I love learning.
Since 1992 I’ve led K-12 and university courses, professional trainings, and organizational change initiatives all over the world.
School & Early Career
I have studied learning and education — two very different things — my whole life. From kindergarten to graduate school, I attended public schools in Los Angeles, which led me to UCLA, where I completed a B.A. in Communication Studies, a master’s degree in Teacher Education, and a Ph.D. in Education Policy & Organizational Management. I went on to teach at UCLA for 11 years and lead a Los Angeles-based management consulting practice where I advised startups, nonprofits, and Fortune 100 companies on matters related to strategy, organizational development, succession planning, conflict management, team building, and leadership.
The Lightbulb Moment
Many of my consulting clients and university students confided that they had to unlearn and recover from what they were taught in school in order to be successful in their careers. In school, we’re told to be quiet and keep our eyes on our own papers. At work, we’re asked why we can’t be better team players.
For a long time in our country, we tolerated education’s shortcomings and the disconnect between school and life after graduation. Generations of parents told their children to suffer because it built character and a diploma was the ticket to the good life.
Not anymore. Since we have no idea what the economic, political, or environmental landscape will look like when today’s students graduate, we owe it to the next generation to adapt our education practices to meet their needs in facing an increasingly uncertain future.
After 9/11 I began teaching high school courses in America’s fifth-largest high school in Los Angeles. At first, I thought I would just teach for a year or two. I used technology to disrupt the curriculum and the classroom, I got an up-close view of the bizarro bureaucracy, and I looked forward to getting back to the world of the living.
But one day in 2005, Zolzaya Damdinsuren walked into my classroom carrying The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. That was the moment my life became stranger than fiction. If we get to know each other well enough, I’ll tell you the whole story, which took me to Mongolia, China, and Tibet, and rang learning bells I will never be able to unring.
When I returned from Asia I accepted a teaching position at a semi-rural comprehensive high school on California’s Central Coast, and in an evening master’s degree program in an ivory strip mall behind an IHOP . I continued using online tools and techniques to bring the world to my students and my students to the world. In 2009 I coined the term “Open-Source Learning” to describe my practice as teaching philosophy that empowers students to work in partnership with their teachers and expand their networks beyond classroom walls to develop personally meaningful learning experiences that can be shared with everyone in ways that create immediate value.
Sharing the Model
In 2011, I began sharing my approach to teaching by introducing “The Open-Source School” as a conceptual model at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, CA. Since then, I’ve presented Open-Source Learning concepts and use cases at gatherings such as the MacArthur Foundation Digital Media & Learning Conference, the Connected Learning Summit at M.I.T., the Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society in London, the Computer Users in Education conference, The O’Reilly Open Source Conference, TEDxUCLA, and others.
I continue to expand my learning community because students and educators everywhere are suffering. Everyone in school is trying to comply with rules and standards that often work directly against their learning and well-being. These effects have intensified during the pandemic. The result is that too many high school and college graduates leave school without a healthy approach to living, or a working understanding of the internet, or conflict, or critical thinking, or interdisciplinary design principles that will empower them to solve problems and identify opportunities.
Today I am learning out loud more than ever. It’s exciting to see the positive impact Open-Source Learning has on my family, my students, and the many collaborators with whom I’m so fortunate to work. I love sharing principles, strategies, and practices that teachers, employers, families, and communities can use to create positive change and achieve value through learning. I’ve written ACADEMY OF ONE, a book on Open-source Learning that I hope will raise awareness and start conversations. And I continue refining and sharing my own practice. In addition to speaking, consulting, teaching online, and helping others apply Open-Source Learning, I still walk the walk in my service to students in California high schools.