The “Frame” of School & Stop Learning and Start Thinking

In working on some research for my doctoral program I was lead to Punya Mishra’s blog, Mishra is one of the creators of the TPCK (or TPACK)  model.  Curious about the most recent posts on the blog I found Banksy’s biggest trick OR why I hate art museums (with a link to a full article by Isabel Wilkinson about the “trick.”)

As I am working on research thinking about teaching, strategies, technology, learning, improvement, quality, preparing, supporting – I read the account from a school perspective.  Now I do agree with the art comments and the perspective that there is beautiful art all around us.  Just because someone puts something in a museum or an acclaimed critic declares a specific person the “greatest” does not in itself make it art.  Wilkinson states in her article “It’s a classic example of art without the frame – and it raises the important question: how much does our experience of art rely on context?”  With all my thoughts on teaching and learning I thought about how we “frame” education.

Stop Learning…OR why I hate school

Mishra’s title states “…OR why I hate art museums”  I have heard plenty of “…OR why I hate school/education”  I also recently watched the TEDxTeen video, where the Jacob Barnett encourages us to stop learning (as in the traditional school type of learning) and to start thinking.  At the end he reiterates his point and includes – if you are in a specific field – chemistry, biology, math, instructional design – “be the field.”

But back to the “frame” or context.  How do we “frame” education and learning?

Framing Content

There is the level of a teacher “framing” content.  I lived an experience during a geology unit in an integrated science class I was teaching.  My job was to help this group of 9th graders get “caught up” in science so they would be ready for the rest of their science classes in high school.  The summer before I taught this course my husband wanted to renew his rockhounding hobby – and bring me along.  I was reluctant at first, but gave in when he found a spot in a small cove nearby.  He could look for the rocks, I could just sit and enjoy an afternoon at the beach.

By the time I taught that unit on Geology, my husband had me hooked.  I was looking at rocks in a whole new light.  Just last week we finished tumbling some of those first beach rocks which were petrified wood.  These brilliant bands of blue appeared, seemingly out of no where.  My mind immediately started thinking about what elements would cause a blue color? why didn’t we see the blue before? what did we use in the final polish stage – did that turn something blue? So in my geology unit, I brought in some of the rocks I had found and many more of the rocks from my husband’s collection to use as examples.  My student “caught” my excitement about rocks.  I had them bringing in all sorts of rocks to share.  Living in south central Los Angeles, the majority of the rocks were pieces of concrete – but they were looking at their world in a whole new way. And because they were looking, we had real conversations about science and their world  “What is this one?” “Well what do you see?” “Well, it is kind of crumbly right here.” “What kind of rock would have that characteristic?…why?”

Just as a museum, or a art critic “frames” something and designates it as art, so too must teachers “frame” their content.  In a recent webinar by Tom Reeves he described a biology course that created short videos to catch the students’ attention – to “frame” the content.

Framing Education

Learning happens everywhere, just as there is art all around us.  But all too often we need someone to say “Hey look at this!”  We need someone to “frame” it for us. We all have an idea of what education looks like and it will have a strong resemblance of what our own education looked like.  So how do we provide the “frame” for courses, for programs, for schools, for education without the resulting “that’s why I hate schools”?

I do think we each need different “frames” at different times.  And sometimes it takes time, much longer than a class period or a semester or a  year.  In watching Jennifer Roberts talk for the Harvard Initiative on Learning and Teaching, she talks about slowing down.  One of her assignments requires students to study a piece of art, in person for 3 hours straight.


Just as with art, if we take the time, we can find our own “frames” for learning.  Learning can happen anywhere, just as art is all around us. The question is how do teachers “frame” teaching and thus influence the “frame” of education.

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