Edge-U-cation – Report

The ‘Edge-U-cation’ event was held on Wed Mar 16 in Ottawa, with 20-plus people in attendance. The theme of the event was to discuss what liberating education looks like. (see event callout)

This report from the event includes an outline of the event, three sets of flip chart notes taken during the the full-group parts of the evening (and video from one of those parts), and facilitator comments at the end.

Session Outline:
(small-groups were either 3 or 4 people in each)

  • ice-breakers: pair-up and discuss two questions (‘What’s one good thing that’s happened for you in the past week’ and ‘What’s one thing you’re looking forward to in the spring’) and then rotate to other partners
  • small group discussion: why did you come tonight, and what is your goal for the evening
  • full group discussion: pros/cons analysis of ‘lecture style education’
  • short talk from facilitator on education, ending with brief description of ‘direct education’, the method of learning adopted to facilitate the event
  • small groups: silently read ‘direct education’ handout from Training For Change (1pg double-sided), then discuss. end with each person sharing one question that the reading/discussion inspired in them
  • (same) small groups: go round, each participant shares 1-2 really positive learning experiences they have had, and what made them so positive
  • full group discussion: what contributes to good learning?
  • movement activity: everyone stands and spreads out, one person at a time announces something they would like to apply/move forward on based on the discussion so far, people who share that feeling/desire physically relocate to be in proximity to that person (people do not need to ‘stick’ with one option, can keep moving towards other things that appeal to them)
  • closing activity: everyone standing in large circle, five volunteers (one at a time) do short clapping/stomping/etc routine, everyone then responds together by repeating the routine


Pros/Cons of ‘Lecture-Style Education’ (group discussion)


  • one-to-many sharing (‘expert’)
  • standardized
  • cost effective
  • appropriate for some topics
  • could be reliable source
  • transmission of information (‘drilling’)
  • good for less self-directed learners


  • doesn’t work if not receptive audience
  • not involving
  • lack of participation
  • no responsibility on learner
  • feedback?
  • passive: not good for active learning/solving new problems
  • authority
  • limited to lecturer’s beliefs/perspective
  • poor for learning skills/building capacities
  • prevents collective intelligence
  • bad for more self-directed learners
  • not necessarily where learner is at
  • not room for dissent/alternatives
  • mono, not diversity

‘Middle’ (could be pro & con?)

  • socialization of process
  • depends on quality of teacher

Greg’s short talk on education

… or click here to see it on Youtube

Notes from short talk
(with bit of audience participation)

  • Japan situation more important than talking right now
  • education should be for doing, not just talking
  • you learn what you do, the ‘hidden curriculum’
  • the schools are like the prisons are like the factories, regimented
  • there are other ways to learn:
  • project-based: learn as you do
  • cooperative learning: students group and teach each other (students aren’t used to this)
  • evaluation can be more than tests: portfolios, continuous learning with reassessment, …
  • experiential learning
  • popular education (pe)
  • pe: meant to be accessible and build on personal knowledge
  • pe: accounts for power dynamics, oppressions (ski lift cartoon vs ice picks)
  • George Lakey, direct education: building a container to hold the learning environment
  • caring first makes education easier
  • emotive learning is easier
  • (collective) self-responsibility for solving problems

What contributes to good learning? (group discussion)

  • involvement in process is critical!
  • serious yet fun
  • valued contribution: pertinent, impactful
  • transformative risk
  • paradigm shifting
  • beyond comfort zone, yet within
  • people need to feel safe to share, get involved
  • numerous/individual learning paths
  • trust that learners and teachers can steer class
  • leap of faith: willingness, proactive
  • learning as a whole
  • committed teachers create transformative experiences
  • apprenticeship
  • friend, mentorship, (focusing)
  • kinship is key
  • authorship: passionate about subject
  • multi-faceted approach (dimensional)
  • creativity and spirit can not be quantified
  • focusing on negatives/positives in a balance
  • acknowledge skills/interest



Facilitator comments:

Was happy to see that this format did indeed get people participating, sharing with each other… also, two volunteers felt confident enough to come to the front and take flip-chart notes for the full-group parts of the session, one even taking on co-facilitation duties spontaneously… The ‘movement activity’ was something I’d heard described but never seen, thoughts on making it more effective: perhaps, after one person has said their thing and others moved towards them, the next person to share first has to make sure they are at least ten steps away from that group, so that there is more movement. Also maybe after the first person has shared, try having the next 3 be people who had not moved to the first person? … And the last activity worked well, people went beyond the instructed ‘clapping/stomping’ and added in other elements like mouth sounds and finger snapping. It was noted afterwards that that activity works well to get everyone in the group ‘in sync’, entrainment, and it could be done earlier in the workshop to be able to generate that energy/vibe while the session is still going, instead of just to end it. … The one thing, to do with the ‘hidden curriculum’ I mentioned in the short talk, is that although this was very participatory, it was still totally structured by me, ie I directed people what to do (activity) all through the session  and so it was still a matter of people following directions. One thing direct education is supposed to be about is creating the initial structure that then allows participants to take the session where they want, so building in/facilitating participant choice in how it unfolds would be the next step to incorporate … the ‘open space’ event concept is something to look at here. But definitely something to think about more…

Please leave your thoughts, comments, etc below

3 thoughts on “Edge-U-cation – Report

  1. I was glad I attended this event. I see it as an opportunity to connect with people who are interested in living, working and learning in ways that enhance our humanity rather than suppress it.

    I have just recently read some of John Taylor Gatto’s work for the first time. Here is something that resonated with me: “Working for official favor, grades, or other trinkets of subordination; these have no connection with education – they are paraphernalia of servitude,
    not freedom. “

    1. thanks Sandhya, glad you were able to make it, and that you’ve discovered something to look into further. i think that quote is on point, there is a lot of discussion on basic extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation, and i think combined with a system that is really designed for obedience or as Gatto puts it, subordination, it can really reveal the ‘hidden curriculum’ and what students are actually ‘learning’

      1. Yes, I am hoping to be able to participate / connect with others in the future. Further on the quote, it is exactly that hidden curriculum that prepares people to function in the same way in the workplace, where our work is graded by our bosses and the trinkets are the dollar bills. We do “jobs” instead of our life’s / meaningful work – the kind with intrinsic value, as you say.

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