Educational Ideas

Posted on July 29, 2016


I’ve spent the last year exploring the possibility of starting The Puzzle School  in Cambridge, MA. I knew it was a long-shot and the last year has proven that it will be. Cambridge is a good school district and not necessarily in need of new ideas. I’m an outsider with little experience teaching. I can appreciate how much of a leap it is for people to take my ideas seriously.

Given the circumstances I want to at least write down some of the ideas I’ve been working on. Most of them probably aren’t any good, but they are all based around giving students and teachers greater respect and autonomy, so I think they all merit consideration. If greater student and teacher autonomy isn’t your cup of tea then these ideas probably aren’t for you, but I think creating environments that support, respect, provide autonomy, and listen to feedback from both students and teachers is the key to educational success. As such here are the ideas:

(I’ll be adding to this list as I write about more of my ideas or ideas I discover):

  • The Opportunity Cost Of Coercion
    • This has become the primary principle that I work from. Trying to figure out the balance between coercion and the opportunity cost of coercion. How to balance the fact that students don’t yet understand the responsibilities and expectations of the adult world with the fact that it is extraordinarily difficult for any person to give their best effort if they don’t see the value, if they feel coerced.
  • Retrospectives
    • Retrospectives are a very simple process that can help facilitate communication in groups of people. I think they could change the dynamic of how a school works by helping everyone involved express their concerns in a safe manner.
  • The Puzzle School (The Name)
    • I think the name of a school can help align students, teachers, and parents around a cohesive culture. Such alignment could affect how each person approaches problems and goals within the school.
  • Holistic School Assessment
    • An alternative to test scores as the primary means of assessing schools that also provides students, teachers, and parents with a greater voice in their school.
    • A website that allows people to list everything they’ve discovered in the world that they want to share with people, allowing people to connect around shared interests, learn more about each other, and discover great resources.
  • Negotiated Requirements
    • Much of education revolves around determining the most effective level of requirements (if any) necessary to ensure a student is prepared for the next stage of their education or career. Requirements, though, are a blunt instrument at the K-12 level where students are still on general paths (rather than specific paths in college or beyond). Negotiated requirements provide an opportunity to provide default structure that is flexible and encourages a thoughtful dialog between the student and the teacher.
  • Feedback Loops
    • We often miss the importance of feedback loops in the learning process. The absence of a feedback loop can easily lead to a student believing they understand a new idea when really they have large gaps and/or misconceptions in their understanding.
  • Design Thinking (coming soon)
  • Interesting Challenge (a.k.a. Hard Fun) (coming soon)
  • Multiple Mentors (coming soon)
  • Challenge Spaces (coming soon)
  • Internships (coming soon)
  • Learning Clubs (coming soon)
  • Independent Projects (coming soon)
  • The Mistake Game (coming soon)
  • Testing Resources (coming soon)
  • Adult Advice (coming soon)
  • Mathematical Communication (coming soon)
  • InfiniteQ (coming soon)
  • Alumni Networks (coming soon)
  • College Admissions (coming soon)