We asked PLP consultant and connected learning thought-leader Peter Skillen to share something from his disruptive (in a positive way!) October 2011 TEDx talk in Toronto. Here’s the result!

Peter SkillenLast year I was asked to give a TEDx talk at the Greater Toronto YMCA Academy event “The Art & Science of Learning Disabilities.”  As a founding teacher of that school, I was honoured to share my thoughts with a larger audience.

The school had been created to serve kids who ‘learn differently’. What was really meant by that designation was that the school was designed to accommodate kids who learn differently than the top-down, teacher-driven, delivery model available in many schools.

We were there to pay attention to individuals who came with all sorts of differences. Teachers hired to the school understood differentiation and social constructivist theories and practice. Indeed, I even named my ‘classroom’ The Construction Zone – in an effort to help kids, teachers and parents understand Vygotsky’s work on the ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ (ZPD) and Seymour Papert’s vision of ‘constructionism’.

However, I digress!

Many of the students who came to the school had been diagnosed with ADHD or learning disabilities of one kind or another. My views on these issues often raised the hackles of my colleagues and of the traditional western medical community.

I believe it is not enough to judge humankind on scientific principles — which historically have often been temporary truths. Schooling must respect the art of human-ness and so we should design natural learning environments to maximize our children’s innate assets.

And so, the topic of my TEDx talk became…Humankind is Both Art and Science.

The presentation was divided into six sections. I have attempted to summarize the sections here to give you a flavour. But I suggest, naturally, that you read them all as it is a story that’s tied together! To do that, just click on the Read more links.

1. Humankind is Both Art & Science – Intro

Simon Sinek, in his TED talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, reminds us that we should first pay attention to the “why” we do things – not jump straight to the ‘what’ and ‘how’.

The ‘why’ will be the focus of this series of posts!

I want us to think about why we should think differently about learning disabilities.

Read more…

2. Limited, and Fooled, by Our Senses

Our reality is limited by our senses. We develop many tools to detect and measure things of which we aren’t even aware. We are also fooled by our senses. Think about illusions. So, I ask myself, are we ‘seeing’ everything accurately when we are judging learning disabilities?

Read more…

3. The Trickery of Temporary Truths

There is a problem with ‘truths’. A lot of facts that have been discovered – aren’t facts at all! Simply not true!

They appeared really true at the time – but other truths replaced them at some point – once the ‘science’ changed – or once our perceptions changed – or our tools to perceive changed!

What are the ‘truths’ about learning disabilities?

Read more…

4. Post Gutenberg Parenthesis

We are into the 21st century now – past the Gutenberg Parenthesis – that era that lived and breathed text and text alone.

We are now entering a world that is immersed in the production and interpretation of visual imagery and visualizations.

Those who are not literate in those areas may well be our next Learning Disabled kids.

Read more…

5. Emotional Rescue

So what else can we do – besides recognizing this different giftedness?

We need kids to love learning – to love themselves. It is the natural way.

Let’s follow their path – not impose ours.

Emotions impact cognition.

Again, intuitively many of us have understood this over time.

And guess what? The neuroscience literature is now bursting with evidence in support.

Read more…

6. Question Authority

I am often in trouble. Perhaps it’s because I am a product of the sixties – of (r)evolution  – of anti-establishment.

But I think not. It believe it is because I really like to question authority – because authority – the common wisdom – sometimes just does not make sense to me.

So I ‘question authority’. You?

Read more…



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