Learning vs? Education

Colloquium | March 6 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 2515 Tolman Hall

 Leah Buechley, Rural/Digital

 Graduate School of Education

In my career as a researcher and designer I’ve worked to nurture young people’s interests by engaging them in creative activities that blend technology and art. I’ve focused primarily on what young people do outside of school, guided by the belief that the things kids are most interested in and excited about shape their lives as much as the classes that they take. I’ve mostly evaded the political and economic complexity of the educational system, designing tools and activities that are used primarily at home or in after school programs. I’m proud of the work that I’ve done but, as my own child approaches school age, the choice to avoid classrooms feels increasingly problematic. Looking for schools for my son, I’m being confronted personally with the heartbreaking iniquities and tensions that are built into the system—the enormous disparities in resources available to different communities, the concentration of minority kids into low performing high poverty institutions, and the uncomfortable choices faced by caring parents. 

Many of the most significant challenges society faces are woven into our educational system. By avoiding classrooms, have I been sidestepping the hardest and most urgent problems? In this talk, I’ll share some of my personal and professional angst about the state of education in our society. I’ll discuss recent research on inequalities in our school systems and explore the central question I keep returning to: How can we ensure that our society values and cultivates the interests, passions, communities, and cultures of all kids?

Leah Buechley is a designer, engineer, and educator. Her work explores integrations of electronics, computing, art, craft, and design. She has done foundational work in paper and fabric-based electronics. Her inventions include the LilyPad Arduino, a construction kit for sew-able electronics. She currently runs a design firm that explores playful integrations of technology and design. Previously, she was an associate professor at the MIT Media Lab, where she founded and directed the High-Low Tech group. Her work has been featured in publications including The New York Times, Boston Globe, Popular Science, and Wired. Leah received a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a B.A. in physics from Skidmore College. At both institutions she also studied dance, theater, fine art, and design. Leah was the recipient of the 2017 Edith Ackerman award for Interaction Design and Children.