Energizing the base vs. influencing the uncommitted

We are presently in the final stages of the election season and some of the concepts used to describe political strategies seem helpful in understand other estimates to influence decision makers.

I read a lot of books intended to influence educators and educational practice. My Audible and Kindle accounts now show in excess of 150 books – most focused on education and/or technology. I don’t offer this description to impress anyone. My colleagues probably assume I should devote of my reading time to research journals. I spend time the way I do because I think it is important for me to understand K-12 issues and influencers.

Anyway, the last two books I have read are Salman Kahn’s “One world school house” and Will Richardson’s “Why school?” To many who recognize these authors, the perspectives offered might seem to be about as different as it gets. I do take pride in exploring competing perspectives. However, while Richardson offering is about what I expected, I thought the Kahn book was far different from the stereotype often hung on him. To return to the distinction I raised in the opening paragraph, I would label the Richardson book as “energizing the base” and the Kahn book as “influencing the uncommitted”. By the way, both books are well written.

If you are looking to read one book, my suggestion would be Kahn’s effort. Read this book if you think you understand the Kahn Academy and assume it is about lecturing, more of the same, or in some way “anti-teacher”. The arguments in the book are far different. Chose the Kahn book if you appreciate someone connecting tactics with a research justification. The story of the Kahn Academy is also just interesting.

There were a few things that made me uncomfortable:

  • I get nervous when anyone offers a brain based justification for a learning experience
  • I understand “short term memory” a little differently. The difference between a few days and a few years does not involve short term memory (the concept of consolidation was mentioned).
  • I really like the mastery learning perspective, but the work of Keller would seem a better fit than the group-based Bloom approach or the Winnetka plan. (I should generate a post on the potential of technology and implementing for mastery).

Some of my personal research involves efforts to implement mastery strategies. I can say that the details can be important and I must search for formal research based on what Kahn has done. I know of no such research at this time. I would think the data would be there and I would hope someone would make the effort to submit papers for formal review.

Kindle offers the opportunity to share highlights and notes with other Kindle readers. I have made my annotations of these books public.


P.S. – While I encourage educators to read this book, some may prefer a video format. The Kahn Academy offers a video explaining the broader vision of the Academy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *