July 30, 2018

How to Be a Learning Instigator

Category: Educational Practice
Michelle King smiling in classroom

When educator Michelle King teaches middle school students about America’s founding document, she kicks off the lesson by asking how people today break up with each other. A simple electronic text or sending a proxy to deliver the news are suggested by the eighth-grade students.

Ah, but the ultimate example of severing a relationship comes from U.S. history by way of the Declaration of Independence, King points out. Look at the preamble, that part is like the “hey, baby, it’s not working out any more,” she says. Then, through interrogation of the document, the students “talk about the challenges of society, they do analysis, they study primary sources in a fun way — by talking about relationships — and also talking about how you make decisions as a society and what compromises you make.”

Making learning fun and relevant by making it connect to their own lives is how King inspires learners. It’s what makes her the learning instigator.

Another example of her innovative teaching is the game she co-created called “Thrive.” The only way to win is to cooperate and coexist while learning about cultural literacy and social justice. It’s designed for movement, King explains. In one version of the game, students choose to represent a European nation or a Native American nation and must record histories and trade and share knowledge about different cultures in the quest for peace while building on the joy of learning.

Students find the game interesting and challenging, King says. “Learning can be that kind of captivating. And, no matter what, irrespective of your intellectual level, you could talk about the nature of humanity and you could talk about what it means to win. You can speculate on the future of America. I like that kind of simulation, of trying things on and putting people in compromising positions that push up against their own belief system. That’s the spirit of the learning instigator.”

King will share more as she delivers the featured plenary Aug. 2 at the Connected Learning Summit at MIT.

Meanwhile, check her out in this Tedx talk as she discusses education and remaking learning.