 2008-09 increase in online enrollment. Last year’s ITC survey reported an 11-percent uptick in web-based class enrollment at community colleges.

“We flat lined and stagnated [while] other countries have passed us by and I think we are paying a price for that,” Duncan said. “So [as we] try to educate our way to a better economy, community colleges are absolutely going to help lead us where we need to go. … Community colleges have been the unrecognized, unpolished gem on the education continuum. I believe we have come a long way to ending that.”

Biden, a longtime educator and adjunct English professor at Northern Virginia Community College, lauded the Obama administration’s $2 billion community college funding add-on to the health care reform bill passed last year.

Will this actually change anything? What are your comments I would love to know……


Pennsylvania: Cyber charter schools aren’t working | so let’s expand them K12? asks Jeff Piontek

There’s an interesting and worthwhile debate over whether we should be expanding alternative, public-funded charter schools; some, like the Kipp Academiies, are clearly successful, although we can argue about the extent of that success. Others have been flat-out scams. Then we have the case of cyber charter schools, which receive public tax dollars to educate children over the Internet, and which seem to be especially popular in Pennsylvania.

What could possibly go wrong with poorly supervised, taxpayer-funded online learning, right? Especially in such an on-the-ball state as this one.

Well, just like with some bricks-and-mortar charter schools, some cyber charters are deeply flawed. My Daily News colleague, David Gambacorta, has reported extensively this year on problems at a Philadelphia based cyber-school called the Frontier Virtual Charter High School. It was just forced to surrender its charter, actually. Why?

Frontier didn’t supply students with promised laptops, printers and Internet reimbursements, the state said. The school’s administrators didn’t properly monitor attendance, truancy and grades, according to investigators. A “significant” amount of money was spent on nonschool expenses, the state said, including trips to restaurants and cash purchases that weren’t backed with the receipts. The school failed to provide many of the classes it had offered students.

An extreme case? For sure. But what if I told you that, generally, a wide swatch of students at these cyber charters are underperforming their peers at other traditional public or charter schools? That seems to be exactly what has been happening here in the Keystone State (PDF):

“In an April 2011 study (PDF), the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University reviewed the academic performance in Pennsylvania’s charter schools.  Virtual-school operators have been aggressively expanding in the state for more than a decade, making it a good place for a study; around 18,700 of the state’s 61,770 charter school students were enrolled in online schools. The results weren’t promising.

The virtual-school students started out with higher test scores than their counterparts in regular charters. But according to the study, they ended up with learning gains that were “significantly worse” than kids in traditional charters and public schools. Says CREDO research manager Devora Davis, “What we can say right now is that whatever they’re doing in Pennsylvania is definitely not working and should not be replicated.”

So, given this body of research from one of America’s top universities, guess what the state of Pennsylvania is doing?

It’s replicating them!

Specifically, the state has greenlighted four new cyber-charter schools — all of them run out of Philadelphia. Education guru Diane Ravitch wrote yesterday: “This is unbelievable,” and it’s hard not to agree. At a very cursory glance, the folks running these new ventures seem to be qualified and well-meaning. But that’s not the issue. The issue is the growing evidence that cyber charters are not helping — and possibly harming — the kids who are educated there. Until these issues are resolved, Pennsylvania should not be approving new cyber charters.

The Revolution:Top Ten Disruptors of Education | by Jeff Piontek

New online learning models are bursting from startups and top universities, bridging the educational divide.

We are in the midst of a revolution that will bring high-quality education to hundreds of millions of people who have never had access to this level of learning before.

These tools will reach those in developing cities and countries but also foment a revolution in the U.S. classroom as they change our perception of what learning can be.

Here are the leading new platfoms disupting the education world:


Sebastian Thurn and his colleagues hit on wild success with their Stanford computer science courses when they opened them up to the online public.The team has left Stanford to start Udacity with venture backing and a new slate of courses. They have hit 150,000+ students in each course, signaling the demand for great online education. Thurn admits that there is no firm business model as yet, but will use the next year to experiment with different approaches.

CNN highlights Udacity’s new model.

2. Coursera

Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng founded Coursera to bring high-quality university courses to the masses. They are working with Princeton, Michigan, Penn, Stanford and others to fashion online courses which include video, online testing and peer support. In a recent Forbes article, Koller expressed the hope that “maybe the next Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs is living in a remote village in Africa” Bringing top professors to a global audience can certainly change the game in the education divide.

3. EdX — MIT and Harvard

MIT has been a pioneer in online education with its Open Courseware (OCW) program. Now it teams up with Harvard to launch EdX (by the way — have you noticed how many brands use x these days? SpaceX, UberX, X Prize, TEDx — it gives that hint of mystery to a brand.) OCW boasts more than 2,000 online courses, but these are all archived. EdX will specialize in courses that students can take together with supervision and interaction.


4. iTunes U

I still meet people who own iPads, iPhones and every other Apple device and yet do not know about iTunes U. How can this be?!

Want to understand what in the world a Higgs boson is? Download a physics course from U.

5. Khan

Sal Khan hit on education gold when he started making videos for his young cousins on science and math. Now the site offers more than 3,000 videos — all in short form so they are easy to digest. Great for kids to watch at home and do more interactive work at school. Let’s phase out boring class lectures and get kids moving and excited at school.

Many would benefit from watching the video on the Greek crisis:

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6. 2Tor

John Katzman founded Princeton Review and now launched 2Tor. His new company teams up with top universities such as USC to offer fully accredited degrees online.

USC and 2tor offer a full masters in education. This is great for anyone who wants to change careers and still work while they are obtaining the degree necessary to become a teacher. 2tors’s newest degree is from Wash U. and offers foreign lawyers a masters in U.S. Law

7. Altius Ed

Spark Capital, Maveron and others have invested in Altius Ed. Altius partners with universities to offer a two-year bridge program for those students who wish to attend a four-year college but may not have the requisite coursework.
8. Latimer Education

Latimer works with historically black colleges to extend their reach online. Investors include Maveron.

9.Capella University

Rather than partner with other universities, Capella itself is an accredited university offering its courses online. Capella counts Maveron and others as investors and offers bachelors, masters and doctoral programs. The jury is still out on how these pure play degrees will be accepted in the marketplace.

10. Minverva Project

This is an ambitious attempt to start a new university from whole cloth. Students will live in dorm buildings placed around the world and the professors will pipe in via video conferencing to each of the buildings. Ben Nelson, the former CEO of Snapfish, raised $25 million from Benchmark Capital for this new venture. We will have to wait to see on this one as it has yet to be launched.

11. (yes, we could not fit all the new platforms into a list of 10)

This site offers online courses which earn real credits that can be transferred to many college degree programs. Straighterline aims to make college courses more affordable with both a la carte and subscription plans.

Bonus Disruptor:

Add to the pot the new University Venture Fund.

This new venture capital fund will invest in the kind of revolutionary startups that we described here. Bertelsmann and the University of Texas are two of the largest investors.


All in all, these disrupters will bring high-quality learning to millions of people in the U.S. and around the world who never had access to this material. Now the questions are:

a. Will it scale?

b. Will these models turn out to be sustainable?

c. How do we measure the intangibles of in-person learning and how can we replicate those online?

d. Who will disrupt these disupters?

Stay tuned.


Thinking about starting a business by Jeff Piontek

investedin – a platform built to help anyone raise money for anything, utilizing their existing social network presence

Kickstarter – a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors and is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.

Teacher Planet – complete online resource for information related to K-12 grants. – an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need — public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests.

crowdrise – is about volunteering, raising money for Charity and having the most fun in the world while doing it.

GiveForward – provides free, personalized fundraising pages to raise money quickly and easily online.

givezooks! – offers social fundraising for nonprofits, connecting individuals and organizations online to increase charitable giving.

Social Wish – makes it easy for individuals and not-for-profits to raise funds through social media, email marketing, and websites.

IndieGoGo – any project or idea (creative, cause or entrepreneurial) can raise money, offer perks, and keep 100% ownership of their project.

YouTube Is Developing a Secret Weapon Against the Internet’s Worst Commenters by Jeff Piontek


Image: Maurits Knook/Flickr

Long considered home to the worst commenters on the internet — racist, cruel, idiotic, nonsensical, and barely literate — YouTube is in theprocess of upgrading its comment system in order to better tame its most loathsome members.

Word of the overhaul slipped out during the Q&A portion of a YouTube developer session at Google I/O, the annual developers conferencefrom the video-upload hub’s owner, Google.

A member of the audience, which was stocked heavily with online video publishers, asked for advice on handling negative commentswithin his YouTube channel. Dror Shimshowitz, a YouTube “head of product,” replied that “comments are kind of the Wild West of video” and can be turned off. But Google doesn’t like it when people do that, he said, because it cuts off the community. So the companyis working on fixing the system.

“We’re working on some improvements to the comment system, so hopefully we’ll have an update on that in the next few months,” Shimshowitz said. Shimshowitz declined to elaborate further in a follow-up interview, in which he was asked about the scope and nature of the planned changes. “We’re working to improve comments as much as we’re working to improve all parts of the site and YouTube experience,” a Google spokesman said,adding that the company would not comment further.

There’s no question YouTube has its work cut out for it; its comment sections are widely regarded as cesspools. Meme harvester BuzzFeed called YouTube “a comment disaster on an unprecedented scale” with “the worst commenters on the internet; ”online entrepreneur (and Wired contributor) Andy Baio  called them “historically pretty bad;” and the online comic XKCD in 2006 imagined the moon landing being broadcast — and moronically heckled — on YouTube. “The internet has always had loud dumb people,” XKCD illustrator Randall Munroe wrote in an accompanying caption, ”but I’ve never seen anything quite as bad as the people who comment on YouTube videos.”

The site’s commenters have inspired a mocking blog and even specialized filtering software.

YouTube improved the situation two years ago, when it introduced a “highlights view,” the predecessor to today’s “top comments” section, which features the comments most highly rated by other YouTube commenters. (It, too  was eventually parodied online.)

But YouTube needs to go much further, to kick the worst vulgarians out from under its videos. The site is trying to build a glossier future for itself, one with smarter videos produced by businesses, Hollywood studios and independent creatives. Better production values, in turn, make the site more attractive to advertisers. Vicious commenters break that virtuous cycle.

“YouTube comments are a potentially fantastic engagement point that is unfortunately the most common go-to example for trolls,” says Huffington Post community manager Justin Isaf. “These are real people who are opening themselves to what is often ridicule and overt abuse. How many people would put themselves out there again after reading comments that belittle, insult, malign or otherwise hurt them? It’s a loss of an amazing opportunity.

“I would love to see Google put their search and algorithm know-how to use to create a more safe space where people can engage in a meaningful conversation and be themselves on video without worry of needing therapy afterward.”

One obvious direction for YouTube is to ask users for more information about themselves. Many members use anonymous handles since YouTube, unlike other Google sites, allows people to create distinct accounts. At other Google sites, users must use their Google+ identity, linked to a real name. As a general rule, people are far less likely to troll under their real name.

Requiring Google+ identities could also help YouTube’s advertisers target ads more narrowly, since Google+ collects information about people’s location, gender, occupation, likes and interests.

If YouTube isn’t interested in integrating more deeply with Google+, BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti offers a Plan B: “YouTube should use Facebook comments,” Peretti tells us, referring to Google’s archrival. “YouTube would benefit from extra distribution in [Facebook’s] News Feed so their videos would spread even faster. And people use their true identity on Facebook so it would help make YouTube comments more civil.”

That’s a long shot, given Google’s competitive position with Facebook, but still, it’s better than being subjected to “U SUCK, SERIOUSLY GO BACK TO DORK SCHOOL, ANONYOUTUBE 4-EVA. LOL,” and whatever else the YouTube chorus usually has to say.

The biggest problem with traditional schooling by Jeff Piontek

This was written by Marion Brady, veteran teacher, administrator, curriculum designer and author.

By Marion Brady

Fairtest, Parents Across America, Save Our Schools, United Opt-Out National, and regional groups such as Fund Education Now, are fighting to stop the corporate takeover of public education. It’s a David-Goliath match.

They’re up against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the biggest philanthropic foundations in the world, most of the mainstream media, and the highest-ranking officials in both political parties.

Goliath has money and power, and has been using it for years in a campaign to privatize public schools. Those who oppose Goliath are labeled “defenders of the status quo.” David, coming late to the fight, has neither money nor power, just a warning message and social media for getting that message out.

Believing that public schools are essential to democracy and our way of life, and concerned about how poorly the young are being equipped to deal with a complex, dangerous, unknowable future, I couldn’t be happier about David’s growing clout.

But I want to do more than just stop the destruction. “You never change things by fighting existing reality,” said Buckminster Fuller. “To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

I want to help build that new model.

Decades of teaching adolescents tell me that the single biggest problem kids face with traditional schooling is information overload. So much random, disorganized, disconnected information is dumped on them they can’t come even close to coping with it.

That some seem to do so — collect “A”s and ace standardized tests — can be misleading. They’ve learned to play the simple “Remember” game. But if the game is made more challenging, if, for example, it’s changed to “Infer” or “Hypothesize” or “Synthesize” or “Value,” scores and grades shift, sometimes even reversing the “A”s and the “F”s, the “B”s and the “D”s.

Back in the 1960s, while teaching at Florida State University, I concluded that mental organization is the key to productive, creative thought. The more I studied the matter, the more convinced I became that although the so-called “core curriculum” is an adequate organizer of school subjects, it’s a lousy organizer of general knowledge, and general knowledge is what holds daily life together.

I needed a general organizer for work I was doing with kids attending Florida State University’s on-campus K-12 school. I found it in General Systems Theory as it had developed during World War II. Adding to my confidence in the potential of systems theory for radically improving learner performance is the fact that the very young, long before words like “chemistry,” “economics,” and “geometry” mean anything to them, know how to make sense, and use systems thinking to do it.

That has to mean that they’re using a systemic mental organizer. How quickly they learn to use that organizer to navigate an incredibly complicated world says that the organizer is first rate, and should be put to use. It shouldn’t replace school subjects, but integrate and enhance them. The core subjects sometimes run parallel, overlap, or support each other (e.g. science and math, language arts and social studies) but they can’t be patched together in any coherent way to create an intellectually manageable, sense-making tool. Systems theory solves that problem. It makes all subjects part of a single, coherent, easily understood, mutually supportive sense making tool.

To me, the core’s inherent problems explain why most schooling doesn’t “take,” why kids are usually bored and disengaged, why adults remember and use so little of what they once “learned” in school at great expense, why K-12 fads and reforms come and go, eventually fading away in a sort of embarrassed silence.

The current multi-billion dollar push to put the Common Core State Standards in place, and write tests for every school subject under the sun, will follow the same path and suffer the same fate. It’s as futile as pounding sand down a rat hole. The whole Common Core circus is designed to improve the specialized studies that make up the core curriculum (and it may or rmay not do that), but what K-12 kids really need is a system for organizing GENERAL knowledge.

They HAVE such a system. But they don’t know they have it, so for educational purposes, it isn’t doing them any good. It has to be lifted into consciousness, elaborated, and put to intentional use to help them make better sense of themselves, each other, and the world. (And, of course, school subjects.)

Let me try to explain the basics of that system. It’s simple, so if it doesn’t seem so, it will be because it’s taken for granted, and we’re not used to looking closely at things we take for granted.

Making sense of something, we do the following:


(a) Locate it in space (in the next block; South Africa; on the top shelf; about six miles north of Hastings).

(b) Locate it in time (after lunch; next week; every ten minutes; October 14, 1066).

(c) Identify the actors (Tom and Huck; union members; Holocaust survivors; Norman and Saxon armies).

(d) Describe the action (took blood samples; built a raft; walked all the way home; fought a battle).

(e) Attribute cause (the road was icy; she lost her temper; too much sugar; to gain control of England).


That done, we relate the five (On October 14, 1066, Norman and Saxon armies met about six miles north of Hastings and fought a battle for control of England).

That’s it. Those five kinds of information, (a) through (e), take in and organize all knowledge—school, street, everything. Kids helped to lift them into consciousness, elaborate them in ever-greater detail, relate and make intentional use of them, get smarter quick. They have a powerful tool that helps them cope far more easily with information overload and unlock their creative potential. Once lifted into consciousness, they’ll use it for the rest of their lives.

You’re skeptical? Of course. That’s to be expected. The only people who aren’t are those who’ve helped kids understand the system, and in so doing come to understand it for themselves.

I give away a course of study designed to help teachers of adolescents and older students do that. It’s called Connections: Investigating Reality. And you can see comments from a user here.

Connections isn’t a finished product, and never should be. It needs continuous input from teachers who work with kids every day and talk to each other about what worked, what didn’t work, and how it could be improved. It needs to be piloted.

But right now, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Mike Bloomberg, Eli Broad, Andrew Cuomo, Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush, and others block the way. They’ve bought the corporate line, and any innovation that doesn’t fit with the Common Core Standards in some obvious way, or doesn’t lend itself to mass testing, is off limits.

So go, Fairtest, Parents Across America, Save Our Schools, United Opt-Out National, Fund Education Now. If classroom teachers, school principals, and local school boards know you’ve got their backs, if the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing gets enough signers, I might be able to get a few pilot programs in place.

I’d love to see Connections or some other free, open source, general education teaching tool — a tool owned and operated by working classroom teachers — go head to head with Harcourt Educational Measurement, CTB McGraw-Hill, Riverside Publishing, and NCS Pearson.

Ways We Can Help Students Develop Creativity by Jeff Piontek

This was posted by Larry Ferlazzo

and I reposted it…..thanks

it is a great overview!!

Last week, I asked:

How can we help students develop their creativity?

In addition to ideas from readers, two well-known writers and researchers have contributed responses today:

Jonah Lehrer, author of “Imagine: How Creativity Works,” which has been at the top or near the top of The New York Times bestseller list the past few weeks (A portion of his response is adapted from the book).

Ashley Merryman is co-author (with Po Bronson) of the New York Times bestseller, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

Additional resources on this topic can be found at The Best Sources Of Advice On Helping Students Strengthen & Develop Their Creativity and at The Best Resources For Learning About The Importance Of “Grit.”

Response From Jonah Lehrer

Jonah Lehrer is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of three books: Imagine, How We Decide, and Proust Was a Neuroscientist. He is also a frequent contributor to WNYC’s Radiolab. He blogs at Frontal Cortex:

I think we need to begin by admitting that the typical classroom is not set up to encourage creativity. Consider a 1995 survey of several dozen elementary school teachers, conducted by psychologists at Union and Skidmofe College. When asked whether they wanted creative kids in their classroom, every teacher said yes. But when the same teachers were asked to rate their students on a variety of personality measures, the traits most closely aligned with creative thinking (such as being “freely expressive”) were also closely associated with their “least favorite” students. The researchers summarize their sad data: “Judgments for the favorite student were negatively correlated with creativity; judgments for the least favorite student were positively correlated with creativity.”

Of course, there’s a very good reason for this: nobody wants a classroom full of little Pablo Picassos. That’s a recipe for chaos, which is why we also need to teach our kids how to focus and exert self-control. But we shouldn’t be so determined to enhance these mental skills that we discourage the mental strategies that make creativity possible.

So how can we improve the situation? The first thing we should do is broaden our definition of effective classroom thinking. Although we often discourage daydreaming in students – we see the wandering mind as a wasted mind – studies show that people who daydream more score higher on tests of creativity. The same lesson also applies to students who are easily distracted. According to the latest research, these kids are significantly more likely to be eminent creative achievers in the real world. (So are students with attention deficit disorders, provided they’ve got moderately high IQ scores.) The point is that our current pedagogy is mostly designed to encourage focused cognition, teaching pupils to stare straight ahead at the blackboard and absorb information. Creativity, however, often requires a very different kind of thought process. Students need to learn how to pay attention, of course. But they also need to learn how to productively daydream.

And this is why arts education is so important. Like most skills, creativity is best learned by doing. Kids don’t learn how to be creative by sitting in lectures about the creative process, or getting history lessons on American innovation. Rather, they learn how to be creative by creating things, by flexing their own imagination.

However, I think arts education also comes with an additional benefit, which is that it gives students a rare opportunity to discover a classroom pursuit they enjoy. This might sound like a trivial objective, but I think it comes with tangible benefits. Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has done a lot of important work documenting the connection between a character trait called grit and classroom success. (People with higher levels of grit are more willing to persevere in pursuit of a goal.) Although Duckworth is only beginning to uncover ways to enhance grit in students, she often employs a pithy maxim: “Choose easy, work hard.” When kids are young, Duckworth says, it’s important to expose them to a variety of different activities, from sculpture to dance to computer programming, if only so they might find something that seems easy. However, once students find a pursuit that feels like fun – this is a sign they’ve got a natural talent for it – then they need to constantly be reminded to work hard. They will learn how to be gritty as they develop their talent.

The importance of choosing easy shouldn’t just apply to the arts. We should endeavor to make every subject, from high school biology to pre-algebra, full of engaging activities that kids might enjoy. Instead of another chemistry lecture, try a cooking lesson; rather than explain statistics with a textbook, why not experiment with sabermetrics and a baseball draft? The problem, of course, is that such enriching exercises are constantly being threatened by budget cuts and the need to improve standardized test scores.

However, if we are serious about enhancing creativity, then we can’t just treat the classroom as a place for disseminating facts that can be regurgitated. (As Kyle Wedberg, the CEO of NOCCA, an arts academy in New Orleans once told me, “We can’t just be in the business of teaching kids the kind of stuff that they can look up on their phone.”) School has to also become a safe space for creating, a daily opportunity for kids to take what they know and apply it in new and meaningful ways. We should encourage students at all grade levels to constantly try out different forms of creativity, so that they might find one that gives them pleasure and meaning. That feeling of pleasure – the thrill of a choosing easy – is a classroom lesson they won’t soon forget.

Response From Ashley Merryman

With Po Bronson, Ashley Merryman is the author of the New York Times bestseller, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, which is being translated into 16 languages. Having written for Time, Newsweek, New York, and many others, Merryman and Bronson have won nine national awards for their reporting on the science of human development. She has appeared on countless television and radio shows (including Charlie Rose and Anderson Cooper 360), and has lectured around the nation, from Yale University to Pop Tech:

As Po Bronson and I first reported in Newsweek’s “The Creativity Crisis,” there is evidence of a decline in creativity in the United States – particularly for children. According to professor Kyung Hee Kim, kids have fewer creative responses than they had 20 years ago. Their ideas are less original and have less detail. Young children’s ability to elaborate has plummeted 37% since 1998. (I think of that whenever I ask a child what he did that day. All too often, the response is: “Stuff.”)

The good news is that creativity can be developed: it is a skill that can be taught.

And not just in arts programs. The arts do help kids develop creative self-efficacy – they learn they can turn an idea into something tangible. But the arts don’t own creativity.

Because at its core, creativity is about having a new idea put into action. Another way to think of creativity is that it means solving problems in a unique way. Thus teaching creativity can be thought of as teaching children to problem-solve. Not according to a set formula, but by applying knowledge they have in a new way.

At Akron, Ohio’s National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) School, sixth graders received a letter from a college professor: she asked if the children would help with data collection for a wetlands project. The children figured out what they’d need to know to help her: that lead to studying wetlands and factors affecting the environment. They learned to take measurements and then studied cell development. They worked on how best to display data in oral and written presentations. In other words, they mastered all the required material . . . and never once asked, “Why do I have to learn this?”

There are commercial curricula to help implement programs like these (such as Problem Based Learning and Creative Problem Solving. In the summer, there’s the NIHF “Camp Invention”). However, developing kids’ creativity doesn’t require such large efforts.

Try a simple instruction such as: “Think of something only you would think of. Not your friends, or your family. Just you.” In experimental settings, that doubled the number of creative responses.

Rather than giving kids an explanation for an event or fact (e.g. why is Sacramento the capitol of California?), Dr. Mark Runco suggests students come up with a list of possible answers, and then figure out which is the best/makes the most sense. In this way, kids stretch their imaginations, then learn to evaluate their own ideas.

Learning about foreign cultures and languages increases creativity: in one experiment, just one 45-minute slideshow on China increased creativity scores for two-weeks. Exposing children to a new culture helps them realize there is more than one way to approach a given situation, and to search for new solutions.

And simplest of all – we can develop children’s creativity simply by encouraging it in the classroom. Respond to a child’s off-beat comment rather than ignore it. If they’ve arrived at an answer in an usual way, ask them to explain how they got there.

Kids who say their teachers listen to their ideas have higher creative self-efficacy; they have higher grades and higher aspirations for college.

Studies have found that teachers who are supportive of students’ creativity in their classes have students who are higher in creativity.

Responses From Readers

Margaret Haviland
in an instructional leader and U.S. and World History teacher at at Westtown School in Pennsylvania. She wrote about creativity and teacher professional development recently at the Voices from the Learning Revolution blog:

Teachers need to model creative thinking and the creative process. I have an instructional leadership role in my school and I think it’s part of the work of folks with jobs like mine to encourage and nurture creativity within our faculties. Not every art or music teacher needs to exhibit in a show or perform in an orchestra. Not every science teacher needs to pursue scientific research nor does every English teacher need to be a published author. But all teachers should be transparently sharing with their students their own creative efforts, whether it’s rethinking an approach to teaching, solving a problem with the class, talking about their engagement with an issue beyond school, or sharing their own craft or hobby.

For instance, I have a colleague who has a number of our students working with her to crochet roses (the symbol associated with Cystic Fibrosis) as an ongoing fund raiser. Much about the creative process and imaginative thinking emerges as they share this experience.

David Zulkoskey:

Know your students and by this I mean really know your students. What is in and what is not. Celebrate the accomplishments of others. Create a positive environment that is fun, polite, energetic, safe, nonthreatening, supportive and respectful. Take an interest in your students as a professional teacher – you are not their buddy but rather a compassionate caring person…. Make mistakes, laugh at yourself, and use humour in your teaching. Drama is about life so live it – be healthy, invite kids into knowing about you. You want kids to take risks, well take risks yourself. Find the stories that make life interesting.

Paddy McCabe suggests we help students develop their creativity…

…when pupils are active in planning,when their strengths and interests are central, and when we reflectively use technology
Thanks to Jonah and Ashley for sharing their responses and to readers who left comments!

Please feel free to leave a comment sharing your reactions to this question and the ideas shared here.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

Anyone whose question is selected for this weekly column can choose one free book from a selection of twelve published by Eye On Education.

This is the last column I’ll be writing this school year and will start answering new questions in the late summer/early fall. In the meantime, however, I’ll be posting “collections” bringing links together from previous posts on common topics (classroom management, student motivation, etc.)

And, of course, I’ll be preparing future posts, so keep those questions coming!

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

10 Ways to Spot a Great Video Game by Jeff Piontek

Not sure I agree with this article as I believe programs and sites like Creative Academies ( is a much better site. It was designed by a game developer but the difference being that the kids design, develop and publish their own games….check it out.

What your kids look for in a snack might be different than what you look for as a parent. While they focus on taste, you focus on nutrition. Same goes for games. Glitzy, big-name games can be enticing, just like junk food. Some are flashy and addictive but do little to feed kids’ curiosity or help them develop.

But truly great video games can help your kids grow in ways you never thought possible — just like delicious, healthful food. So how can you avoid the sugar-cereal equivalents in the game world? Read these 10 tips to find out.

Great video games:

Draw your kids in. Great games transport kids to another place. You know the signs. Brows furrowed. Thumbs zooming. Yes, you may have to set limits for games that suck time at the expense of other activities. But it’s a good sign when games put kids in a state of “flow.” Games that draw kids in require concentration or imagination and present challenges just beyond their comfort zone. Plus, they’re fun. For example:

  • Super Scribblenauts (age 10+) lets kids’ imaginations run wild as they solve puzzles by writing new objects into a scene. Any word they spell is transformed into a digital creation that then appears within the game world.
  • Professor Layton and the Last Specter (age 12+) is a fascinating mystery that unfolds piece by piece. Kids learn critical thinking and puzzle-solving skills as they complete a wide variety of brainteasers.

Put kids in the driver’s seat. Having choices can make kids feel powerful. Kids who get to decide which path to take or how to spend their virtual money often feel responsible for their fate in a game. In turn, they feel motivated. Games with lots of choices and opportunities for exploration can help kids feel ownership over the experience. For example:

  • ItzaZoo (age 4-7) is a magical experience in which kids see their own art come alive as part of the storyline. Kids can learn skills for reading comprehension and problem solving as they add free-form artwork to colorful, kid-themed landscapes.
  • Gamestar Mechanic (age 8+) provides kids with the digital tools they need to create their own video games. While the limited design software keeps kids’ creations pretty basic, the games they make are real and playable. Kids get to feel true ownership over their work.

Suit your child’s age and interest. Some games are so easy to beat that kids quickly lose interest. Others are so difficult that kids get frustrated. Use your kid’s interests and hobbies as a jumping-off point for selecting games. For example:

  • Art Academy (age 8+) feels like what you’d expect from a beginners’ course at a real-world art school. Kids can pick up in-depth knowledge and expert tips about shading, perspective, color mixing, and more through 10 incredibly detailed lessons.
  • Learn Chess (age 8+) is instructional chess software that covers pretty much every teachable aspect. Kids need a lot of patience and a long attention span, but they can learn a lot if they do. Two players can compete against one another wirelessly, too.

Challenge kids to experiment. The beauty of most games is that you can try again. And again. And again. Running out of time or lives isn’t so bad when you know you have another chance. A willingness to try out several options — and even fail sometimes — is a skill that will serve kids well down the line. For example:

  • I Spy Castle (age 6-10) has seek-and-find puzzles that can be real stumpers. Faced with all types of challenging hidden-object puzzles, kids find patterns and create paths — sharpening their observation skills and practicing logical thinking.
  • LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 (age 10+) challenges kids to work out the rules of new systems in order to survive. Kids who enter this magical world must use a keen sense of observation and logic to figure their way out of the story-based predicaments.

Let kids create. Imagine kids designing new levels for existing games. Picture creator communities in which kids comment constructively and provide feedback. Many games offer media creation as a key part of the experience. Opportunities to make something new within a game signal to kids that their original work has value. For example:

  • LittleBigPlanet (age 8+) lets kids design their own zany platform puzzles as they explore eight wonderful worlds full of Rube-Goldberg-type contraptions and scenery. Its community celebrates invention as players share the levels they’ve crafted with others.
  • Minecraft (age 13+) is a refreshingly open-ended mining and construction game that encourages kids to build imaginative block structures. Kids can learn creative thinking, geometry, and a bit of geology as they sculpt creations in this 3-D space.

Add a social element. There’s nothing wrong with a game of solitaire. But as kids get older, games in which the characters (or even real people) socialize and work together can help kids flourish. Skills like teamwork and communication are the cornerstone of today’s workforce. And having social outlets online can help prep kids for the future. For example:

  • Herotopia (age 7-10) allows kids to become superheroes who work together to outfox bullies. They can also learn geography and practice good global citizenship, earning points for doing good deeds.
  • Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure (age 10+) makes partner problem-solving fun. Kids can investigate problems and figure out solutions, either alone or as a team. They observe clues that may be useful later in the game and figure out how items work together to be helpful.

Complement school. Some kids view video games as an escape from school. Maybe they have trouble sitting still in class but can focus on a video game. Or perhaps a game’s material and format feel more relevant to their lives. Whatever the reason, video games can help teach work and life skills. For example:

  • Dora’s Cooking Club (age 4-7) helps kids see math in cooking. They can learn arithmetic basics as they help Dora and her family in put together a series of recipes.
  • My Amusement Park (DS) (age 6-10) puts kids in the role of a business owner. They learn how to budget money while building and running their own virtual theme park.

“Tell” instead of “show.” Playing great games is like being sucked into a book that you can’t put down. A distressed prince needs rescue. The world is coming to an end. Try to avoid games that spoon-feed answers to kids through quizzing alone or rote memorization and seek out ones with strong storylines. For example:

  • Botanicula (age 10+) begins with tiny creatures that encounter a spider-like monster intent on gobbling up their big, beautiful tree home. The five heroic creatures band together to journey up and down the tree, foiling its parasitic invaders.
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization V (age 11+) helps kids gain lasting knowledge about world history by playing the role of an empowered ruler. Players learn about significant developments in human history and how they led to even greater discoveries.

Have style. Looks aren’t everything, of course. But games with a strong and unified look and feel are really appealing. It’s not just that these games are beautiful — it’s that their style serves a higher purpose of drawing players into a unique world. For example:

  • Flower (age 7+) lets players control flower petals floating on a breeze as they travel over and restore color to grey fields. The experience of hovering over the countryside surrounded by flickering dabs of color is truly unique.
  • Journey (age 10+) presents an unstructured experience of beauty and originality. Players start in the middle of a desert filled with majestic, sand-covered ruins. They slide over dunes and float on both wind and magical energy.

Go beyond repetition. Games in which kids just go through the same motions over and over are okay in moderation. But more variety is nicer. Consider games that mix elements of strategy, action, adventure, role-playing, building, and more. For example:

  • Boom Blox (age 7+) offers nearly 400 levels of puzzles, with the object of destroying block structures. Each puzzle can be played over and over again, so that kids can try different ways to solve it.
  • Portal 2 (age 10+) presents problems for kids to solve through a process of investigation and prediction. To do so, kids must apply real-world understanding to physics-based conundrums.

Diane Ravitch about Finland’s Education System by Jeff Piontek

This was written by education historian Diane Ravitch for her Bridging Differences blog, which she co-authors with Deborah Meier on the Education Week website. Ravitch and Meier exchange letters about what matters most in education. Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, is the author of the bestselling “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” an important critique of the flaws in the modern school reform movement.


Dear Deborah,

I recently returned from a trip to Europe. In Berlin, I spoke at an international education research conference. Researchers from Europe, Asia, and Latin America were very alarmed by the current “reform” movement in the United States, fearful that the same trends — the same overemphasis of standardized testing, the same push for privatization and markets, and the same pressure to lower standards for entry into teaching — might come to their own countries.

The highlight of my trip was visiting schools in Finland. Of course, Finland is much in the news these days because of its success on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) examinations.

For the past decade, 15-year-old Finnish students have consistently been at or near the top of all the nations tested in reading, mathematics, and science. And just as consistently, the variance in quality among Finnish schools is the least of all nations tested, meaning that Finnish students can get a good education in virtually any school in the nation. That’s equality of educational opportunity, a good public school in every neighborhood.

What makes the Finnish school system so amazing is that Finnish students never take a standardized test until their last year of high school, when they take a matriculation examination for college admission.

Their own teachers design their tests, so teachers know how their students are doing and what they need. There is a national curriculum — broad guidelines to assure that all students have a full education — but it is not prescriptive. Teachers have extensive responsibility for designing curriculum and pedagogy in their school. They have a large degree of autonomy, because they are professionals.

Admission to teacher education programs at the end of high school is highly competitive; only one in 10 — or even fewer — qualify for teacher preparation programs. All Finnish teachers spend five years in a rigorous program of study, research, and practice, and all of them finish with a masters’ degree. Teachers are prepared for all eventualities, including students with disabilities, students with language difficulties, and students with other kinds of learning issues.

The schools I visited reminded me of our best private progressive schools. They are rich in the arts, in play, and in activity. I saw beautiful campuses, including some with outstanding architecture, filled with light. I saw small classes; although the official class size for elementary school is 24, I never saw a class with more than 19 children (and that one had two assistant teachers to help children with special needs).

Teachers and principals repeatedly told me that the secret of Finnish success is trust. Parents trust teachers because they are professionals. Teachers trust one another and collaborate to solve mutual problems because they are professionals. Teachers and principals trust one another because all the principals have been teachers and have deep experience. When I asked about teacher attrition, I was told that teachers seldom leave teaching; it’s a great job, and they are highly respected.

And by the way, the Finnish teachers I saw — those heaped with laurels as outstanding professionals — didn’t look or act differently from many, many teachers I have seen in the United States, even in so-called “failing schools.”

Finland has one other significant advantage over the United States. The child-poverty rate in Finland is under 4 percent. Here it is 22 percent and rising. It’s a well-known fact that family income is the most reliable predictor of academic performance. Finland has a strong social welfare system; we don’t. It is not a “Socialist” nation, by the way. It is egalitarian and capitalist.

I was asked about current trends in U.S. education, and Finnish educators were astonished by the idea that our governments intend to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores; that made no sense to them. They were also surprised that we turn children over to “teachers” who have only a few weeks of training and no masters’ degree. They did not understand the idea of “merit pay.” They are paid more if they do more work for the community, but they can’t understand why teachers should get a bonus to compete with one another for test scores. Since they don’t have comparative test scores for their students, our practices don’t make sense to them. Nor do they understand the benefits of competition among teachers who ought to be collaborating.

The current crop of corporate reformers get very upset by any mention of the Finnish model. They refuse to believe that a nation can have great schools without relying on high-stakes testing. They insist that Finland cannot serve as a model because it lacks racial diversity; but they fall silent when one points out that Finland has the same demographics as Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway, yet gets superior results. I am troubled by this “lacks diversity” argument, because it implies that African-American and Hispanic children cannot benefit by having highly experienced teachers, small classes, and a curriculum rich in the arts and activities.

Here’s an interesting contrast: We claim to be preparing students for global competitiveness, and we reward mastery of basic skills. Our guiding principles: Competition, accountability, and choice. Finland has this singular goal: to develop the humanity of each child. Isn’t that a shocking goal? Their guiding principles: equity, creativity, and prosperity.

Finland rightly deserves attention today as a nation that treats its children as a precious resource and that honors the adults who make education their passion and their career.

Someday, I hope, we will recognize the failure of the behaviorist approach now in vogue; someday we will see that our current “reforms” are appropriate for the industrial era of the early 20th century, not for the needs of the 21st century. When that day arrives, we will understand the deep wisdom of Finland, with its love for children and its respect for educators, and we will be grateful that there is a successful alternative to our own failed model.