If you’ve been watching the series Redesign My Brain with Todd Sampson, you’ll be familiar with the work of neuroscientist Dr Michael Merzenich. Dr Merzenich is a world authority on brain plasticity – the idea that the brain can continually re-wire itself. Hence, the term ‘soft-wired’.
Sam Seidel, author of Hip Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education also believes that understanding how minds work and how people learn is critical to the current discussions on innovation and education. Re-wiring or as Sam posits ‘remixing’ education is the ability to take what already exists and create something new and relevant for learners. He uses the example of hip-hop because it illustrates how young people re-mixed creative elements to create a dominant music culture in the US. Sam argues that innovative education is the remixing of ideas, practices and data points collected by teachers to create a personalised and relevant learning experience for students.
Since his appearance at PBL World Australia in 2013, Sam has been working with Students Design for Education (SD4E) which is leading a group of Rhode Island students through the design process to create a new ‘student-centred’ school. According to Sam, human-centred design or design thinking is the next wave in education because it aims at empowering students and teachers to drive change from within by becoming ‘designers’ of the learning space and learning experience.
Sam was in Sydney recently to work with students and teachers at Parramatta Marist High and to talk about the student-designed school project. He said that design thinking demands the same skills as project based learning (PBL): think critically, work collaboratively and communicate creatively. Sam was impressed with how quickly younger students (Years 7 and 8) at Parramatta Marist adapted to new learning experiences as a result of the skills they’ve acquired through their PBL work.
Reflecting on the critical skills and qualities needed by teachers in today’s world, Sam believes resourcefulness is important along with compassionate listening, thorough planning and adaptability. These are the cornerstones of design thinking – an organic process requiring empathy, insight, flexibility and experiment. Teaching is essentially human-centred design work – creating something for students and with them.
Remixing schooling is about continually re-designing learning and teaching. That’s what distinguishes a soft-wired experience of schooling from a hard-wired one.