April, 2015


No, it isn’t short for “zipped!” The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is an elegant idea with an awkward name. Brilliant psychologist Lev Vygotsky coined the term in the 1930’s to talk about the difference between where a child can easily operate on a cognitive level and a higher level where he can operate with a little help. Unfortunately, many educators have interpreted this to mean that a teacher/parent should just provide a child with Read More →

Stress Test

Have you ever tried to make a tortilla? If it isn’t part of your culture, probably not! It makes a nice metaphor for teaching so let’s explore it a bit. You basically add a little water to cornmeal and make a ball of dough. The hard part is to pat the ball into a nice, round tortilla shape with just the right thickness. If you don’t press hard enough, the tortilla will be adobe brick-like Read More →

Viewpoints: Part II

Many times when we are stuck trying to solve a problem or produce a product, we need to take on a fresh viewpoint. That’s what it means to “think outside the box.” This is as important for solving tricky math problems as it is for resolving thorny social problems with grace and creativity. This is not always easy. We get stuck in our own opinions—and even prejudices. If we think there is only one right Read More →

Viewpoints: Part I

I have long been intrigued by the Hindu tale of “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” In this story these wise men happen upon a new creature and each one touches a different part of the animal. Because of the differences, each has a theory about what an elephant might be. The one that touches the ear thinks the creature is a type of fan. The one that touches the trunk believes it to be Read More →

Pay Attention!

What is the heaviest weight you can lift? How long can you hold it up? Paying attention (to what someone else feels is important) is like trying to lift a heavy weight. And yet how much time is spent in school asking children to “pay attention?” Granted, chaos is not the answer and we can’t just let kids do anything they feel like—so what CAN we do to get them to listen to us? First Read More →