Meet Gordon Freedman

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CIRCL perspectives offer a window into the different worlds of various stakeholders in the cyberlearning community — what drives their work, what they need to be successful, and what they think the community should be doing. Share your perspective.

Gordon Freedman is an executive in the education, education policy and technology-in-education field.

What motivates you as a Cyberlearning Innovator?

If we are preparing people to go into the workplace and to be innovators, then we need to prepare learners to be active users of today’s powerful social media and computational tools. We live in an era where we want to remove the barriers between everybody and the knowledge that is available in the world. From an operational diagram, we want the learners to get to a certain place — so why don’t we have them start in the place? I work on innovations to enable kids to be learning in environments with all the richness of the worlds they will be living in.

Why did you invent a new organization and what does your organization do?

When I worked with Blackboard, I travelled to 18 countries and visited their universities and ministries of education. What I could not find was an organization analogous to our national laboratories. Many organizations optimize what happens in schools, and yet optimization within the school structure is not longer going to be enough to reach our societal goals. So we created the National Laboratory for Educational Transformation to be a national lab that was completely focused on transformation, not just optimization. I was inspired by conversations with our partners at Los Alamos. They are willing to strip education down to first principles — which is hard to do out their in schools or in companies.

We’re in the midst of a 100 year transformation from an industrial to an innovation-oriented education system. At the dawn of the industrial age, we equalized opportunity to learn by creating universal access to schools. But in today’s innovation age, the basic unit of opportunity to learn must change to individual students. I founded NLET to facilitate partnership and collaboration on the 100 year transformation.

What could Cyberlearning be doing now to make a difference?

Cyberlearning is about bringing people together around important problems — and NLET has excelled at bringing stakeholders from different sectors together. But what should they do together? A really good set of practices would be around jointly deconstructing “learning progressions” when there are no preconceptions about grades, subjects, a daily bell schedule, or all the other given rituals and boundaries of the industrial age school. For example, we can help students with writing and authoring across the school day, inside and outside of school, and irrespective of what grades they are in. Cyberlearning innovators could work together on the important problems of learning that transcend the taken-for-granted structures of school.

Which researchers would you like to reach out to?

I would really like to hear from researchers who are thinking about cross-cutting educational process — those aspects of learning that develop longitudinally and across settings and topics. I value the ability of researchers to work through big problems with intellectual rigor, with attention to the real needs of learners, and with an eye to achieving deep insights. We’d invite dialogues with researchers around systems that could be “linear accelerators” for learning — big projects that could enable the many smaller, more detailed experiments which are needed so that as we create the 100-year transformation, we do it with intellectual integrity.

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