I begin many of my keynote addresses by saying, “I’m not surprised when kids do extraordinary things. I’m surprised when adults are surprised that kids are capable of doing remarkable things. I expect it.” The years kids spend in school are when they become poets, philosophers, politicians, pediatricians, painters, pianists, punters, physicists…
In a 2010 article for Wired Magazine, Bill Gates tells journalist Steven Levy about his formative teen years.
Indeed, looking back, Gates says that the key period of his hackerhood came even earlier. “The hardcore years, the most fanatical years, are 13 to 16,” he says.
“So you were over the hill by the time you got to Harvard?” I [Levy] ask.
“In terms of programming 24 hours a day? Oh yeah,” he says. “Certainly by the time I was 17 my software mind had been shaped.”
One goal of Constructing Modern Knowledge is to create a context in which teachers remember what it feels like to master something complex and to appreciate the central roles of experience and expertise in the learning process. Learning is not simply the direct result of having been taught. Knowledge is constructed as a consequence of experience. That’s why the focus of CMK is on learning-by-doing through project development, supported by an expert faculty, and in interaction with people who respected for their excellence in a particular field.
In addition to sharing gifted educators, including: Deborah Meier, Alfie Kohn, Eleanor Duckworth, Lella Gandini, Jonathan Kozol, Lillian Katz, and Bob Tinker, CMK has provided access to astronomer Derrick Pitts, jazz legend Jimmy Heath, historian James Loewen, composer Tod Machover, inventor Leah Buechley, and filmmaker Casey Neistat. CMK participants don’t just get to hear such experts speak, they get to spend time with them.
Over the past few years, our guest speakers have included remarkable young people invited to CMK not as novelty acts, but due to their exceptional talent and expertise. Emmet Cohen, Super-Awesome Sylvia, and this year’s faculty member Joey Hudy, remind us of young people’s remarkable capacity for intensity.
In June 2013, HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumble profiled a Massachusetts teenager who combined his love of baseball, perseverance, research skills, and passion to become one of the world’s preeminent experts on the barely documented history of Negro League baseball. A feel-good story of a White kid named Cam Perron, preserving the legacy of elderly African American gentleman would have been great, but this young man’s efforts have changed the world for dozens of aging men otherwise lost to history.
I get choked up each time I watch the Real Sports segment. It’s a deeply moving tale of love, respect, and the ability of young people. It reminds us of what a single person can do and of what kids are capable of achieving beyond test scores, even if their school is unaware of their expertise.
Cam joins Edith Ackermann, Mitchel Resnick, and Pete Nelson as guest speakers at our 7th annual summer institute. You do not want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime learning adventure! CMK is filling quickly. Register today!
The Real Sports feature on Cam Perron and his work
Acclaim for Cam Perron:
Cam Perron’s TEDx Talk