#74 – The Power of Learners with Sylvia Martinez

We’re in our second week of exploring power and power relationships in schools which is a topic that I don’t think we reflect on nearly enough in schools. (Here’s the first “power” podcast with Rob Fried.) There’s an inherent tension when it comes to learning and power, namely how much power do you as a learner have in any learning interaction to choose not just what you learn but how and where and when. And one of the things that casts such a long shadow over this conversation is the fact that going to school is compulsory. Learners have no or very little choice but to attend a school which then decides almost everything about the what, where and when of learning. So right from the start, we take agency away from kids, and we rarely seem to think about the implications of that.

Someone who has been thinking about that for quite some time is my guest on this week’s podcast. Sylvia Martinez is the co-author of what I think may be one of the best books on learning and schools in the last five years, Invent to Learn which has come to be known as “the bible of the maker movement.” She’s an advisor to the Stanford University FabLearn Fellows, and she has a long history in leading educational non-profits and in product design and development in educational games. And, she was one of the early designers of the software for that GPS navigational system that gets all of us to where we want to go in today’s world.

All that aside, what I love about Sylvia is her genuine passion for creating environments in schools where teachers and students can explore learning on their own terms, and in this podcast, we talk about that as well as the dynamics of power in classrooms, the cultural movements that lead to change in schools, and the complexities around the idea of empowerment in the various hierarchies of schools. It’s an important, and on many levels fascinating conversation.

As always, if you enjoy the conversation, why not head over to iTunes and give us a review and a rating? And tell your friends about our podcast as well. Thanks for listening everyone!

For more resources and links about this podcast, check out the “Podcasts” topic in the Modern Learners Community.

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