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Ripple Spring 2010
Course Catalog

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Opening Panel: Creativity in Urban Education

Ripple will open with a panel discussion featuring Tim King, Bill Ayers, Tim Knowles, and Christina Pei, and moderated by conference co-directors Luke Joyner and Race Wright.

The focus of the panel will be creativity in urban education, and specifically on how creative ideas (both in education policy and teaching practice) have in the past and might in the future fit in to an urban education climate that has often stressed accountability and results. We hope that specific examples from Chicago (and potentially other cities) will factor heavily into the conversation, but that there will also be room for more abstract ideas to be considered. The panel will seek to explore whether creative educational ideas are at odds with "standards" and "accountability" or whether there are ways to reach good results without giving up creative methods, and if so how those ways manifest themselves.

Our panelists bring four different perspectives on education to the table:

Tim King is the founder and director of Urban Prep, an all-male charter school in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago that recently made headlines for sending 100% of its first graduating class to a four year college.

Bill Ayers is professor of education at University of Illinois-Chicago, and author of Teaching Toward Freedom: Moral Commitment and Ethical Action in the Classroom among many other books about education.

Tim Knowles is the director of the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago, which oversees charter schools, conducts educational research, and runs a masters program in urban teaching.

Christina Pei is a math teacher and alumnus of University of Chicago. She is active in maker/hacker spaces both in Chicago and New York, and is interested in using these spaces as an alternative venue for educational pursuits. She also works with Professor Paul Sally at the University of Chicago on initiatives in Inquiry-Based Learning.

Opted out of the Keynote Address (But if you change your mind, just talk to us)
Teachers: Sanjoy Mahajan

Dismayed by the prevalence of rote learning instead of thinking, Louis Benezet, the superintendent of schools in Manchester, New Hampshire, radically changed how mathematics was taught. Students were not subjected to the usual arithmetic algorithms until grade 6. In the earlier grades, they read, invented, and discussed stories and problems; estimated lengths, heights, and areas; and enjoyed finding and interpreting numbers relevant to their lives.

Then in grade 6, with only 4 months of formal training, they caught up to the regular students in algorithmic ability - and they were far ahead in general numeracy and in the verbal, semantic, and problem solving skills that they had practiced for the preceding five years.

I will discuss how this experiment started, how and why it ended, and its lessons that could transform education today.

Sanjoy Mahajan is Associate Director at the Teaching and Learning Laboratory and Lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is interested in improving how we teach science, mathematics, and engineering.

In a former life, he was an assistant professor in the physics department at the University of Cambridge, in David MacKay's Inference group; a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; and the first curriculum director of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cape Town, South Africa.

He is also the author of Street-Fighting Mathematics: The Art of Educated Guessing and
Opportunistic Problem Solving, out this year from MIT Press.