Cognitive Computing Age – think beyond school, Part 2

Continuing from Part 1


So let’s assume you don’t have access to a modern learning Charter school, or the money to pay for a modern learning private school: the GOOD NEWS is that this amazing age we’re in that has this skills gap, also has given us pretty much free access to solutions to the problem. [As Pavan from IBM Watson described several months ago, knowledge is no longer scarce and difficult to access; in fact, it’s growing at a massive rate and a commodity…]

I’ve found dozens of amazing people who’ve thought about this very issue way more than me, and can leverage their experience and ideas, and build on them.  So here are my ideas for you as to what to do.


I think you’ll want to assess each child individually – what traits, habits, academic achievements, interests do they have that you want to encourage, and what skills do you want them to start developing? Have they worked out what they’re interested in? [Though this SOUNDS obvious…have you ever sat down and done this? I hadn’t…here’s more ideas on it.]

I have one daughter who’s a people pleaser, and I see my job as helping her know what SHE wants, and develop internal motivation, not just make her teachers happy or me happy.

My other daughter DEFINITELY knows her own mind, and needs more chances to work with others, develop empathy, see other’s points of view.

I figure it’s a balance between focusing on their strengths, and developing at least a foundation in other areas (a la StrengthsFinder).


Once you know what it would be good for your child to learn or experience, just start looking for groups, activities, books, videos, etc.  There’s an insane amount of resources online, hundreds of people providing options.  The Secular Homeschooler is one of my favorite books with ideas and strategies for ‘modern skills’ learning, whether you homeschool or not.   There are fantastic Ted talks on modern education, and a kids channel too that can inspire.  20 mins of kahn academy, a tinker crate project every month, etc.


Project-based learning is fantastic for teaching some of these modern skills, having fun, and learning without it being a slog. This photo is from the makersfaire in San Mateo two years ago – Clara my daughter fell in love with R2D2, and we are now starting to build a full size R2D2 – there’s no kit; but there are a heap of passionate people sharing information and selling some of the parts online, documenting their progress. You could enter your family or friends as a team at the Goleta Lemon Festival and build a lemon launcher! We also do Girl Scouts and the Bronze, Silver, Gold Awards are great for project based learning. [If you don’t know what kind of project to do, check out teacher Kevin Brookhouser’s ‘bad-idea factory’ method of sparking inspiration.]


I suggest you pick afterschool activities based on what you want your kids to learn – my older son is an introvert, I couldn’t get him interested in Boy Scouts, but I found this great teen leadership program at the YMCA called PILOTS where they get the group to choose and organize community projects, and do a lot of fun team building  – he ran for president, got tons of significance from it, and is getting tons of experience actually communicating and collaborating.  You can also create activities yourself – I’ve been helping Caroline a friend of mine set up a Girls Who Code club afterschool at Goleta Valley Jr High – she researched options, pitched it to a principal who was very happy to see it happen, and there’s now 25 girls coding every Monday after school….


And most people are really happy to help a kid pursue their interests – my sister lives in Seattle and has friends that work at Xbox and other computer game software companies. This summer I’m sending my son (he’s 13 now) to stay with her for a week and he’s going to visit Xbox and shadow them, find out what it’s like. If your son wants to be a doctor, a marine biologist, an entrepreneur, a café owner – connect them NOW with grown ups actually doing this, get them excited. Reach out.


Look for signs of these modern skills in your schools, encourage them support them, and talk to teachers about Ken Robinson’s take on creativity, Will Richardson’s take on what we should be teaching, or project based learning. If you’re in a private school, check and see if they’re just doing old school with higher standards and better technology? Or are they adopting project based learning, are they starting to see teachers as facilitators, do they know what self organized learning entities are, flipped classrooms, PBL…for example.  If you’re in a public school, find out how much influence students have on projects they work on, what kind of group work is going on, etc.


Check out some of the modern learning models that are growing nearby.  There are many schools popping up, mainly private and charter, who DO see the need to develop these future skills and take advantage of our knowledge age in school – these are three – a fantastic teacher friend of mine and I are working to visit them soon and evaluate whether we can start a new school here in town or influence an existing school to change.


While schools are starting to change, it won’t happen fast enough for my kids, so I’m taking action to ensure they AND I HOPE, many OTHER STUDENTS, end up ready for the future of work and with the tools they need for success and satisfying lives.


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