Sharing today 3 recent TEDx talks by three of my fellow travelers in the 21st century and deeper learning movement: Grant Lichtmann, Julie Wilson, and Marc Chun.

Grant Lichtmann is probably most familiar  to readers here:  formerly of Francis Parker School in San Diego, and just now a Senior Fellow of the Memphis based Martin Institute, he attracted, rightfully so, a great deal of attention for his “edu-journey” last fall  exploring and examining innovative practices at 60 schools.

In his talk below, he shares the news that schools are “bad at innovation,” but he won’t accept that change is hard– homesteading the prairie was hard, but change is uncomfortable.     The work is about teaching into the unknown, and because we know the future less well than we ever have known it before, most important is that we become, and we help our students become, self-evolving learners.

I love what Grant says about the new “sphere,” building on previous ec0-spheres such as the atmosphere and the biosphere, we have a new sphere only about 10 years old: the Cognitosphere.   Yes.   He doesn’t make these same references, but his term captures so much of what I am so excited about in my reading of John Seely Brown’s New Culture of Learning, Stephen Johnson’s Future Perfect, Wellman and Rainie’s Networked, and Rheingold’s Net Smart.

Julie Wilson is launching a new organization, the Institute for the Future of Learning, coming out of her graduate studies at Harvard with, among others, Tony Wagner.     In this talk, she speaks of the importance of making learning meaningful today, and doing so by being serious about student engagement, real world connections, essential questions, and authentic audiences.   She shares concrete and vivid examples of schools, some of them associated with the Deeper Learning and 21st century learning movement such as New Tech Network and High Tech High, doing this right, and she asks us to work together to bring this kind of authentic student work to all students.

Marc Chun, formerly of CLA/CWRA and the highly regarded Performance Task Academy, and now at Hewlett Foundation’s important Deeper Learning Initiative, offers an important talk about Transfer: What is it, What does it require, how do we support it?  Transfer may be among the, or the singular, most important goal of all teaching: can students take what they learn in one context and moment, in our classroom say, and apply it, later, to a new challenge, effectively.

There’s good stuff here: standout is Marc’s metaphorical examples of 007 and MacGyver.   Sometimes we want students to take what the tools we provide them, say an exploding pen, and apply it to the situations which they encounter– directly.   Relatively routine, something we can practice again and again: this is important to develop confidence and the skill of applied problem-solving.

But, it is also very limiting.  As Marc points out, most of our students will end up working in jobs which haven’t been invented yet.  In the case of MacGyver, problems emerge for which he hasn’t been trained exactly.   These novel situations demand novel solutions, which he must craft from the materials available to him, drawing from an array of prior knowledge, blending it and synthesizing it.   For these skills, students need the skills of collaboration, of critical thinking, of learning how to learn: of deeper learning.

Students do need experience with both 007 and MacGyver learning challenges– but in our schools today, we need to work harder to provide a lot more MacGyver.