Embracing a contextualized education

As many of you know I am passionate about the need for education to pay attention to the context in which it exists and set up learning environments for students to succeed in this world, versus the world of 25 years ago. The cry for this more contextualized education is everywhere. A few examples:

Before winter break, I saw Doug Leone of Sequoia Capital speak at a conference at the MIT Media Lab. He talked about skills and mindsets that young people need to be successful:

  • the ability to adopt a 360 degree view;
  • the ability to see intersections between science and art;
  • the ability to develop the courage of optimism, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

He looks for people who are individualistic, not cogs.

I recently read this piece in Forbes though it misses the mark in some areas, it correctly raises alarm about how misguided the education sector is about how to teach and cultivate prepared students. They are a little heavy-handed with the emphasis on business courses but on target in their fears: the gap between what future generations are fed and the nourishment they need to participate, let alone thrive in the “real world” is growing too vast to ignore.

Very recently I spoke with a venture capitalist who is concerned about how conventionally educated students are so reluctant to make a mistake. They don’t see mistakes as opportunities that lead us to more creative solutions. Conventional education is contributing to that “gap.”

Which brings me to the wonderful 60 Minutes profile of David Kelley on January 6. Kelley is the Founder of the internationally acclaimed design firm IDEO and the design school (d.school) at Stanford. At Beaver we are excited and passionate about our continued work with IDEO about how best to use design thinking in our classrooms. Design thinking is in no way a silver bullet, it is one strategy that helps us contextualize education and better prepare our students. Design thinking is human centered (that 360 view), optimistic, collaborative, experimental (mistakes are an essential element of the success), and more. In the segment, Kelley makes a clear and compelling case for design thinking and by inference its place in schools. I encourage you to give the segment a look, it’s worth it.


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