The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

Reimagining Higher Education in Response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history. Not only that, but this crisis is exacerbating pre-existing education disparities for many of the most vulnerable students. How are higher education institutions carrying on with teaching during this socio-economic, cultural and health crisis, and what do we know about the future of education?


Luckily, The Lavin Agency’s Education Speakers are here to highlight up-to-the-minute innovations within the education sector. As schools develop innovative approaches in support of education and distance learning solutions, these experts are on the frontline of the current challenges facing our students and educators. 


With more and more diverse and disadvantaged students accepted into elite colleges, Assistant Professor at Harvard and author of The Privileged Poor, Anthony Jack explores how poor students are often failed by the top schools that admit them. In fascinating and critical talks, he details how class divides on campus create barriers to academic success—and shares what schools can do in-step with their COVID-19 strategies to truly level the playing field.


In his illuminating talks, leading expert in the psychology of persistence David Yeager goes beyond typical “student success” programs, and instead takes a social-psychological perspective during a crisis, asking: what does it look and feel like to worry about whether you belong? David shows us a framework for engaging in continuous improvement of the psychological environment that supports student persistence during the pandemic.


In a constantly shifting educational landscape, who gets to thrive, and what are the deciding factors? New York Times bestselling author Paul Tough makes a mind-changing inquiry into modern higher education. Will colleges provide real opportunity for young people to improve their prospects and social mobility during the pandemic? In talks drawn from his years of research, Paul challenges the status quo, revealing how higher education and social mobility really work, and what we can do to make it more equitable for all.


Learn more about The Lavin Agency’s Education Speakers.


Angela Duckworth Honored as One of Eight Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania

Governor Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf honored eight women as this year’s Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania, each recognized for their “extraordinary service and contributions to the Commonwealth.” Among them was the New York Times bestselling author of Grit Angela Duckworth

Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania began in 1948 as a way to honor the notable achievements of women in their professional careers and/or voluntary service. Angela Duckworth is one of the eight recognized in 2019. She is the Founder and CEO of Character Lab, a nonprofit that provides science-based advice to parents and teachers. Duckworth also teaches psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is a Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor, as well as the faculty co-director of the Penn-Wharton Behavior Change for Good Initiative.


“Tom and I are proud to honor these incredible women for their profound contributions to the people and communities of Pennsylvania. Our commonwealth is a better place because of their selfless dedication and hard work, and we cannot thank them enough,” said First Lady Frances Wolf, in a ceremony at the Governor’s Residence.

Governor Wolf said, “They make us all PA Proud, and we are honored to name them as Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania.”


To book speaker Angela Duckworth for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency today, her exclusive speakers bureau.

Paul Tough Talks to PBS’ Amanpour & Co., on Education Inequality and His New Book, The Years That Matter Most

Bestselling author Paul Tough sat down with Michel Martin on PBS to discuss how inequality and its widespread effects have come to define higher education. His most recent book, The Years That Matter Most explores this phenomenon in heartbreaking detail.

Today's American students a jaw-dropping $1.5 trillion in student loans—making the average per student nearly $30,000: a daunting amount for almost anyone. For his book The Years That Matter Most, Paul Tough dedicated himself to spending time with students from all socioeconmic walks of life to uncover what their common challenges are—and what the personal, institutional and financial factors are that lead to a successful post-secondary life.


“I think our choice to make higher education scarce, is a choice,” said Tough to PBS’ Michel Martin.  “At other moments in American history we've chosen differently. And other countries right now are choosing differently.”

With appearances on the likes of Soledad O'Brien, PBS NewsHour, and Chicago Tonight; and with a feature in September’s Education issue of The New York Times Magazine, Tough’s work on this timely topic is set to add a valuable voice to one of the most vital discussions of our times—and provide a voice for those students who may not otherwise be able to advocate for themselves and their futures.


To book speaker Paul Tough, contact The Lavin Agency, his exclusive speakers bureau today. 

The Years That Matter Most—A New Book By New York Times Bestseller Paul Tough—Is Out Today

Who gets into college, who doesn’t, and why does it matter? Based on six years of reporting, education speaker Paul Tough’s hotly-anticipated new book explores how social mobility affects higher education—and what this means for America’s future generations.


In The Years That Matter Most, Tough shares true stories of students trying to find their way through the application process and into college, to paint a larger picture of the ways privilege affects higher education. For generations, college has been the single best way for young Americans to improve their station in life. But now, there are plenty of signs now that the system isn’t what it used to be. Why doesn’t higher education work the way it used to, and what does this mean for the country’s youth—and the nation at large?


Taking readers from Ivy Leagues to community colleges and everywhere in between, Tough explores whether the American post-secondary system is designed to protect the privileged and leave everyone else behind—or, if a college education today can still provide opportunity to youth seeking to improve their station in life. Called “a powerful reckoning with just how far we’ve allowed reality to drift from our ideals” by The New York Times, and “vividly written” and “utterly lucid” by This American Life host Ira Glass, The Years That Matter Most challenges the status quo, revealing how privilege actually affects access to higher education, and what we can do to make it more equitable for all.


Read an excerpt of The Years That Matter Most here.


To book speaker Paul Tough, contact his exclusive speakers bureau, The Lavin Agency.


Grit Speaker Lauren Eskreis-Winkler Investigates the Motivational Benefits of Advice-Giving

Common wisdom would suggest that offering advice to those who are struggling is helpful to them. But findings from the University of Pennsylvania suggest the opposite is true. In fact, it is the actually person dispensing the advice who is benefiting most. Lauren Eskreis-Winkler reveals the surprising insights from her new study.

Wharton post-doctoral researcher Lauren Eskreis-Winkler led her team in conducting an intervention with 2,000 high school students. The studythe first major project from Penn’s Behavior Change for Good initiativewas published with co-authors and fellow Lavin speakers Katherine Milkman and Angela Duckworth. The work was executed by Duckworth’s non-profit organization Character Lab.


Eskreis-Winkler revealed that, in her previous work with Duckworth, she was impressed by the motivational strategies kids were already using. “A million times a day, people problem-solve big and small ways to motivate themselves and, in some cases, do so very effectively,” she said. “The current intervention is that insight in a bottle. We figured, instead of telling kids about the latest science of motivation, what if we let them motivate themselves? As opposed to having kids receive advice, the intervention asks kids to give it.”


In the experiment, half of the students were designated “advice-givers,” and were asked to provide motivational guidance to other halfthe control groupvia an online survey. “The activity was designed […] to make them feel like bona fide advisors, people who have useful information to share,” explained Eskreis-Winkler.


At the end of the academic quarter, the advice-giving group earned higher grades than the control group, but remarkably, all 2,000 participating students appeared to benefit from the experiment. When asked how the research could be applied to schools, Eskreis-Winkler replied, “I hope this experiment catalyzes a paradigm shift in the way teachers, coaches, supervisors, and parents motivate others. If somebody we know is struggling, our intuition is to give that person help, to position him or her as a recipient. But our work shows there is benefit in doing the exact opposite. Our results point to the underappreciated, underutilized motivational power of giving.” 


You can read the full interview here


To book Lauren Eskreis-Winkler, or another Education Speaker, contact The Lavin Agency today.

Admission Isn’t Acceptance: Anthony Jack Reveals the Plight of Low-Income Kids at Ivy League Schools in The Privileged Poor

Even though the Ivy League has opened their doors to a more diverse student body, less privileged students still struggle. Drawing from his own experiences, as well as dozens of interviews with undergraduates at one of America’s most prestigious colleges, Anthony Jack’s The Privileged Poor (out now) reveals what happens to students who don’t have the background, family support or cultural capital to navigate elite colleges. 

University policies and campus culture needs to change in order to truly welcome and encourage a diverse student body, and in talks like the one below, Jack provides concrete advice to help reduce the hidden disadvantages we can’t afford to ignore. 


Anthony Jack at the Harvard Graduate School of Education


To book Anthony Jack for your next event contact The Lavin Agency, his exclusive speakers bureau. 

How Can We Create an Open, Practical Dialogue Around Consent on Campus? Vanessa Grigoriadis Draws Clear Lines

Questions about power, consent, and assault on college campus have sparked difficult—but necessary—conversations. In this #MeToo moment, how do we engage in practical dialogue? New speaker Vanessa Grigoriadis embedded herself in colleges across America, conducting interviews with the survivors, the accused, the parents, the professors, and the administrators. The results, reported on in her bestselling book Blurred Lines, are stunning.

Blurred Lines is poised to become the definitive work about sex, consent, and campus life in our era.”,”attribution”:”Meghan Daum, author of The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects Of Discussion.“,”type”:”bodyPullquote”,”lockup”:”left”}' data-id=”” data-type=”bodyPullquote”>

“With rigorous reporting, brilliant observations and a rare absence of bias, Grigoriadis has written a fascinating and moreover an important book about a complex, controversial phenomenon. Blurred Lines is poised to become the definitive work about sex, consent, and campus life in our era.”

— Meghan Daum, author of The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects Of Discussion.

As Grigoriadis discusses in her incisive keynotes, a cultural revolution is taking place, and college students are leading the charge. As a speaker, Grigoriadis tackles the complex social and political issue of assault on campus with the impartial wisdom drawn from her scores of far-reaching interviews. She asks: How can we help survivors move on? How do we address the accused? How might we involve parents, who are often at a distance? What about school administrators, who are responsible for all these students, while also legally bound by the red tape that holds administrations together? 

Grigoriadis’ talks cut through the often sensational and useless media noise that values “hot takes” over constructive, meaningful dialogue. On stage, she offers objective and sensitive accounts of how this new sexual revolution can cue widespread, concrete social change on college campuses and beyond. 

To find out more about speaker Vanessa Grigoriadis, contact The Lavin Agency today, her exclusive speakers bureau.  

Paul Tough’s Helping Children Succeed Now Available Online

Education speaker Paul Tough’s new book Helping Children Succeed is now available in its entirety online—gorgeously rendered with helpful graphics, charts, and embedded videos. If you’ve read Tough’s NYT bestseller How Children Succeed, Helping makes the perfect companion: a much-needed (and practical) exploration of how to overcome childhood adversity, both within the classroom and beyond.

Here’s the full description from Paul Tough’s website:

In Helping Children Succeed, Paul Tough takes on a new set of pressing questions: What does growing up in poverty do to children’s mental and physical development? How does adversity at home affect their success in the classroom, from preschool to high school? And what practical steps can the adults who are responsible for them—from parents and teachers to policy makers and philanthropists—take to improve their chances for a positive future?

Tough encourages us to think in a brand-new way about the challenges of childhood. Rather than trying to “teach” skills like grit and self-control, he argues, we should focus instead on creating the kinds of environments, both at home and at school, in which those qualities are most likely to flourish. Mining the latest research in psychology and neuroscience, Tough provides us with insights and strategies for a new approach to childhood adversity, one designed to help many more children succeed.

To hire education speaker Paul Tough for your next conference or event, contact The Lavin Agency, his exclusive speakers bureau.

Want to Help Children Succeed? Help Their Parents, Says Paul Tough

Last week, education speaker Paul Tough wrote a piece for The Atlantic called “How Kids Learn Resilience,” in which he champions the development of noncognitive skills—grit, optimism, self-control, among others—in children. The foundation for these skills is laid in our first few years of life, he argues; and for children raised in safe, nurturing environments, these attributes develop healthily. But many who grow up poor, spending their formative years surrounded by stress, already lag behind by the time they enter school. So how can we address this problem? In this week’s New York Times Sunday Review, Tough provides the answer: “Help children by supporting and coaching their parents.” The piece is adapted from his new book, Helping Children Succeed, available today (May 24) from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Tough’s new article cites a two-year study of impoverished families in Kingston, Jamaica. One set of families received weekly hour-long visits from a researcher who encouraged play between parents and children. A second set received a kilogram of milk-based nutritional supplement per week. A third received nothing. The results? Those counseled to play scored higher on tests of I.Q. and self-control, and lower in aggressive behavior.

To Tough, the Jamaica experiment signals that “one of the most powerful potential levers for change is not the children themselves, but rather the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of the adults who surround them.” And indeed, more recent studies have corroborated this belief: researchers from the Universities of Delaware and Oregon found that just 10 home visits improved key emotional indicators in toddlers with foster parents. These noncognitive skills, while harder to gauge than traditional metrics, are immediately valuable in school, Tough says, and highly indicative of a child’s capacity to thrive.

Laying a strong noncognitive framework may be the key to helping children succeed—and it all begins at home.

Education speaker Paul Tough is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine and the author of three books on education. His latest, Helping Children Succeed, answers pressing questions about childhood development, especially with respect to poverty, adversity, and other environmental factors. To hear Paul Tough’s trailblazing ideas on modern education theory, book him for a keynote by contacting The Lavin Agency, his exclusive speakers bureau.

Closing the Education Gap: Paul Tough’s New Atlantic Feature

To education speaker Paul Tough, America's schools are in dire trouble unless our low-income students catch up to their more privileged classmates. Tough’s latest effort, drawing insight from his upcoming book Helping Children Succeed (May 24), is an article for The Atlantic called “How Kids Learn Resilience.” In it, he stresses that a set of noncognitive attributes—resilience, conscientiousness, optimism, self-control, and of course, grit—are primary indicators of the success of low-income children. But how do we teach these skills? Can they even be taught—and should they? Perhaps, Tough suggests, students’ propensity to be optimistic, resilient, or even “gritty” is established long before they set foot in the classroom.

So what forms the bedrock of these noncognitive skills? According to Tough’s research, it’s stress, or, more specifically, a child’s physiological and neurological reaction to it. If children grow up in safe environments, learning to trust adults and be curious about the world, they’ll be calmer, more attentive, and more likely to consider problems and their outcomes at length. But expose children to severe, chronic stress in formative years and they’ll be primed for a fight-or-flight response—complete with elevated blood pressure, increased adrenaline production, and heightened distrust.

But there is hope to counteract these tendencies, Tough says, and intrinsic motivation—finding enjoyment and meaning in one’s everyday activities—may be the key. Building on research from the University of Rochester, Tough proposes that environments that engender feelings of competence, autonomy, and relatedness give low-income students the drive to succeed in academic settings. Already, the wheels are in motion—programs like Turnaround for Children and EL Education are implementing programs that embrace this research.  And although they’re few in number, Tough sees the promise of these frameworks and is hopeful for the future. For Tough’s full article—a fascinating cross-section of American education and its foibles—head over to The Atlantic.

Paul Tough’s three books—Whatever It Takes, How Children Succeed, and his latest, Helping Children Succeed—are reshaping the debate on education in America. To book Paul Tough as your next keynote speaker, or for more education speakers, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

Passion and Perseverance: Angela Duckworth’s Grit Hits Stores Today

One of the most talked-about new books in education is Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and it’s available for purchase today. The book is the culmination of years of research on the titular concept—an elusive blend of purpose and persistence that Duckworth believes may be paramount in determining high-level achievement. Since the release of her viral TED talk (which has more than eight million views on the TED site alone), scholars and laypeople alike have been fascinated by grit—what exactly is it? And is it something we can teach?

Does success stem from raw talent? What about I.Q., genetics, or even socioeconomic status? While Duckworth believes that all these elements play a role, the real x-factor is grit. In a country-wide search for the truth behind the concept for her book—which Arianna Huffington calls “a mix of masterful storytelling and the latest science”—Duckworth mines data from NFL coaches, CEOs, West Point military cadets and National Spelling Bee contestants to arrive at her conclusion: playing the long game, and “living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” pays off. Duckworth’s grit research is making headlines—it’s been featured on CBS News (below), NPR, and in The New York Times. And in a CNN opinion piece today, she weighs in on whether millennials lack grit, and if so, why. 

In her keynotes, Duckworth presents her landmark grit research, drawing insights from her book to demonstrate what sets gritty individuals apart from the pack. But she’s not the only Lavin speaker who talks about grit—Paul Tough and Scott Barry Kaufman each also have a refreshing take on the emerging phenomenon.

Here’s what interesting people are saying about Grit:

“A persuasive and fascinating response to the cult of I.Q. fundamentalism.” – Malcolm Gladwell

“As a coach, I’m convinced that there are no more important qualities in striving for excellence than those that create true grit. Here, Angela does a great job describing those qualities.” – Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics head coach

“Impressively fresh and original. Grit scrubs away preconceptions about how far our potential can take us. And it solves the riddle of how those not likely to succeed in fact do.” – Susan Cain, NYT bestselling author

“An informative and inspiring contribution to the literature of success.” – Publishers Weekly

To hear education speaker Angela Duckworth’s keynote on the predictive power of grit, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

First Look: Angela Duckworth’s New Book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

What really drives success? Is it our families, our cultures, our upbringings? Our socio-economic status? Raw IQ, EQ, our genetics, even genius? According to renowned psychologist and education speaker Angela Duckworth, real achievement often comes down to “grit”: a special mixture of enthusiasm and determination that, as a concept, is redefining more than just education. In her long-awaited book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (available May 3rd), Duckworth explains and dissects “grit” with personal stories, diligent research, and fascinating insights from diverse fields, exploring the secret to high-level performance and what could be the key to lasting, gratifying success.

In her effort to prove the connection between greatness and grit, Duckworth has culled data from across the country. Using examples drawn from West Point military cadets, National Spelling Bee hopefuls, teachers in the nation’s toughest schools, and NFL coaches and CEOs, Duckworth draws her conclusion—that success in life hinges on much more than your ability to learn quickly, and easily. For Duckworth, it’s all about the long game, and consistent effort, even when the going gets tough. “Grit,” as she proposes in her popular TED talk, “is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Called “a persuasive and fascinating response to the cult of I.Q. fundamentalism” by Malcolm Gladwell, Grit is perfect for educators, businesspeople, artists, and athletes—or just about anyone striving to be a top performer in their field. As she does in her thought-provoking keynotes on performance, psychology, education, and motivation, here Duckworth demonstrates that no matter your age or station in life, grit is something you can start to cultivate today.

Until Grit is available for purchase in May, here’s an extended write-up from the publisher, Simon & Schuster:

“In this must-read book for anyone striving to succeed, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows parents, educators, athletes, students, and business people—both seasoned and new—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a focused persistence called “grit.”

Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, MacArthur “genius” Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments.

Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently bemoaned her lack of smarts, Duckworth describes her winding path through teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not “genius” but a special blend of passion and long-term perseverance. As a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Duckworth created her own “character lab” and set out to test her theory.

Here, she takes readers into the field to visit teachers working in some of the toughest schools, cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. Finally, she shares what she’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers—from JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to the cartoon editor of The New Yorker to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.

Winningly personal, insightful, and even life-changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference.”

To book education speaker Angela Duckworth for a talk on her groundbreaking research on grit, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

Why ‘Grit’ Shouldn’t Be Graded: Angela Duckworth’s March NYT Op-Ed

Last week, psychology professor and education speaker Angela Duckworth wrote an op-ed in The New York Times addressing a problematic trend in education accountability systems—and one she worries that she may have contributed to, however inadvertently.

Educators are now seeing the value in teaching emotional and social skills in school—a shift that acknowledges Duckworth’s groundbreaking research into the ways that grit, self-control, and perseverance can predict success in school, and beyond. And educators are constantly honing the ways we teach and assess character strengths based on ongoing experimentation. As such, Duckworth is “heartened” to see our “narrow focus on standardized achievement test scores … [give] way to a broader, more enlightened perspective.” But we shouldn’t be punishing or rewarding schools based on how students score on these tests—as recent legislation has implied, and as some schools have done. In other words, Duckworth argues, “we’re nowhere near ready—and perhaps never will be—to use feedback on character as a metric for judging the effectiveness of teachers and schools.” 

“Does character matter, and can character be developed?” she asks. “Science and experience unequivocally say yes. Can the practice of giving feedback to students on character be improved? Absolutely. Can scientists and educators work together to cultivate students’ character? Without question.

Should we turn measures of character intended for research and self-discovery into high-stakes metrics for accountability? In my view, no.”

For the whole story, be sure to read the full NYT piece. And you can now pre-order Duckworth’s first (and long-awaited) book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, a work about “what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference.” Grit arrives in bookstores in early May from Scribner.

In her keynotes, Duckworth explains what makes gritty individuals different from others, and shares her belief that grit “can be instilled and cultivated by anyone, anywhere, and at any time in life.” To book education speaker Angela Duckworth for your next keynote event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

Reinventing Education with Sal Khan’s Khan Lab School: A New Profile in WIRED

This week, in “The Tech Elite’s Quest to Reinvent School in Its Own Image,” WIRED writes an in-depth profile of the colorful, optimistic, and tech-friendly world of Khan Lab School. That’s Salman Khan’s “educational R&D lab in Mountain View” that “eschews most of the traditional trappings of US education.” After founding the transformative Khan Academy and writing The One World Schoolhouse, Khan decided to test his ideas in a real alternative classroom that would serve as a model for schools around the world. As WIRED reports:

Khan suggested that the digital revolution might finally enable a new model of education, more flexible, inspiring, and affordable than the current system. He proposed a school in which kids work at their own pace, picking up core skills via software like Khan Academy, with teachers tracking their progress and helping out as needed. Most of the day would be spent on creative projects, with kids working together across age groups. And the whole place would be suffused with a spirit of experimentation, with teachers testing out new ideas and collecting data to measure their efficacy. 

To give you a better picture, think of kids checking out iPads along with books. Collaborating across languages using Google Translate, Trello, and Slack. Practicing mindfulness and ultimate Frisbee. Building with Lego, offering character-building shout-outs to peers, and cultivating a school garden.

“It’s an engineering mentality,” Khan tells WIRED. “You start with a solid baseline, but then you’re always willing to observe, measure, and iterate, and through those improvements you come up with something amazing. It worked for the car industry, computers, software. Can we do that with the school?”

“Sal Khan is a true education pioneer,” Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, told TIME magazine. “He started by posting a math lesson, but his impact on education might truly be incalculable.” In his book and his highly requested keynote speeches, Khan shares his vision on the future of education. If you are interested in how he is revolutionizing the learning process, book Salman Khan as a speaker by contacting The Lavin Agency.

Teaching Is Built, Not Built-In: Education Speaker Elizabeth Green

What makes an incredible teacher—the kind that sticks out as an actor of change or an awakening in each of us? Those telling education speaker Elizabeth Green, bestselling author of Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach it to Everyone), that it’s the result of magic or innate ability will be met with a strong argument found in her latest video, embedded above.

In this video, the co-founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of Chalkbeat—a non-profit that reports on national education efforts—explains how she came to find herself unpacking the elements of what makes a good teacher tick. Green counters the idea that good teachers just materialize with some kind of common-sense ability. Instead, she outlines a string of factors that build good teachers, like specialized knowledge and specialized skills. And further, she argues that we should stop treating teaching like Victorian-era sex—a private act that shouldn’t be closely scrutinized and examined.

She concludes by showing how one school in Rome is breaking the traditional systems of teaching with a defined triangular structure of high-performance strategies that give, as Green puts it, “hope for where our country can go.”

In her talks, Green examines the dynamics of truly effective teaching and speaks on how to build better educators. To book Elizabeth Green as a speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency.

Why We Suck at Math: Lavin Speakers Add it Up in the Times

Math is having a moment. Recently, two Lavin speakers—Jordan Ellenberg and Elizabeth Green—topped the The New York Times' most-emailed articles list (No's 1 and 2, respectively) with stories on mathematics. They addressed why math matters, why most Americans are allergic to math, and how to teach it effectively, especially to students.

In his Op-Ed, Ellenberg, the affable author of How Not to Be Wrong, writes about how to incentivize math for kids. Looking to his own 8-year-old son, C.J, a baseball fan and reluctant mathematician, Ellenberg found that the trick is to make math—like baseball—a game:

What does it mean to coach math instead of teaching it? For C. J., it means I give him a “mystery number” to think about before bed. “I’m thinking of a mystery number, and when I multiply it by 2 and add 7, I get 29; what’s the mystery number?” And already you’re doing not just arithmetic but algebra.

For her epic New York Times Magazine cover story, “Why Do Americans Stink at Math,” Elizabeth Green looks at where and when math education in this country started to go wrong. In one amusing, if grim, anecdote, she outlines the way that our math skills are failing us in the most populist of forms: hamburgers:

In the early 1980s, the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests, customers preferred A&W’s burger. And it was less expensive. A lavish A&W television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. Yet instead of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it.

Why? Because customers saw the fraction “1/3” and assumed that they were getting less burger for their buck.

So, how can Americans get back on the right math track? To change, Green argues that “we will have to accept that the traditional approach we take to teaching math—the one that can be mind-numbing, but also comfortingly familiar—does not work. We will have to come to see math not as a list of rules to be memorized but as a way of looking at the world that really makes sense.”

To Ellenberg, that means gaming the system for kids, thus building incentive at the ground floor. Widening the lens, Green proposes that educators ought to retire outdated thinking to allow new standards and methods to emerge. Seeing a change in children will ultimately change the adult, says Green—a win-win situation for all.

In his talks, Ellenberg illuminates the everyday power of mathematical thinking; Green speaks on building better educators. To book Jordan Ellenberg or Elizabeth Green as a speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency.

Why Are Rich Kids More Likely to Graduate? Paul Tough’s NYT Magazine Cover Story

In this week's New York Times Magazine cover story, education speaker Paul Tough takes a look at the graduation gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students at American universities. Who Gets to Graduate? focuses on an experiment at the University of Texas at Austin that is trying to find an answer to the question: “How, precisely, do you motivate students to take the steps they need to take in order to succeed?”

When we asked Tough why he was compelled to write about higher education, he told us: “Ever since How Children Succeed came out, I’ve been interested in writing about the growing disparities in higher education, and especially the gaps in graduation rates between well-off students and working-class students. I was intrigued by this new body of research that suggests that the psychology of college students—whether they feel they belong on campus and deserve to be in college—might be a big part of the problem, and potentially a big part of the solution. And when I heard about the experiments going on at the University of Texas in Austin, it felt like a great setting for a deep look at the issue. I was fascinated by what I learned at U.T., and my hope is that these new approaches can help colleges start to bridge some of the higher-education divide.”

Tough, who is the author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, begins his New York Times Magazine piece with the hard facts: “More than 40 percent of American students who start at four-year colleges haven’t earned a degree after six years. [And] whether a student graduates or not seems to depend today almost entirely on just one factor—how much money his or her parents make. To put it in blunt terms: Rich kids graduate; poor and working-class kids don’t.” He dives into the research that U.T. is conducting and the ways the university is trying to deal with not only academic and financial obstacles, but also students' doubts, misconceptions, and fears. The mentorship, tutoring, and leadership programs—as well as what they call “mind-set interventions”—U.T. is now offering are working to deal with those issues. And, so far, they are making a difference. “The central mission [of] American universities [is arguably] to take large numbers of highly motivated working-class teenagers and give them the tools they need to become successful professionals,” says Tough. “The U.T. experiment reminds us that that process isn’t easy; it never has been. But it also reminds us that it is possible.”

In his talks, Tough addresses the issues facing students—from kindergarten to post-secondary—and provides solutions for a more successful, and fulfilling, path through the education system and into the adult world. To book Paul Tough for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency.

A Speck in the Sea, on the Big Screen: Harvey Weinstein Buys Film Rights to Paul Tough’s NYT Mag Cover Story

Well, that didn't take long. Education speaker Paul Tough, best known for his bestselling book How Children Succeed, has landed a major film deal with The Weinstein Company. The rights to his recent New York Times Magazine story, “A Speck in the Sea,” about the rescue of fisherman John Aldridge, were snapped up by the production company only a few days after the magazine hit newsstands. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are already speculated to star in the film.

From the press release:

“Tough’s New York Times Magazine article explores the harrowing true story of the rescue of lobster fisherman John Aldridge who fell into the ocean in the middle of the night on July 24th, forty miles off Montauk with no life vest and no way to signal where he was. Anthony Sosinski, his childhood best friend and partner on the boat, woke up to realize John was gone. What followed was an unprecedented multi-state rescue operation involving both the Coast Guard and the fishing community from across the Northeast. Producer Horovitz was in East Hampton when the story unfolded and with Blum chased the powerful New York Times Magazine piece.

Commented TWC Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein: 'Paul’s piece in the Times magazine last weekend was one of those that instantly struck us as film that had to be made.'”

Our heartfelt congratulations go out to Paul Tough! We wish him and The Weinstein Company much success in the production of the film.

Building Hope, One School at a Time: The Financial Times Profiles Bill Strickland

For thirty years, education speaker Bill Strickland has used his innovative arts and training centers to transform the lives of thousands of impoverished adults and teenagers. In a major Financial Times profile, which serves as a sweeping retrospective of his work, Strickland discusses his education centers and why he believes we can't rely solely on America's schools. “We have to build places of hope rather than places of despair,” the Pittsburgh native says. “The public school system here is built to contain kids, not educate them. If you build prisons, you create prisoners.”

He also reveals his thoughts on we should be doing to stop the cycle of poverty. We have to start sooner, he says, and put more money toward youth education.

It costs a lot of money to keep people poor. We spend $7bn in Pennsylvania on welfare out of a $28bn budget. What I am saying is invest in young people and give them the chance to be productive citizens. You do not have to subsidise them. We have doubled the graduation rate for inner city black and Hispanic kids. It is a methodology. We have figured this out. With all the presidential commissions and PhDs and Rand Corporation studies we still do not have the outcomes we want.

Strickland's educations centers continue to expand across the country (Buffalo is next to open in December 2013). Board member and first eBay president Jeff Skoll is a staunch supporter: “I think the world of Bill and what he has been doing. The demand for his centers is real. Now we just have to fulfil it,” he says.

Strickland is a mesmerizing speaker who will inspire you to make a difference, in your life and in the lives of those around you. To book Bill Strickland as a speaker, contact The Lavin Agency.

Bill Strickland’s Education Revolution: Financial Times

As a “black kid growing up in a bad neighbourhood” in Pittsburgh in the 1960s, Bill Strickland understood all about the hopelessness of the ghetto. Running away from an angry cop or hitching a ride from a friend in a stolen car could wreck your life in an instant and forever.

But Strickland’s life was transformed for the better by a chance meeting with a worldly­wise arts teacher, who instilled in him an improbable passion for pottery and the self­discipline needed to win a place at the University of Pittsburgh. No matter how many times he has told his story, the tall, stooping, somewhat shy Strickland still grows misty-­eyed when recalling that life­changing encounter some 50 years ago while attending the David B Oliver High School.

Walking down a school corridor one Wednesday afternoon, Strickland was drawn to the art room by the smell of coffee. Inside he found the art teacher, Frank Ross, throwing a pot in a room suffused with sunlight. Mesmerised, Strickland had a go and lost himself in a new obsession. By opening his hands, eyes and ears to the wonders of pottery, architecture and jazz, Ross sparked a latent sensibility in the 16-­year-­old boy and a reason for getting up in the morning.

“He saved my life, man,” Strickland says, glancing up in acknowledgment at a black­and­white photo of Ross at a potter’s wheel. Every individual should have a similar opportunity to shape their own destiny, he believes. Making something beautiful out of a lump of clay has become the metaphor for Strickland’s remarkable life.


Upon graduation, Strickland vowed not to turn his back on his downtrodden neighbourhood. Instead, he has devoted his whole life to trying to uplift it. Inspired by Ross’s example, Strickland has spent more than four decades striving to bring purpose to the lives of thousands of disadvantaged kids in Pittsburgh’s North Side. By introducing them to the arts, he says he can help cure the “cancer of the spirit” that still sickens so much of inner­city America.


Today, at a time when the 66­-year-­old Strickland might have considered retiring to spend more time with his third wife and their 12-­year-­old daughter, he still burns with a mission to spread his philosophy of hope and his educational methodology around the world. “I am type A. I can’t quit while I’m ahead,” he says.


More than 45 years of trial and error have taught Strickland some simple truths about educating disadvantaged children that he believes can help revolutionise the failing public schools in the US and beyond. “Environment shapes behaviour,” Strickland says, sitting in the boardroom of the gleaming $7m purpose­built arts and training centre he founded. “We have to build places of hope rather than places of despair. The public school system here is built to contain kids, not educate them. If you build prisons, you create prisoners.”

The contrast between the high school that Strickland attended and his own arts centre is arresting. Although it has recently closed, the building that housed his high school remains a grey, forbidding edifice with security cameras on the roof, grates on the windows and a view straight into a cemetery. But just a few blocks away, Strickland’s Manchester Bidwell Training Center is an altogether more welcoming establishment, with sunlight streaming through its large windows, orchids blooming in its reception and colourful quilts hanging on its walls.

“You need to be able to live what you teach,” he says. “You need a beautiful space dedicated to the school, full of wonderful furniture and sunlight and fabulous food. The first thing you have to do is to keep these kids on the planet.”


Strickland’s first attempts to teach arts to poor students were only fitfully successful. With funding from the Episcopal church he opened a ramshackle arts school, known as the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, in 1968 to bring some joy to the lives of the local community. Four years later he was asked to take over the Bidwell Training Center, helping redundant steel workers and “welfare moms” to rebuild their lives. But Strickland spent those early years working in grimy premises, living on shoestring budgets and writing countless grant applications. It was only when his efforts collapsed, forcing him to fire most of his staff in an alcohol­fuelled haze, that he hit on a radical solution.


Rather than continuing to fail conventionally, Strickland decided to raise his ambitions and try to succeed unconventionally. Dreaming big, he persuaded Tasso Katselas, one of Pittsburgh’s leading architects and a former student of Frank Lloyd Wright, to design a new arts and training centre and then trekked around town badgering business leaders, charity foundations and the public authorities for the money to build it. Miraculously, he raised the funds and opened his centre in 1986 on the site of industrial buildings burnt down during the 1968 riots that erupted after Martin Luther King’s assassination.


Over the years, Strickland has added a “culinary amphitheatre”, where students learn to cook gourmet food, and a commercial horticultural centre, which grows spectacular orchids. Working with local companies such as Heinz, Bayer and the UPMC healthcare company, he has created vocational training programmes in food technology, chemical testing and primary care. But his particular joy is the centre’s throbbing 350­seat jazz hall, which has attracted many of the world’s most legendary musicians – including Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis and Ahmad Jamal.


“You have to build something that is so cool and hip that no one can refuse to fund it. And I was right,” he laughs. “You cannot keep going with this incremental poverty alleviation bullshit.”


With an annual budget of $10m, the Manchester Bidwell centre runs an after­school arts programme for up to 500 children a year. Strickland argues that those students who attend the centre’s arts programmes are far more likely to complete their high­school education as a result: their graduation rate is 98 per cent, twice the local average.


While the arts programme aims to give students a “first chance”, its adult training centre attempts to give those who have fallen off the ladder a “second chance”. About 200 adults a year train at the centre, which ranks among the toprated vocational establishments in the US. Eighty per cent of those who finish its courses soon find jobs.


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Pittsburgh, which was the crucible of the American industrial revolution in the late 19th century, has a long history of philanthropy and civic engagement. After making a colossal fortune from the region’s steel industry, Andrew Carnegie then gave away most of his wealth, endowing 3,000 public libraries and many other educational institutions around the world.


According to one local journalist, that legacy has left the city with the mentality of “a nation­state rather than a city”. Strickland has adroitly tapped into that philanthropic tradition and is revered by many in the local business community.


At a dinner in his honour in the opulent Duquesne Club, where Carnegie once held sway, local business leaders line up to praise Strickland’s achievements. Greg Jordan, the former managing partner of Reed Smith, Pittsburgh’s largest law firm, who has just become general counsel at PNC Financial Services Group, introduces Strickland as a “miracle worker”. Another financier, who marvels at Strickland’s ability to squeeze money out of even the most reluctant donors, advises: “Whenever you talk with him stare at his tie knot, not his eyes. Otherwise you will find yourself opening your cheque book, no matter what your intentions.”


To finance his training programmes, Strickland has spent much of the past decade incessantly touring the US, telling his story to anyone who will listen and stump up some cash. His TED talk, “Bill Strickland Makes Change With a Slideshow”, accompanied by Herbie Hancock on the piano, has been watched more than 425,000 times. His book, Make the Impossible Possible, has sold more than 85,000 copies. His unconventional corporation has even attracted the attention of business academics and been written about four times by Harvard Business School. He also featured in the acclaimed 2010 documentary Waiting for “Superman”, which investigated the US public education system.


Backed by an impressive roster of local business leaders and charitable foundations, Strickland has opened another eight centres in the US and is aiming to found up to 100 within his lifetime. He is also in talks with potential partners in the Caribbean, Japan, Israel and the UK with a view to opening 100 more abroad. “I want to open in London yesterday,” he says.


He believes that his message of self­help has universal appeal and that his methodology – a rare hybrid of public and private sector initiative, as well as artistic creativity and practical training – has universal application. Welfare programmes have failed in so many western countries, he believes, that maybe it is time to scale something that works.


“It costs a lot of money to keep people poor. We spend $7bn in Pennsylvania on welfare out of a $28bn budget. What I am saying is invest in young people and give them the chance to be productive citizens. You do not have to subsidise them,” he explains. “We have doubled the graduation rate for inner city black and Hispanic kids. It is a methodology. We have figured this out. With all the presidential commissions and PhDs and Rand Corporation studies we still do not have the outcomes we want. But here is Bill Strickland and his arts programme with a way to double the graduation rates of kids.”


It may seem a deceptively simple solution to a hugely complex problem, one that perhaps works better in practice than in theory. But as Strickland says: “All great ideas are simple. What is hard is getting to the place where they are seen as simple.”


                                                                                                       ​* * *


Paulo Nzambi is wearing a suit so sharp you could graze yourself on it and shoes so polished they would make a parade­ground Marine grin. As a former criminal defence lawyer and a playwright, Nzambi also has a neat line in words. As he stands by a pair of giant Chinese vases in the spotless reception area of Manchester Bidwell, the corporation’s chief operating officer explains why it is so important to introduce poor students to the finer things in life. “Students think they matter to the extent that you invest in them,” he says. “This investment says that we mean what we say. We are going to invest in giving you the very best to keep you on the asset side of the balance sheet, rather than the liability side.”


Tight budgets have meant that many high schools in Pittsburgh, and across the US, have been cutting their arts programmes. But Nzambi argues they can often be the key to educational success. Not only do arts programmes offer aesthetic rewards, they also give staff the chance to interact with students in a more creative and constructive way.


“Most schools think that arts and music programmes are discretionary. We think they are essential. The key thing to understand is that while it’s an arts programme, it is all about mentoring. Arts is a key to engagement.” Ninety per cent of the students who attend the after­school programme, which runs from 3.30pm every day for 10 weeks, come from Pittsburgh’s public high schools. But at one to eight, the ratio of staff to students is far higher than you would expect in a regular school.


Teachers, therefore, have time to mentor the students, encouraging them to stick with the tricky and, at times, frustrating challenge of throwing a pot. “The idea is to get young people excited about learning,” he says. “We are trying to instil the notion of perseverance. You are going to have to try and try and try to achieve anything worthwhile. Failure is a learning experience.” 

That level of engagement also appears to help the students who finish Manchester Bidwell’s part­time arts programmes to do far better at their own full­time high schools.


Jeff Skoll, the first president of the ecommerce company eBay, who sits on the Manchester Bidwell board, acknowledges that only the most committed students are likely to attend its arts programmes. “I think that there is a self­selection bias. The ones who go through the programmes are more likely to be driven people in the first place,” he says. “But if these programmes did not exist they would find a dead end and would not have a chance to aspire.”


The spiritual heart of Manchester Bidwell is the ceramics centre, which contains 16 potter’s wheels, three electric kilns and four gas kilns including one for raku ware. Here students can throw pots, mix glazes and fire their creations. There are similar programmes for visual and digital arts, photography, video production and music.


Alongside the arts centre is the adult training centre, where older students have a chance to rebuild their lives. Working with local employers, Manchester Bidwell has created tailor­made vocational programmes in food technology, chemical testing and primary healthcare.


At times, Nzambi and other members of staff display an almost religious fervour in talking about their “movement” for change. Is this Martin Luther King’s movement? “Absolutely,” Nzambi replies. “It is a way of seeing people as having intrinsic value. It is a philosophy of hope.”


That sense of hope is certainly radiated by some of the students at the centre. One 17­year­old girl, who has been attending for more than four years and wants to study clinical psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, says there is a level of trust there that does not exist at her high school. “At school I cannot leave my bag out the way I do here,” she says. “Because people are not forced to be here, you want to respect this space.


“In the first class you attend you hear Bill’s story. You understand why this matters so much. This is someone’s dream and life. I think it is something particular to the culture. It filters out people who do not care. It is a more freeing place.”


A 16-­year-­old boy, who has been coming to the centre four times a week for three years, has become an expert at screen printing. He has developed his own brand – Over Exposed – and sells his T­shirts to his relatives and friends to help keep food on the family table. “While you are here you are doing something you enjoy doing. But the basic principles of trusting the students and treating them with respect would go a long way in every school,” he says.


Justin Mazzei, a hyperactive teacher who runs the arts programme, says he loves working at the centre because he knows he can have a positive impact on people’s lives every day. “I don’t know what these kids have going on but I know it’s rough. When they come here it’s something special. That changing lives thing, man, is for real.”


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On the 62nd floor of the US Steel Tower, the talk is as big as the view is expansive. At a sweep you can survey the curves of Pittsburgh’s rivers, the contours of its strikingly hilly terrain and the up­and­down history of the city’s industrial expansion, contraction and regeneration.


The top floors of Pittsburgh’s tallest skyscraper are occupied by UPMC, the healthcare company that is one of the city’s biggest employers and a keen supporter of Manchester Bidwell’s adult training programmes.

Strickland has come to a breakfast meeting at UPMC to update them on his expansion plans. “As of November we will have eight centres up and running. Every one has a med team based on the UPMC model,” he says proudly. “It costs $38,000 to keep people in penitentiaries for a year, or $13,000 to put them through my training centre. Which is the better deal?”


Strickland’s interlocutor is Jeff Romoff, UPMC’s chief executive, a bald, intense man, fond of talking in punchy sentences about grand ideas. Romoff knows all about how to scale a good concept. The son of two musicians who told him he wouldn’t make it as a professional trumpet player, Romoff went into business instead, and over the past 40 years has helped to expand UPMC into an $10bn revenue company with some 62,000 employees.


UPMC is now a leading example of the way Pittsburgh’s universities and health companies have spearheaded the city’s economic revival following the collapse of its steel industry and the halving of its population over the past 50 years.

“The major issue for the future of humanity is how do you find a solution for the underclass,” Romoff says. “Sometimes we call these people terrorists and sometimes we call them poor. But unless we can find a way to include and energise these people there will be a natural tendency to retribution and destructiveness that will bring down civilisation.”

Explaining why UPMC has supported Strickland so actively and contributed $3m to his foundation, Romoff says: “Education is the core. I think what Bill is doing is an overpowering thing. Why Bill is scalable is because this is a vision that resonates here: how do you make people good citizens in an extremely efficient way? Bill does the right thing in the right way.

“The business model is not just converting liabilities into assets. It is recognising that, ultimately, if these liabilities are not converted into assets they will take the world into bankruptcy. The balance sheet of the world is already overburdened with liabilities that exceed its assets.”


One of the other guests at the table who enthusiastically endorses Romoff’s message is Kevin Williams, a former Navy Seal, who looks as though his body has been chiselled out of granite. After leaving the military, Williams studied for an MBA and went to work for Kiril Sokoloff, the CEO and founder of 13D Research, who wants to open training centres across the Caribbean. Williams has come to Pittsburgh to study how Strickland operates. He strongly believes his model can work internationally too.


“I am not a creator, I’m a destroyer. We all have our skill sets,” Williams says to general laughter. “But this has to be a scalable idea. I have spent time in Afghanistan and Pakistan. People scratch their heads and wonder why they manufacture militants to join the jihad. Well, if you were a 15­year­old kid in Pakistan who was offered a choice of farming dirt or having three square meals at a madrasa and fighting holy war, which would you choose?”


Although Strickland has been talking for years about opening new centres across the US, his earliest experiences of expansion were not encouraging. A centre he opened in San Francisco did not work out as originally planned. Simply replicating the Pittsburgh model, shorn of the inspirational drive of Strickland himself, was not a sustainable model. Since then, however, Strickland has recruited a team of professional managers from some of Pittsburgh’s leading private sector companies, who are developing a methodology that can be applied elsewhere.


                                                                                                       ​* * *


There are, of course, plenty of educationalists in the US who believe they could solve the country’s woes, given enough money. What is unique about Strickland’s model? Could it survive without him? And what convinces his backers that the concept can work elsewhere?


Former eBay president Jeff Skoll argues that there is something unique and replicable about Strickland’s approach and is backing that conviction with his own hard cash.


Skoll first met Strickland in 1999 when he came to tell his story to some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Everyone laughed when Strickland pulled out a battered box of slides held together by duct tape and wire, he says. That was not the way to impress an audience of tech tsars. “But when Bill started speaking it was as though a veil had lifted from the room. He was just so passionate and exciting.” 


After pocketing billions from selling down his stake in eBay, Skoll went into the philanthropy business, setting up the $1bn Skoll Foundation, which has since invested in 80 social enterprise organisations around the world. It is a measure of his respect for Strickland, he says, that the only one of those organisations on whose board he sits is Manchester Bidwell.


“I think the world of Bill and what he has been doing. The demand for his centres is real. Now we just have to fulfil it,” he says.


Skoll has been heavily involved in the running of Strickland’s San Francisco centre, helping to turn it around after its sticky start and targeting its training programmes towards the demands of Silicon Valley. He is convinced that Strickland and his team have finally “cracked the code” for successful replication by fusing the best ideas from the private and public sectors. A new generation of “mini­Bills”, as Skoll puts it, is now emerging to take development forward.

“No two centres are exactly alike. Start small and grow over time. Find a local champion,” he says in a telephone interview. “All of these centres operate on the same principles and the results are the same. Put kids in an environment where they can find dignity and purpose and they respond. Bill has a saying that in the ghettos what matters most is faith, hope and love – but hope is the most powerful.” 


Such is the power of this model, Skoll says, that it could yet prove to be the “eBay of social change”. As he puts it, “eBay took the idea of person­to­person trade and used the internet to make it a global phenomenon. We turned garage sales and flea markets into a global trading platform. What Bill and his centres are about is the same empowerment of people and helping them find good jobs. This should be the model for schools everywhere in the world.”


One of the other centres that Strickland has supported is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which has been strongly backed by the locally based Steelcase, the world’s largest office­furniture company.


Jim Hackett, Steelcase’s chief executive, who is something of a self­confessed geek when it comes to organisational theory, argues that Strickland’s model has a particular resonance today. Government and corporate bureaucracies may have been good at solving the problems of the 20th century, he says, but it is networks of like­minded organisations that are more effective in addressing the challenges of our times.


“The whole reason Bill started this was because the legacy system does not work very well. Bill intuitively
understands what to do. He is the systems integrator of networks,” Hackett says. “Bill has realised that there is power in a network in which people learn from each other. It is in the nature of complex systems to produce complexity and reduce progress. Information moves so much faster in networks than bureaucracies. Networks are also colour and class­blind. Our educational system needs to be redesigned and Manchester Bidwell is a good place to start.”


                                                                                                       ​* * *


As he sits in his packed concert hall on a Saturday night listening to the New Gary Burton Quartet, Strickland stares intently at the band and sways gently to the rhythm. Like so many of the jazz musicians who have played in his venue, Strickland has mastered the art of improvisation: he has made it all up as he has gone along. According to Marty Ashby, who runs the jazz programme: “Bill is one of the greatest jazz musicians – and he can’t play a note.”


Perhaps the only true measure of Strickland’s achievements will come when he himself has retired from the stage. Will he be remembered for his dazzling performance in Pittsburgh? Or will he have been able to inspire a whole new school of educationalists? In the meantime, one thing is certain: while he remains on stage Strickland will just keep telling his story. “It’s like water on granite, man,” he says.


Article by John Thornhill, © The Financial Times Ltd.


Personal Finance: Salman Khan In A New Ad For The Khan Academy [VIDEO]

Salman Khan, an education speaker and founder of The Khan Academy, has helped millions of people around the world to sharpen their knowledge thanks to his online tutorials. While he's known today as the guy “flipping the classroom” and “revolutionizing education,” Khan actually started his career in finance. That's why his recent partnership with Bank of America makes so much sense. In a new ad (embedded above), Khan explains that the company approached him to help teach people about personal finance. Since they were already doing just that on the site, Khan agreed that a collaboration would be worthwhile. Check out the video to get a brief history of the revolutionary Khan Academy. And, to see how you can use the tools Khan has created not only to sharpen your financial literacy—but to learn a whole lot more, as well.

To book Salman Khan as a keynote speaker, contact The Lavin Agency.

A New Learning Model: Why Salman Khan Is “A True Education Pioneer”

Is it possible to totally rethink our current education model? “My argument is yes,” education speaker Salman Khan says in an interview. “And not only can we, and is it kind of a good idea, it's actually happening.” From its humble beginnings as a means to tutor his family members, to the now thousands of students benefiting from the program online, The Khan Academy is “flipping the classroom.” Its unique teaching strategy is changing the way we think about education. Instead of focusing on test results and barreling through content to get to the next lesson, The Khan Academy focuses on comprehension—no matter how long, or how many replays of each video, it takes. “Slow and steady makes this fun,” Khan says of his early days building The Academy. That statement is also very telling of his view on education. In this Flipboard interview, it's apparent that Khan doesn't view learning as a race to the finish line—it's a process that can be fun and worthwhile if it isn't rushed.

The education model we have in place today was developed with the onset of mass public education many years ago. Khan notes that the grouping together of students by age and testing their comprehension through exams was the most cost-effective means of educating students at that time. In the next five years, however, Khan says we're poised to see a complete re-imagining of that model. “Instead of holding fixed how long you have to learn something and the variable is how well you learn it, let's do it the other way around,” he says. “What's fixed is that you get to that standard [of 95-100 percent comprehension], what's variable is how long you spend on it.”

The software developed through The Academy makes this possible. Instead of being taught a lesson, taking a test on it, and then moving on, you can learn the material at your own pace. Teachers are able to see which students are understanding the material and where the students who are struggling have gone off course. This allows each student to work through the material at their own speed while being assured that their teacher will help fill in gaps in their learning. The key takeaway behind what Khan is doing is that he wants students to be able to view failure as an indicator that they have more to learn. Not, as it is often portrayed in school, as an indicator that you are a failure.

“Sal Khan is a true education pioneer,” Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, told TIME magazine. “He started by posting a math lesson, but his impact on education might truly be incalculable.” In his book and his highly requested keynote speeches, Khan shares his vision on the future of education. He encourages teachers and policy makers alike to “flip the classroom.” If you are interested in how he is revolutionizing the learning process, book Salman Khan as a speaker by contacting The Lavin Agency.

The National: How Education Speaker Salman Khan Revolutionized Learning

How can teachers wipe that bored and confused look off students' faces this coming school year? Salman Khan, an education speaker recently profiled on The National, has a big idea that's radicalizing education. His massively popular YouTube tutorials and successful Khan Academy approach education and teaching in a whole new way. Rather than explaining things to students so that they memorize the material, Khan ensures that viewers actually understand it after watching. Part of the reason he's so successful in filling in the “Swiss cheese gaps” in learning is thanks to his teaching style. “It's a blessing that these videos were originally made for my cousins, it allowed me to take a very easy-going, relaxed, conversational style,” he tells The National. “I think everyone really appreciates the humanity in the content.” That, and the student can watch, and re-watch, Khan's plain-English lessons until the concepts sink in.

With millions of views and thousands of online lessons, Khan has taken the Internet by storm. His teachings have even moved into the classroom as several schools have implemented his software into their curriculum. An elementary school teacher and principal were interviewed for the segment, excited about about the way that using Khan's software has “revolutionized” the learning process. And, how it is helping their students achieve success. The Khan Academy program isn't meant to replace teachers, but rather, to help teachers help their students.

One of the most exciting discoveries, Khan says, is the types of students his program is attracting. While he says he originally thought his lessons would spark the interest of kids who were already keen learners, it's actually been very successful with kids who are often described as “disengaged,” or at risk of dropping out. Because he offers them a new style of learning, in an environment free from judgment, Khan is getting kids excited about learning again. “Hopefully it can spark that type of curiosity [with more kids]” he says. Considering the traction his work has already received, and the interest surrounding his new book, The One World School House, he's certainly on the right track.

In his book and his highly requested keynote speeches, Salman Khan shares his vision on the future of education. He encourages teachers and policy makers alike to “flip the classroom.” If you are interested in how Khan is revolutionizing the learning process, book him as a speaker by contacting The Lavin Agency.

Learning About Learning: Review of a Keynote By Education Speaker Paul Tough

Paul Tough delivered an educational—and quite funny!—keynote speech yesterday at the K-12 Summer Initiative conference in Toronto. Drawing from the material in his highly talked about book, How Children Succeed, Tough had the full house of educators busily taking notes on the hidden power of character. Drawing together research that isn't often connected, the education speaker showed the audience that building on character traits, like grit and self-control, is an important factor in a child's ability to thrive. The key takeaway was that cognitive intelligence doesn't trump all. Even though our intelligence is, technically, unalterable, believing that you can do well and developing the perseverance to overcome adversity can be as vital to achievement as your IQ.

Tough had proven research and inspiring case studies in tow to back up his lecture points. Citing numerous studies—and his own experiences teaching his son new things—he shared stories of teachers who are doing things a little differently. And, of students who were thriving in spite of the odds stacked against them. He didn't bog us down with numbers and stats. Rather, he wanted us to see that scoring high on a standardized test is only part of the equation. And, that scoring low doesn't mean you can't achieve greatness. Tough's message was a heartening one. And, one that was delivered with conviction and a few laughs along the way.

Helping our kids to do well, both in the classroom and out in the world, requires us to think differently about education. Tough joked that he's often asked for the magic equation for success; a formula he admits he doesn't quite have yet—though we're getting closer. What he does have, however, are new strategies to help fill in the gaps in the traditional educational structure. We can teach kids that failing at a task does not mean they failed as a person. We can show them that despite their shortcomings in the past, they can do well in the future. If we want to help kids succeed (which it's evident that Tough does thanks to his passionate speech delivery) we have to be willing to think differently about what drives them to that success.

I walked away from Tough's talk feeling optimistic about the future. I learned a lot about the complex nature of education, and even about the way that I learn today—despite my school days being long behind me. How do children succeed? Paul Tough taught the audience that it will take a joint effort between educators, parents, students, and policy makers to help our schools meet the unique needs of all of its students. He showed us that we do need to teach kids their times tables—but we need to help them succeed at non-cognitive challenges, too.

If you're interested in exploring a new approach to education, contact the Lavin Agency to book Paul Tough as a speaker.

Bill Gates On How Salman Khan’s Online Academy Is The Future Of Education

Bill Gates has always been an advocate of Salman Khan's tech-savvy approach to learning. Recently, the Microsoft co-founder gave a talk about the future of education—and why The Khan Academy will be more relevant in the classroom than ever before. That's because Gates sees the traditional big-lecture format falling by the wayside. Thanks to remote learning technologies—like Khan's online classroom, where videos can be accessed anywhere in the world for free—we have entered into what he calls “a golden era.” With unprecedented access to information, students can now access first-rate content on a myriad of different topics outside of the classroom. The Khan Academy has even updated their mobile app to allow users to download videos to their phone and watch them offline, anytime.

Gates compares the changes in education to the music industry: Students listening to pre-recorded content on their own time and then working through it later in a smaller group. They don't rely on their professor to share the information with them, but rather, use that time in the classroom to cement and expand upon what they've already learned. That's not to say that the role of the professor is going to be eliminated. Nor does it suggest that there isn't a high-bar in place for remote content. “Just putting a camera in front of someone who has a captive audience [isn’t enough],” Gates says. With 4.2 million unique students per month, it's clear that The Khan Academy has mastered the art of providing quality content.

The Academy has also shown that social media can be a useful learning tool. Gates praises Khan's use of social media as a means for giving students outside input on their performance. It takes the learning process beyond a teacher-student relationship by fostering discussions about course material with parents and peers. This gives the student an avenue for digging deeper into the material being studied, and, gives them extra support when they may need more time to understand a topic. Gates also predicts the college/university diploma will become uncoupled from post-secondary institutions, something that Khan discussed in a Charlie Rose interview earlier this year. Khan hopes that providing access to high-quality content will create a new era of skills recognition and democratize the labor market for everyone.

Salman Khan is the author of The One World School House and the founder of The Khan Academy. In his book and his highly requested keynote speeches, he shares his vision on the future of education. He encourages teachers and policy makers alike to “flip the classroom.” If you are interested in how Khan is revolutionzing the learning process, book him as a speaker by contacting The Lavin Agency.

Derek Thompson: Why Going To College is (Still) Essential

Derek Thompson, a senior editor at The Atlantic, is an expert on the Millenial generation: the under-35 set that is taking longer than ever to finish school, get out of debt, and start their careers. In his articles and keynotes, Thompson explores the motivation behind—and complexities of—Millenial behavior. And, as a nice dovetail, he champions the importance of getting a college education despite the growing popular belief that it is no longer necessary.

Why are we all of a sudden bombarded with the message that going to college is a bad idea? The media is reporting that rising student debt is a dangerous bubble that will pop and destroy us; that college is broken as a vehicle for helping people get into the middle class; and that real innovators skip college and go straight to Silicon Valley or Union Square. Derek Thompson couldn’t disagree more. In this talk, he makes a case for the value of college and refutes these trendy (and potentially harmful) messages. Thompson argues that there really is no student debt “bubble.” Yes, there are a handful of colleges that cost way too much and essentially operate as drop-out factories, and yes, the cost of college has increased relative to incomes in the last 30 years. But college, by and large, still “works.” College grads make more money than non-college grads. They are significantly more likely to be employed. They are significantly more likely to be happy in their jobs. And to the extent that college is a magnet for smart ambitious people, they are more likely to make smart and connected friends and marry smart and hard-working people. This optimistic talk delivers good news to college students: all the evidence is on their side. When young people make a big investment in their human capital by going to college, Thompson says, it's going to pay off.

Thompson's keynote speeches are a great fit for college students, corporations looking to target Millenials, and companies interested in the future of new media. To book Derek Thompson as a keynote speaker, contact The Lavin Agency.

Not Every Failure Is A Disaster: Education Speaker Paul Tough

For too long, schools have focused on what education speaker Paul Tough calls “the cognitive hypothesis.” In his recent appearance on TVO (hosted by Lavin speaker Allan Gregg) Tough dismissed the belief that cognitive intelligence is the sole determinant of academic success. In How Children Succeed, he compiled a breadth of research proving that character is just as important as intelligence. We're teaching our kids the wrong things, he argues. And, helping children succeed in life requires more than ensuring they can do well on standardized tests.

Intelligence is easy to measure, Tough explains in the interview. That's why it has become the yardstick for success in schools. Assigning a student a number grade is a quanitifiable way to determine their potential for success. However, Tough says traits like curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, self-control, and grit have proven to be tremendously valuable, as well. “Don't get overwhelmed by the fact that [cognitive skills] are those that we can measure so that is what we should teach,” Tough says. Teaching students how to overcome adversity, learn from their mistakes, and deal with trauma should also be a part of the curriculum.

We also need to counter the idea that “every failure is a disaster,” Tough stresses. Teaching children that one failure does not equate to continued failure, and, that a failed effort often brings a life lesson, will go a long way. If a child can learn to brush themselves off after they don't do well at something the first time—and succeed a second time—they stand a better chance of doing well in life. Tough offers this advice to parents and teachers: We know character skills matter, we know they can be taught, we just don't have the answers on how to teach them yet. But, we should strive to incorporate new research on the power of character development into our children's lives. As Tough tells audiences in his talks, we need to teach kids algebra—but we need to teach them how to succeed at non-cognitive challenges, too.

Humble & Engaging:Sal Khan Gives An Education Speech at MIT

Education speaker Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, recently traveled to his alma mater to deliver a keynote. A graduate of MIT back in 1998, Khan felt right at home on the stage. In the talk, Khan discussed his journey with the Khan Academy and what it meant for the future of learning. He received a warm reception, and his speech and stage presence earned him a great deal of praise. One reviewer in The Tech (one of MIT's online publications), wrote that Khan “came across as an engaging, humble speaker.”

While he was hesitant to lay out a specific model for success that Khan Academy follows, he did have some insight about what makes a good educational platform. Lecturing at students, he says, is not the most ideal way to teach them new content. “The most important part of the learning process is problem-solving, peer tutoring, working on things with your hands,” he said. He also applauded the school for promoting the school's MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) program.

Offering free, quality content online is a powerful way to provide everyone around the world the ability to access a top-notch education. That's what Khan hopes to do with his online video software and dashboard tools: Provide world-class learning for anyone, anywhere. In his talks and his book, The One World School House, Khan presents a re-imagined educational model. The way we teach our kids is changing—and Khan will put you on the forefront of that change.

1 Billion Lessons: Salman Khan On The Khan Academy’s Success [VIDEO]

As education speaker Salman Khan has proven, YouTube can be used for much more than watching “cats playing piano.” It can, in fact, be a valuable tool for learning mathematics and other complex concepts. His online video-based learning platform, The Khan Academy, has become a popular aid for teaching students of all ages and abilities the skills they may be having a hard time with in school. Or, in some cases, it gives them an opportunity to brush up on knowledge they may not have gotten in school and wish to learn after they've graduated. In fact, as he told the audience at the Adobe Digital Marketing Summit 2013, The Khan Academy has now taught over 1 billion video lessons.

In the early days of the Academy, Khan used to make videos to help tutor his cousins. After working with them for a while, he recalls his family telling him that they preferred him on YouTube rather than in person. “Viewing the positive angle of that feedback, I think it actually made a lot of sense,” he says in his keynote. “They were saying, look, they appreciated the time I was spending with them, they appreciated the tutorials, but the first time that you learn something it is stressful.” It's sometimes embarrassing to admit you don't fully understand something right off the bat, he says. It's even more stressful to admit that you don't have the foundational knowledge you're expected to have from lessons past in order to understand new concepts. By providing them with online video lectures, however, his students can access the material without that added stress of having to comprehend the material after the first exposure to it.

“There's an almost infinite social return on investment here,” Khan explains. Currently, he is working toward implementing his program in schools as a core learning tool. Ironically, he says, allowing students to access the content in this digital format at their own pace has transformed the physical classroom into a more human-based environment. Teachers can access their students' progress through tools on the site, and then devote their attention to the specific needs of each child. The site also provides teachers with advanced metrics so they can easily track each student's success rate. Several schools have already jumped on board and incorporated Khan's platform to various degrees. As he discusses in his book, The One World School House, and in his speeches, interest in his work is continuing to develop and the uses for his platform are constantly expanding. Khan is rethinking education in the hopes that one day, a “free world-class education” will be available to “anyone, anywhere.”

Education Speaker Sal Khan Inspires Teachers To “Flip Their Classrooms”

In his breakthrough book, The One World School House, education speaker Salman Khan encouraged teachers around the world to “flip the classroom.” And recently, several instructors in both Wyoming and Idaho have incorporated his Khan Academy lecture videos into the curriculum. Injecting his accessible online videos into the traditional class material allows students to learn at their own pace. They can watch the videos multiple times, and at home after school. This frees up more time for teachers to give one-on-one instruction and help students who are struggling. This method also allows students of all skill levels to go over the material until it clicks—without slowing down the pace of the class.

Several teachers in Wyoming have incorporated the videos to various degrees in their courses. One instructor says that the tech-savvy students in his class are particularly keen on the use of digital media to enhance their learning. Wyoming Area Secondary Center math teacher Mike Romanowski says that he doesn't think that the videos will replace a good teacher—but they are certainly a valuable tool. He also adds that he's excited to see where the use of video and digital technology in learning will take the education system. “The possibilities are endless,” he says. 47 schools in Idaho are also incorporating Khan Academy materials into their courses. This will give over 10,000 students from K-12 the opportunity to benefit from this new way of learning.

Khan recently took a trip to several of these schools and spoke to 200 educators about how to incorporate his material and utilize this “blended learning” style. “In our latest visits to Idaho, we already started to hear success stories,” Khan said. “Teachers told us about students who were able to race ahead while other students took time to finally fill in unique 'Swiss cheese holes' or gaps in knowledge from previous years. But we’re also excited about the stories we haven’t heard yet — especially stories from rural and frontier regions where we haven’t been able to visit. There’s a tremendous amount of possibility in these regions where resources have historically been strained.”

Global Philanthropy Forum: Sal Khan’s “Game Changing” Education Speech

If education is a crucial factor in ensuring the youth of today are empowered to create meaningful change in the future, how do we make their schooling relevant to them? That's what popular education speaker and Khan Academy founder Salman Khan discussed at the 2013 Global Philanthropy Forum Conference. Referred to as “a game changer in the field of education,” by The Huffington Post, Khan told the audience why we need to move away from traditional and out-dated teaching models. New technologies have afforded us with great opportunities to more effectively teach our kids—and we need to make full use of them.

Khan was introduced at the forum by moderator Jane Wales (President and CEO, World Affairs Council of Northern California) as “an extraordinary social entrepreneur who has absolutely revolutionized education.” With his Khan Academy, he has created a model of online, video-based learning that enables students to learn at their own pace. The organization has grown exponentially since its inception and is now being utilized by millions of online students. In a knowledge-based economy, the move away from a passive structure of education—where a teacher simply lectures at their students—towards a more active and independent learning system is critical to improving students' comprehension of what is taught in school. And, that ultimately gives students a leg up when they enter into the job market.

Khan also says that we are soon going to see a “de-coupling of the credentialing from the learning experience.” Instead of being focused on where and how you learned a skill, value will inherently rest on your ability to perform a skill. While the traditional big name schools may not disappear, he does believe that all people who achieve certain credentials—even if they do so in a less traditional manner or at a less prestigious school—will be treated as equally valuable. “I think the market forces are going to demand it, it's even beyond idealism,” he says in the presentation, “it's just going to happen because the market needs it to happen.”

Sharpen Your Financial Literacy: Salman Khan Teaches Better Money Habits

Education speaker Salman Khan has helped millions of people brush up on their learning with his revolutionary online school The Khan Academy. While he is perhaps best known for his YouTube videos that teach users science and math, he actually got his start in finance. A former hedge fund analyst, Khan told CBS News (embedded above) that a lot of the early videos that put The Khan Academy on the map were related to the financial crisis and mortgages. That's why his recent partnership with Bank of America made so much sense. The venture saw Khan craft numerous new financial education videos. And, according to Khan and a new American study, educational videos on financial topics are desperately needed.

As CBS reports, a new Boston College study found that of all the Americans who plan to retire at age 65, less than half of them are actually saving enough money to do so. “It's a huge crisis and it's obviously not just our kids,” Khan says in the CBS interview. “Some of what we went through not too long ago was basically a crisis in financial literacy.” He goes on to touch upon the mortgage-backed securities crisis that sparked the 2008 economic recession, and cites poor financial choices made by the public as proof of the lack of financial understanding. He says that it's important for people to have an understanding of basic financial concepts so that they can ask the right questions of their bankers, financial advisers, and mortgage brokers. And, so they can make wiser choices in the long run.

“I was skeptical at first,” Khan tells The Daily Beast of the merger. “We’re a not for profit; they are a big bank.” However, he adds that he eventually decided that Bank of America “wanted to educate people—not just market to people—and they were offering to support us with expertise.” The project, which launched earlier this week, will feature courses in accounting, finance, and lessons on simplifying mortgages and retirement savings. “I'd like it if … literally every question you have, you would want to access some combination of our content,” he says of the project's long-term goals. Accessible both through The Khan Academy site and a separate Bank of America site, the project will help expand on Khan's goal to bring world class education to anyone, anywhere. Whether he's teaching you how to balance your books or helping you understand compound interest, Khan's videos are accessible and easy-to-follow. In his book, The One World School House, and his highly requested keynotes, Khan shares his vision of providing people around the world with a quality education—and explains what we need to do to make that possible.

John Maeda: “Artists & Designers Will Be The Innovators Of This Century”

“Amid the rain, and the fog, and the rain, and the rain, Seattle was home to the beginning of my journey traversing the fields of technology, art and design,” education speaker John Maeda writes in a new editorial in The Seattle Times. He jokes that he was a Seattle native before it became cool to be a Seattle native; before the creative economy had taken hold; before Starbucks and the coffee culture; before the grunge music scene exploded; when Boeing, not Microsoft, was the tech giant. However, he says it was there in Seattle where he came to an important realization. “My foremost conclusion,” he writes, “is that there is great power in these [STEM] fields taken separately, and even more when they are put together.”

When Maeda was in grade school, he was talented in both art and math. His father, however, was quick to tell friends and family of Maeda's aptitude for mathematics—and he often left out Maeda's penchant for the arts. “At the time, it signaled something to me that he left out the art part; I just didn’t know what,” the President of Rhode Island School of Design notes. “In hindsight, it was my first experience of the prejudices that cling to accomplishments in the arts, and a catalyst for me to push for the power of interdisciplinary thinking.” Maeda would go on to become not only an example of the power that arts infused thinking holds, but also an advocate for incorporating this way of thinking into the broader school system.

Maeda recently launched the Congressional STEAM Caucus—a bipartisan legislative assembly designed to incorporate art and design concepts into what are known as the “STEM” courses (science, technology, engineering,and math). Why does he think that it's critical we turn young kids on to the idea of arts-infused learning and thinking? “I remain convinced,” he writes, “that artists and designers will be the innovators of this century, and that the problem-solving, the fearlessness and the critical thinking and making skills that I see every day are what is needed to keep our country competitive.” Further: “Designers and artists create objects, devices and services that are more engaging, more efficient, more desirable and ultimately, more human.” In his engaging presentations, Maeda draws on these ideas to present a unique approach to education, leadership, and the economic forces that will drive us into the future.

Emily Bazelon Has Written an “Authoritative and Important” Book on Bullying Says NYT

“In its prescriptions Sticks and Stones shines,” the New York Times writes about Lavin speaker Emily Bazelon's new book. “That is why this authoritative and important book should not only be read by educators and parents alike, but should also be taught in law schools and journalism schools.” Bazelon argues that stamping out bullying involves more than just disciplining the kids we catch being mean to other kids. While she says that the “if it's mean—intervene” strategy has its perks, there are many complex factors that it leaves unaddressed.

Bazelon states that it is essential to refrain from defining bullying in broad terms. Further, she says it is important to not only document the plight of the bullied, but also analyze the struggles of bullies. This is a strategy that's praised in an earlier review in the New York Times. “Her most winning achievement is the kindness she demonstrates throughout the book,” the review reads. “She is nonjudgmental in a generous rather than simply neutral way, and she culls as much pathos from the circumstances of bullies as from those of their victims.” What's more, “Bazelon is at her best as a storyteller, and the most interesting parts of the book are its human narratives.”

Despite the well-intended solutions to eliminate bullying in schools, she urges us to remember that we ultimately have to let kids be kids. There's a fine line between conflict and abuse, and children need to experience some adversity in their lives to prepare them for adulthood. On the other hand, she notes, the effects of chronic, long-term bullying can be devastating. “It’s a tricky balance to strike, the line between protecting kids and policing them,” she writes in the book. “But we have to keep trying to find it.”

A senior editor at Slate, a New York Times Magazine contributing writer, and the Truman Capote Fellow for Creative Writing and Law at Yale Law School, Bazelon is the perfect voice to speak out against bullying. She lectures to a wide array of audiences on the social and legal ramifications of bullying. Citing the importance of empathy, character, and grit (not unlike education speaker Paul Tough) in overcoming trauma and finding social success, Bazelon presents a compelling glimpse into how we can help our children and work to keep bullying out of schools for good.

Master Concepts Before Moving On: Education Speaker Salman Khan

“Instead of holding fixed how long you have to learn something, when you learn it, and the variable component being how well you learn it—we should do it the other way around,” education speaker Salman Khan says in a recent college keynote at University of California Berkeley. “The variable component should be when you get to learn something and how you get to learn it (essentially at your own pace, in your own time). And what's fixed is that you expect a high level of mastery of all of those things you were working on.” In the speech, Khan chronicles his revolutionary Khan Academy's incredible journey from a series of videos and software tools designed to tutor his cousins, to a multi-million user base of virtual students who rely on his instructional videos to help them fill in the gaps in their education. One of the reasons why Khan's videos are so popular is his unique lesson design.

Instead of rushing students through the subject matter, he allows viewers to take their time and really sink their teeth into the material they are learning. He has turned the traditional model of education on its head—putting the emphasis on total comprehension rather than on the speed by which the students get through the material. Initially, as he told the audience at the presentation, he envisioned his work to exist solely outside of the traditional school system. While the bulk of users are still working on their own to fill in the missing parts of their education, the Khan Academy's principles have slowly been making their way into the formal education system as well.

You can't expect a student to be successful if they don't have the proper foundation from the beginning, he says. Even the gifted students who are getting A's have gaps in their knowledge. If you allow every student to take their time and not be rushed, they become more successful. And, he adds, it's not delusional to think that every student everywhere should have that same opportunity. “There's no reason why it can't happen, why over the next 10, 20,30 years something as scarce, but as important, as education stops being viewed as a luxury, or something that only a few people have, into really a human right…something that people just expect for everyone.” With the number of users on his site growing every day, numerous big-name supporters jumping on board, and the growing popularity of his new book The One World School House, it's possible that Khan's dream is closer to reality than ever.

Closing The Skills Gap: Education Speaker Salman Khan on Charlie Rose [VIDEO]

As education speaker Salman Khan tells Charlie Rose, we don't only have a skills gap in the workforce, but a “signaling gap” as well. On the one hand, there are people who do not have the credentials needed to be employable (the skills gap). On the other hand, there are people who do have the skills that employers are looking for, but have no way to show it due to a lack of official accreditation or work experience. Take the users of the Khan Academy website, for example. There is enough raw information available online, he says, for someone to teach themselves a number of viable skills—but there isn't a way to verify for employers to verify it.

Even expensive credentials attained from a reputable school don't say all that much to an employer either, he explains. You could have a well-rounded education from the best computer science program out there—but you will still be required to prove that in your interview. Khan hopes that some his Academy will help usher in a new era of skills recognition. If we had a new way to verify a worker's skills and competencies, people could learn skills independently and avoid costly higher education programs, which could democratize the labor market.

He also says it's important to allow people to apply their knowledge in a meaningful way. “To really educate someone doesn't mean to try to pour information into their brain and hope that they can regurgitate it out,” he says. “It's to give them the tools to take agency over their own learning.” That's what he has tapped into with The Khan Academy. He provides students with videos that are accessible, conversational, and allow students to go at their own pace. They have the time to understand the thought process behind what they are learning (rather than just the formula or fact they need to memorize) which allows them to apply this knowledge in the real world in relevant and useful ways. In his book, The One World School House, as well as his media appearances and speeches, Khan explores his vision of the future of education. He tackles the problems with our traditional education system head-on—and proposes a revolutionary new way of learning that can benefit us all.

Beyond The Classroom: Education Speaker Salman Khan In Fast Company

While there's something to be said for tradition, education speaker Salman Khan tells Fast Company that the reasons why our education system still follows a classroom-based lecture format simply don't hold up anymore. The founder of The Khan Academy was recently featured in the magazine in a conversation with Katie Salen, founder of the Institute of Play. Salen uses games and other technology to teach her students, just as Khan relies heavily on video content and the Internet to instruct his thousands of virtual pupils. What we can gain from the way these two innovative teachers educate their kids is that we now have the technology and the tools to teach our kids in a different—and arguably more effective—way. Using outdated, centuries-old models for learning just doesn't work today and we have no excuse for not trying something different.

With the advent of computers and the Internet, Khan says that we no longer have to follow a strict classroom based structure. Not only that, but we don't have to rush children to complete a certain segment of the curriculum even if they aren't fully comprehending the material. It doesn't have to be an expensive transition, either. Not every school has the budget to afford to purchase a brand new iPad for each student, for example. However, it's not out of the question to acquire $200 refurbished computers that several children can share. These tools can help take some of the burden off of teachers so that they can give more one-on-one time to students.

In his book, The One World School House, and his talks, Khan tells us why we need to bring our classrooms into the 21st century—and then explains how. He shares his own personal journey of turning a one man tutoring operation into the thousands of videos that populate his highly viewed website. He encourages us to rethink education and to imagine the possibilities that exist for learning when we use all of the tools at our disposal.

A Lifetime Of Achievement: The U.S. Senate Honors Bill Strickland

Bill Strickland's contributions to education and his community are about to be recognized in a big way. U.S. Senator Bob Casey is holding a symposium in Strickland's honor on Feb. 25. The Senator will give a speech and discuss the tremendous work that Strickland has done for those not just in Pittsburgh, but to the nation as a whole. The award will commemorate Black History Month and recognize Strickland's incredible journey to becoming Founder, President, and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC). He now helps others follow in his footsteps.

In his work at MBC and in his rousing keynotes, Strickland promotes a powerful idea: everyone can achieve greatness and overcome their obstacles if they are given the support and tools to do so. Environment, he says, shapes people's lives. When you understand what roadblocks someone faces, it is then possible to help them surpass them. A person's social or economic status does not determine their ability to succeed, he argues. When asked to comment on being awarded this prestigious honor Strickland says that he “hopes it leads more people to recognize what an impact one hopeful person can have on a struggling community.” He was able to make a better life not only for himself, but for countless others, and he urges his audiences to have the confidence in themselves to do the same.

Strong Support Networks Help Children Overcome Adversity: Paul Tough [VIDEO]

Sometimes children are exposed to such seemingly insurmountable obstacles that they can lose faith in their potential to succeed. As education speaker Paul Tough explains in a recent keynote, being told that you can succeed has a tremendous impact on your actual ability to do so. While having a strong support system doesn't improve the IQ that you are born with, it does improve your self-confidence. Children who are nurtured and supported in their academic ventures are more likely to achieve their goals that children who are not—often regardless of each child's intelligence. Children do better when they're told that they have a bright future.

That's because a nurturing environment helps a child to develop positive character traits; skills that Tough advocates as being key components of success in his bestselling book How Children Succeed. In his talk, he explains that new research is helping us discover what it is that truly propels children forward in life. While it is inspirational to hear stories about children who have overcome adversity, he says that it can often leave us feeling empty, as well. When we only hear about a select few children who beat the odds, we can be left wondering why they succeeded when so many others did not. But new research is helping us pinpoint the skills and strategies that help children succeed. When we know what it takes to help children do their best, Paul says we can then provide that unique help to the kids who need it and change the face of education.

As well as being the author of How Children Succeed, Tough is also a contributing writer at New York Times Magazine. He also wrote Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America, where he explored what was necessary to help underserved children improve their lives and their education. His groundbreaking writing and keynotes combine multiple disciplines and decades of research to breathe new life into the debate over how to best teach our kids. It's not all about intelligence, he's found, and by valuing character skills and building stronger support networks for our children, he believes we can help more children succeed.

What Is The Cognitive Hypothesis? Education Speaker Paul Tough [VIDEO]

“The conventional wisdom that's governed our thinking about child development and education for the past couple of decades has been misguided,” education speaker Paul Tough explains in his keynote about educational knowledge. “We've been emphasizing the wrong skills and abilities in our kids and we've been using the wrong strategies to develop those skills and abilities.” In the talk, he used material from his bestselling book How Children Succeed to demonstrate how our idea of what skills are important for success in life is flawed. As he notes in the talk, he calls this flawed conventional wisdom about education the “cognitive hypothesis”—the belief that the one thing that matters most in the successful development of a child is his or her IQ.

Through detailed, multi-disciplinary research, Tough proves that this is not the case. As he advocates in his book and his talks, non-cognitive traits are just as important—if not more so—than intelligence. This breakthrough idea explores the way that nature and nurture are intertwined, and helps parents better prepare their children for adulthood. Tough gives audiences a lesson in childhood development to help us to better chart a successful course for them in the future.

Education: The Economist Raves About How Children Succeed By Paul Tough

Why is it that some children do so well in school while others do not? In education speaker Paul Tough's book, How Children Succeed, he provides groundbreaking research to answer that very question. And, as The Economist notes, the book is “provocative, ambitious, and elegantly written.” The article mentions that previous efforts to close the achievement gap between poor and privileged students have achieved minimal success. In Tough's book, he presents a new way of looking at education to help bridge that divide. He argues that earning a post-secondary education has less to do with natural-born intelligence than it does with common personality traits.

Character traits like grit and perseverance tend to be more important indicators of success than innate intelligence alone. And Tough provides a plethora of multi-disciplinary research findings in his book to prove it. However, many schools today focus solely on improving students' test scores. Teaching them how to develop grit, dedication, and a resistance to adversity is outside of many teachers' comfort zone. However, Tough says that despite the fact that it's difficult to develop a character-based curriculum—it is possible, and necessary.

The Economist cites Tough's “fascinating chapter” on progressive teaching methods as an example of how to move education forward. Tough documents the work of a young chess instructor in Brooklyn who uses chess matches as a method for teaching children how to recover from failure. A program in Chicago is also teaching students the important link between hard work and success. These progressive programs teach students that determination and hard-work are just as important as their intelligence. Tough's book, and his keynotes, challenge us to rethink our traditional model of education, and focus on the skills children really need to succeed.

Education Speaker Paul Tough: How Malleable Is Your Intelligence? [VIDEO]

Do you think your IQ is malleable? That is, do you think that the level of intelligence you're born with is what you're stuck with for life? Or can it be improved? As education speaker Paul Tough told an audience during a recent keynote, it is very difficult to change your IQ after around age 8. Despite this, he also says that the kids who excel in their education tend to be those who believe that they can change it. Regardless of the facts, these kids believe they can do better and get smarter—and this mindset actually helps them succeed.

“When kids are convinced of the growth mindset,” he says, “when they are led to believe that they can change who they are, change their intelligence, [and] improve in these significant ways, they actually work harder. They try harder, they apply themselves more and most importantly, they deal with setbacks better.” Even though the research suggests that they cannot get physiologically smarter, believing that they can allows them to persevere and overcome any obstacles they may have to learning.

Tough expands on this idea in his popular keynotes and his bestselling book How Children Succeed. He explains that intelligence isn't the only marker of success. Character traits such as grit, optimism, and self-control are actually better indicators of a child's ability to do well. He explains that nature and nurture are intertwined, and that eliminating unnecessary adversity—without shielding children from all hardship—and encouraging children to work hard can be just as important to their development as their innate intelligence.

Bill Strickland: The Kids Are Fine, It’s The Schools That Need To Change

Bill Strickland recently appeared on a local NPR affiliate station to discuss the opening of a new program that uses the arts to teach at-risk students, and why it is so important to incorporate arts education in these programs. Located in the Charlotte area, Studio 345 uses innovate new techniques to help decrease student drop-out rates and increase performance. Strickland's Manchester Bidwell Corporation operates in much the same way, and he was asked to be on the radio show to discuss how he steered his program to such success and elaborate on the key components to helping struggling kids to unlock their inner potential. “We learned that the arts opens up that hemisphere of the brain where the human imagination, hope, excitement, and innovation resides,” he says in the interview, “and if you can unlock that feature of the brain, that gets translated into improved behavior, improved performance, better school attendance, etc., etc.”

Strickland believes that everyone has the potential to achieve greatness—as long as they are given the proper tools to allow them to do so. He says that providing a positive and stimulating environment is essential to inspiring students to be successful. “What we figured out is the kids are not at risk, what's at risk is the school system, the kids are fine,” he explains in the interview, “they just needed an environment that gave them the opportunity to recognize that they had abilities to contribute in significant ways.” In his speeches, Strickland expands on this idea and argues that success is not determined by one's social or economic status, but by their drive and desire, and that environment is one of the most important factors in academic success.

Think You’ve Got What It Takes? Take Paul Tough’s Grit Test

How gritty are you? According to education speaker Paul Tough, the “grittier” you are, the more likely you are to succeed in life. He doesn't mean gritty in a John Wayne from the wild west kind of way, though he does admit that that reference certainly has a “deep historical resonance.” Rather, he is referring to a relatively new category in psychology that measures how determined one is to achieve their goals. As he explains in a new keynote, grit can be defined as, “perseverance in pursuit of a passion.” This is a definition provided by Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, whom Tough profiles in his book, How Children Succeed. This concept of grit in a developmental context has fascinated him ever since he stumbled upon it.

As Tough explains, the higher one ranks in terms of grit, the more likely they are to do well in school and in life. This finding has shifted the way that we think about the education system, he explains. While IQ is certainly a factor in the success of one's learning, it is not the only—nor most important—predictor of future achievements. “A child who has grit,” he says in the talk, “is a child who has some dream or goal and doesn't let anything get in the way of that dream or goal. No obstacles [and no] distractions.” There is a way to determine one's level of grit, he says, and it comes in the form of a 12 question quiz. The higher you score, the higher your level of grit; and the higher your chances of achieving your future goals.

In his book and his keynotes, Tough explores the importance of grit and other character traits, such as curiousity and conscientiousness, in relation to success. His interdisciplinary work has provided fresh insight into the way we teach our children. He provides audiences with a clear outline of the developmental factors that influence their potential and explains how we can use this knowledge to help prepare our kids for an efficacious and prosperous future.

Take Ownership Of Your Education: Salman Khan In Psychology Today

Education speaker Salman Khan has received a lot of press—and an equal amount of praise—for the revolutionary model of learning he employs with his video-based online school The Khan Academy. In a new interview in Psychology Today, Khan explains that his goal is to help students take control of their learning. Instead of learning a skill for the sake of passing a test or advancing to the next grade level, he hopes that the future of education will focus on retaining the knowledge you are taught. Not only that, but he wants students to learn more comprehensively so that they are able to apply what is taught in school for the rest of their life—rather than only learning the bare minimum required to move on to something else. His vision, he explains, is for everyone to be able to learn at their own pace so they are given the time to really dig into the subject matter and enjoy the learning process. 

“In a world like that,” he says, “I think that you are going to expand the number of people who are these precocious self-learners, and we can engage far more people because they are going to have a chance to take ownership of their learning and they’re going to have a chance to not be bored or lost.” By “flipping the classroom,” and focusing on creative new ways of learning Khan believes that more people would be excited about learning and in turn, they will learn more.

Recently featured on the cover of Forbes magazine for his work with the Academy, Khan has become a highly influential figure on the future of education. His website currently has over 3,000 instructional videos, 300 exercises, and 3,700,000 unique users per month. In the future, as he notes in the interview, he hopes that it will become an accredited institution. “Hopefully one day Khan Academy will be taken very seriously where someone will say, 'Wow, so you did that on Khan Academy? You’re ready for the next level now.'” As humble as he is wise, Khan presents solutions for improving the way we teach our kids in his speeches and his new book, The One World Schoolhouse. He provides a history of the education system and pinpoints areas we need to improve so that we can begin to remodel and improve the learning process for the future.

Paul Tough: Stress Can Be Toxic—And Parents Are The Antidote [VIDEO]

The world can be a very stressful place, especially for a child. As education speaker Paul Tough explains, children who have strong connections with their parents at a young age learn to deal with stress better than those who don't. “When children are able to form a close, attached, nurturing, bond with a parent or another caregiver,” he says in a recent talk, “it acts as a kind of buffer, a kind of protection against even the worst kinds of toxic stress.”

Tough, author of the breakthrough book How Children Succeed, is an expert on the effects that environmental factors have on childhood development and success. His research is wide in scope and hard-hitting in result. He has found that intelligence is not the only thing that helps children to do well in school and in life. Rather, as he explains in his talks and in his book, the development of character traits like grit, curiosity, optimism, and self-control are just as meaningful to a child's development. He explains that children who have these close bonds with a trusted adult tend to do well in all facets of life. Citing a research study, Tough explains that the comfort provided by a parent or guardian helps children withstand stressful situations that they may not be able to otherwise..

While the experiment he mentions is based on the nurturing habits of lab rats, Tough says that there is significant evidence to support that a similar trend is present in human beings, as well. He argues that some adversity is good for children because it teaches them to be able to manage failure, and that those who are supported through this adversity are generally successful in later life. Tough is also the author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America and is a contributor to The American Life, where he has shared his insights on what it takes to help our children have a bright and prosperous future.

The Secretary of Education Really Likes How Children Succeed by Paul Tough

As 2012 draws to a close, The Wall Street Journal asked some prominent figures to share their favorite books from the past year. How Children Succeed by education speaker Paul Tough was listed as recommended reading by Mr. Arne Duncan—a recommendation that carries some extra weight given Duncan's role as the Secretary of Education. Duncan said that Tough's book was “extraordinarily thoughtful” and that it had a “profound impact on [him] as both a parent and a policy maker.” He says what resonated most with him was the idea that children need to be given the opportunity to thrive—and fail—in different environments. Instead of shielding your child from failure and hardship, Tough argues that a moderate amount of adversity in a child's life can help them develop tremendously important character traits that will enable them to be more successful in life.

Duncan says he now applies that strategy at home with his wife and kids. They share their successes and failures around the dinner table each night and discuss how they can learn from those experiences and become more resilient in the future because of them. “Mr. Tough presents a thoughtful strategy to help those children most at risk,” Duncan writes in the WSJ, “and it left me feeling hopeful about the huge difference we can make in the lives of those who have little opportunity.” Tough's refreshing ideas about how to ensure that children grow up to reach their fullest potential have made waves in the education sector, and with parents at home. Thoroughly researched and well-written, How Children Succeed is presenting a new model for childhood development that is turning traditional notions of child-rearing and learning on their head. In highly requested speeches and media appearances, Tough expands on these ideas to share the importance of character—instead of just intelligence—as a major factor towards success in life.

Paul Tough: Some Adversity is Good for Kids [VIDEO]

“I think what we have in our culture,” education speaker Paul Tough says in a new keynote, “is an adversity gap.” Some children face too much adversity in their life, while other children don't face as many challenges—if any at all. What he says in the speech is that neither option is beneficial to the successful development of a child. “In trying to protect our kids from adversity,” he explains, “we are sometimes doing more harm than good.” Even though he says that he wants to shield his children from adversity in life—as many parents do—he admits that struggle builds character. According to the research in his bestselling book, How Children Succeed, studies suggest that “moderate amounts of adversity might be good for kids.”

In the book, he argues that character traits such as grit and perseverance are just as important important to success in life as cognitive skills. Overcoming obstacles in life—not serious traumas, but hardships like a divorce or the loss of a job, for example—helps people develop these vital skills. “It gives them an opportunity to practice failing,” he says, “it gives them a way to learn how to manage failure.” Children need to develop the strength to move on from a failure in life. However, there is a delicate balance that must be achieved, he also notes. Children who experience tremendous amounts of adverse events in their lives often have an extremely difficult time overcoming them, while children who experience no adversity in their lives are often no happier than those who experienced a great deal of hardship. Those who tend to be the happiest and most successful, he says in the speech, are those who have overcome three or four difficult life events, and have developed the ability to bounce back from failure or stress.

“Exhilarating”: A Student Review Of Reza Aslan’s Middle East Class

Reza Aslan's Religion and Politics in the Middle East class is “exciting and, admittedly, a bit exhilarating,” says a student at New York's Drew University.  As he writes in a glowing review in the school's newspaper, the experience of being taught by the bestselling author fulfilled much more than just a degree requirement. One of the books on the syllabus was Aslan's No God But God, in which the internationally acclaimed scholar of religions describes the history of the Islamic faith. The student, and Opinions Editor at the university newspaper, said both the book and the material Aslan covered in the class was “fascinating.” He writes that “it was a true honor to have been able to be one of Reza Aslan’s students and learn from him this fall semester, as I’m sure the rest of my classmates would agree.” Aslan will be teaching another class next spring, called The Art of Protesting.

Aslan has also authored How to Win a Cosmic War, is a contributing editor to The Daily Beast, and is a member of many prominent foreign relations and policy councils. He also edited two literary anthologies: Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, and Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalities, Contentions, and Complexities. He writes and lectures with passionate conviction and uses his strong educational background to discuss the complex relationship between the Eastern and Western world. He appears regularly on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, where he speaks about Islam, the Middle East, and Muslim Americans with a voice that is authoritative, witty, and infectiously optimistic.

Improve The System, Don’t Demolish It: Education Speaker Salman Khan [VIDEO]

“I'm a big believer in more organic change,” education speaker Salman Khan said in a keynote speech at Cal Poly Pomona this past week. Despite being a leader in the education sector thanks to his work with The Khan Academy and his book The One World Schoolhouse, Khan says he doesn't want to be seen as a “Czar” for education. Rather, he'd like to revamp the system from within and improve it rather than completely demolish it. “If you removed lectures from the classroom, is there a more valuable use of (teachers') time?” he asked in the speech, which led into his argument that instructional videos can help free up time for teachers to provide more innovative lessons. By using video instruction as a tool, students who need extra time with a certain subject don't have their learning glossed over in an effort to keep everyone moving at the same pace, and the teacher can focus on the individual needs of each student.

His ideas on rethinking the classroom have spurred a new worldwide conversation on how we educate. He recently appeared on the cover of Forbes magazine and has earned the support of Bill Gates for his video-centred tutorials and new ideas for education. While he says that his new way of learning is meant to supplement, not eliminate, the traditional educational system, the use of digital technologies has certainly opened up a world of possibilities for learning. “Education is at a turning point,” he explains. “The new world is not about selling or having a gate to knowledge. It's about having a relationship with the user.” Electronic textbooks and lectures delivered online are putting a focus on individualized learning, he argues, and the future of education will focus on using this technology effectively. Khan explains both the origins of The Khan Academy—and the future of his educational endeavor—in his inspiring keynotes. He envisions a world where children aren't rushed through the system, and anyone can attain a truly well-rounded and complete education. Thanks to the work Khan's doing, that vision is closer to reality than ever before.

A 1,000% Return: Education Speaker Salman Khan On The Cover of Forbes

“The numbers get really crazy when you look at the impact per dollar,” education speaker Salman Khan says of the work he's doing with the Khan Academy. “If you put any reasonable value on it, say $10 a year—and keep in mind we serve most students better than tutoring—and you are looking at, what, a 1,000% return?” This return, of course, refers to the impact that his work has educating millions of people across the planet. An accomplishment that, rightfully so, has landed him on the cover of Forbes magazine this month. In America alone, over $1.3 trillion is spent annually on education. Yet the quality of education is not improving and the United States doesn't rank nearly as well as they should globally. Clearly, there is a disconnect between the money being thrown into the system and the results those funds are garnering.

While Khan, author of The One World Schoolhouse, didn't start making online video tutorials to change the face of education, the progress he has made with the Khan Academy is beginning change the way people think about education. Beginning as a way to teach his overseas cousins some basic lessons, Khan's video lecture series on YouTube has exploded into much more than a simple study session between family members. In fact, he became so enraptured by the idea of digitizing the educational model and “flipping the classroom” that he eventually quit his day job to work on the project full-time. In his book, and his speeches, Khan shares his vision of a new way of learning where students aren't pushed forward before they're ready, and more time is spent on in-class collaborative learning.

Considering the Academy's runaway success, many business moguls are surprised that Khan never made the academy a for-profit—especially given Khan's business acumen as a former hedge fund analyst. “It's ironic…I would tell people that if [The Khan Academy] were a for-profit I would be on the cover of Forbes,” Khan says in the magazine article. In this case, it appears as if Khan's work—for-profit or not—is simply too important to ignore.

Walter Isaacson Calls Salman Khan “The Coolest Person in America Today” [VIDEO]

Who is “the coolest person in America today,” according to Walter Isaacson? Why it's education speaker Salman Khan, of course. One of TIME's Most Influential People, Isaacson is the author of the record-breaking biography of Steve Jobs, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, the former CEO of CNN and the former Managing Editor of TIME. As part of the Fall 2012 Alma and Joseph Gildenhorn Book Series, Isaacson sat down with Khan to discuss his new book, The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined and the work he is doing with his digital school, The Khan Academy. In the interview, Isaacson also compares Khan to a modern-day Benjamin Franklin. He says Franklin's creation of the first one-room school house revolutionized education then in much the same way that Salman's Khan Academy is doing now. The problem with Franklin's one-room school house, however, is that the same model is still being used today—even though our world has completely changed. That's where Khan and his digital learning comes in to play.

In his book, and in his talks, Khan describes a new learning system that allows students to work at their own pace and not be rushed into a new concept without fully comprehending the previous one. You wouldn't build a home on top of a foundation that was only 80 per cent completed, he explains, so why should students be moving onto new things when they haven't fully grasped what came before? Instead of segregating students into age brackets that have to learn the same material at the same age (forcing kids to be moved ahead even when they don't fully understand something), Khan suggests letting students work on something until they fully understand the concept. This way, a solid foundation of learning is built, rather than one where students only retain half of what they've been taught because they were rushed to move ahead in order to keep up with their classmates. Khan's tutorial videos on YouTube play to this strategy, and his revolutionary teaching style has earned him the recognition and respect from heavyweights like Bill Gates, Google, and Isaacson.

Paul Tough: How Poverty Can Act As A Barrier To Success

“Let’s give credit where credit is due,” Diane Ravitch writes in a blog post about Paul Tough's How Children Succeed. “Tough is smart. He knows what is going on.” The ideas that Tough presents in his book about character development, stress and education have sparked a national conversation about the way we teach our children. One part of his book, in particular, stood out to Ravitch, the Research Professor of Education at New York University.

“What he reports about the physiological effects of anxiety and depression is important,” she writes. “The reformers who claim that poverty is unimportant should be required to read what Tough writes about how poverty hurts children and undermines their ability to learn.” Tough doesn't expect that teachers should be the ones to fix these problems—government and policy reforms need to be made to help those coming from troubled and poverty-stricken backgrounds have the same opportunities to succeed as those who come from privilege. We need to start thinking differently about education, Tough says, and about the fact that sometimes intelligence alone is not able to overcome the psychological challenges of poverty and abuse.

In his talks, Tough addresses these issues head on. Providing extensive research to back up his theories, he dissects the current system of learning in order to help improve it. Drawing from years of experience both studying and writing about education, he gives a fresh perspective on learning and teaching. It's not just teachers, but also parents and policy makers that affect a child's future. Tough argues that the sooner we understand how children learn—and what inhibits them from doing so—the more successful they will become.

A Keynote by Education Speaker Paul Tough: Adversity Builds Character & Success

In his keynote speech at the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Conference, education speaker Paul Tough posed a provocative theory: “what if by protecting our kids, we are doing them more harm than good?” The author of How Children Succeed argues that the development of character traits such as grit and self-control are more important for success than cognitive intelligence. Bearing this in mind, he argues that adversity builds and strengthens these character traits, and that failure helps children develop the abilities needed to persevere and succeed in life.

“Moderate amounts of adversity are helpful,” says Tough, “it gives kids a way to manage failure.” While most parents have an instinctual urge to protect their children from harm and hurt, Tough found that children who had experienced few, if any, incidences of adversity in their lives were no happier than those who had experienced a great deal of adversity. There needs to be a balance between the two, however. Tough doesn't suggest that experiencing tremendous stress and hardship will always correlate to success later in life. Nor does he believe that parents should never shield their children from adversity or soothe them when a traumatic experience occurs. Rather, he says that a moderate amount of adversity helps to strengthen stress response systems so children are better able to deal with tough times and learn from their mistakes. Those experiences, coupled with having parents who support and comfort their children through these difficult times, will help ensure that a child can develop those ever important “character” skills that can help them do well in life.

These sweeping changes to commonly held beliefs about childhood development and education are addressed in depth in Tough's book, as well as in his highly requested talks. Tough provides audiences with valuable insights while still maintaining a light-hearted demeanor (even throwing in a few jokes to lighten the mood when necessary). His style of presentation combined with his breakthrough ideas make him one of today's most in-demand education speakers.

Nic Kristoff on Education Speaker Paul Tough’s “Important New Book”

In his latest New York Times Op-Ed, Nicholas Kristoff calls education speaker Paul Tough's How Children Succeed “an important new book,” adding: “Long may this book dwell on the best-seller lists!” Tough's book brings together “decades of fascinating research” on the long-standing “nature vs nurture” debate and its effect on childhood development, Kristoff explains in his piece. While the debate still rages on, Tough has produced some convincing arguments in favor of nurture being a more determining factor on development than nature. 

“The character strengths that matter so much to young people’s success are not innate; they don’t appear in us magically,” Kristoff quotes from Tough's book. “They are molded, in measurable and predictable ways, by the environment in which kids grow up. That means the rest of us — society as a whole — can do an enormous amount to influence their development.” In other words, as Kristoff has so perfectly expressed in his Op-Ed title: cuddle your kids. An affectionate and supportive home life can do wonders, Tough says, to improve a child's academic performance and eventually provide them with the characteristics needed to be successful in the workforce later in life.

Tough has long been dedicated to improving the lives of underserved children. In his first book, Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America, as well as with his contributions to This American Life and The New Yorker, Tough delves into the psychological problems that are severely affecting millions of troubled children. Riding off the success of his new book, Tough speaks about how to improve childhood learning by focusing on character development, and why it's imperative that we reevaluate current teaching methods to better prepare our kids for success.

The Power of Character: Education Speaker Paul Tough on This American Life

Children are our future—and thanks to the work of education speaker Paul Tough, and his unique perspective on how to help more children succeed, that future is beginning to look a little brighter. Tough recently appeared on NPR's This American Life to discuss the theories presented in his bestselling book How Children Succeed. Test results and natural intelligence aren't the only, nor even the most important, indicators of a child's academic—and longterm—success. “Leadership principles [such as] ambition, professionalism, resourcefulness, [and] resilience,” are just as valuable, if not more so, than cognitive skills in education, says Tough. “Really, what makes a huge difference for these kids is learning these psychological skills,” he says. “And when they get to college, that's what's going to make a difference.”

These personal skills—which Tough refers to as “character”—are particularly underdeveloped in children who come from unstable, broken, or abusive households. What is encouraging, however, is that students with severely troubled upbringings can learn, and even master, these important skills with the right amount of positive reinforcement and teaching. “Secure attachment,” he says, whether coming from a parent, a teacher, or even a role model, can help keep children on the right track. Providing support and establishing a deep interpersonal bond can have a tremendous impact on a child's learning potential—as “character” needs to be learned and developed, just like reading, writing and math. His intensive research explores the link between nature and nurture and the connection between neurological development and childhood environment. Tough's speeches provide a fresh perspective on how to best educate our most troubled youth, and challenges long-held beliefs that are entrenched in our current education system.

The World’s Most Important Teacher: Google’s Eric Schmidt On Salman Khan [VIDEO]

When Eric Schmidt is praising your accomplishments, you're doing something right. Education speaker Salman Khan recently sat down with the Executive Chairman of Google to discuss his newly-released book, The One World Schoolhouse, and the growth of the Khan Academy. “It may very well be that Salman Khan becomes the most important educator in the entire world,” said Schmidt. The recognition is well-deserved given that Khan's breakthrough video-based education program now teaches over 4.2 million unique students per month.

When he first started, Khan was using a simple USB headset and Microsoft Paint to do his lessons—and he was teaching a few of his cousins, instead of millions of strangers. But the more videos he created, the more he was inspired to expand his library and broaden his topics. Today, he has published over 3,000 videos. 

“It eventually became this Forrest Gump, can I race across America type of adventure,” Khan said. First, he decided to “do all of mathematics.” Then he did physics, then English, and eventually he even created a seven minute analysis of mortgage security and an explanation of the financial crisis. While he didn't initially intend to be part of an education revolution, the substantial growth and tremendous support behind his work has sparked an international discussion about how we teach our children. In his book, and in his inspiring keynote talks, Khan is “flipping the classroom,” by favoring in-class practical work with at-home video lessons, instead of the traditional system—which is the complete reverse. His forward-thinking ideas and teaching strategies are helping to reshape the educational system so that everyone, everywhere has the ability to learn—and learn well.

The One World Schoolhouse: Salman Khan’s New Book Rethinks Education

“The [Khan] Academy owned a PC, $20 worth of screen-capture software, and an $80 pen tablet,” Salman Khan writes in his new book The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined. “The faculty, engineering team, support staff and administration consisted of exactly one person: me. The budget consisted of my savings.” 

Salman Khan and his virtual school, The Khan Academy, now see approximately 4 million unique, online visitors a month. His innovative lessons (which he airs on his website and on YouTube) focus on visual learning, and Khan stresses openness of (every lesson is, and will always remain, free) as his guiding principle. “My dream was–and still is–to have a small Hogwarts kind of school, where I could be surrounded by really neat kids,” Khan tells The Telegraph. “I want a school where you have the ability to flex your creativity without sacrificing academic rigor.” In The One World Schoolhouse, Khan outlines his vision for a modern, global education system and shares his remarkable, and unlikely, personal journey from a successful hedge fund analyst to one of the world's leading voices on education.

His passion for overhauling a broken education system and his unwavering dedication to his vision has earned Khan the support of both Bill Gates and Google, and has helped make him one of Lavin's most requested speakers. With degrees from Harvard and MIT, Khan certainly has an academic pedigree. However, it is his down-to-earth approach and understated humor that make his lessons so popular. He hopes his work will leave a lasting impression on the education system, and help educators embrace the proliferation of new technologies to rethink how we teach our kids. “In 500 years I hope people look back and say, 'Imagine, kids had to learn in classrooms that were like factories and it was unheard of for an eight-year-old to truly deeply understand quantum physics. Isn’t that strange?'” says Khan. If decision makers around the world begin to learn from Khan's revolutionary methods, his dream just might come true.

David Brooks Calls Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed “Essential.”

Lavin's newest education speaker, Paul Tough, believes that test scores aren't the only benchmarks for success—and that social and psychological issues can hinder a child's learning experience. In his instant new bestseller, How Children Succeed, which New York Times columnist David Brooks descibes as “essential”, Tough proposes that dealing with trauma from a young age can have long-lasting neural effects. His book explores not only the impact of material and physical stresses on children, such as poverty or poor nutrition, but delves into the importance of psychological stressors, like growing up in a single-parent household or experiencing abuse. Using Tough's book as reference, Brooks explains that childhood stress can “make it harder to exercise self-control, focus attention, delay gratification and do many of the other things that contribute to a happy life.”

The development of these characteristics, Tough argues, has an enormous impact on whether a child succeeds academically. At the New York Times, Tough has written extensively on the factors that affect a child's ability to learn. In his previous book, Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America, as well as in his new talk, he explores character development and the important role that it plays in determining a child's future.

Flipping the Classroom: Time Profiles Education Speaker Salman Khan

A recent Time magazine article on education speaker Salman Khan reveals his plan to “flip” the traditional classroom model, and to empower teachers to give personalized attention to individual students. Khan, who founded the popular Khan Academy, is relying on the support of the Internet, as well as the cooperation of educators everywhere. “In the ideal classroom,” Khan tells Time, “the teacher is either spending all of their time doing deep interventions with students on a one-on-one basis or facilitating true interactivity—labs, simulations, projects.” Khan's nonprofit provides free high-quality education to anyone, anywhere— and it's making serious waves in classrooms across the world.

More on education speaker Salman Khan, and his hopes for The Khan Academy, from Time:

Khan is [transforming] the academy from his own personal YouTube channel into an educational nonprofit with Silicon Valley start-up DNA. The goal: to create a complete educational approach—with video lectures, online exercises, badges to reward student progress, an analytics dashboard for teachers to track that progress and more—that can be integrated into existing classrooms or serve as a stand-alone virtual school for anyone wanting to learn something new. But Khan believes he's onto something much bigger—a buzzy concept educators call the “flipped classroom.” The traditional classroom model essentially forces educators to teach to the middle. High-achieving students aren't challenged, and low-achieving students are made to move on to the next concept before they've mastered the previous one.

In the flipped classroom, proponents are fond of saying, the teacher shifts from being the sage on the stage to being the guide on the side. With lecture material covered at home as kids watch those online videos, elements traditionally associated with homework—math-problem sets, history essays, science projects and so on—can become the focus in the classroom. All that lecture time is converted to personalized attention. Everyone's work is tracked and measured in real time, so teachers know where to direct their attention. There's no more teaching to the middle: from bottom to top, all students work at their own pace. In Khan's view…Students would watch videos that introduce the concepts as homework and then go to class to demonstrate their learning. And there would be no need for a teacher to stand in front of the class and give a lecture ever again. Khan's vision faces its biggest test yet in a pilot project at Eastside Prep, a charter school where all the students are economically disadvantaged and, if they make it, will be the first in their families to go to college.

Salman Khan: Tech Makes Classrooms More, Not Less, Interactive

Last month, we were in the audience in Toronto’s TIFF Lightbox building as Salman Khan spoke about his world-famous Khan Academy—a nonprofit that provides free, high-quality education to “anyone, anywhere” through online videos. The Khan Academy is the perfect example of the positive power of media in education: more technology actually means more interaction in the classroom, not less, creating “a more human experience” for students.

The story of how the Khan Academy came to be is peppered with humor and humility—which kept the rapt audience in stitches, even as they were absorbing a revolutionary approach to teaching. While working as a hedge fund analyst, Khan tutored his teenaged cousin in New Orleans from his home in Boston (“You know the Tiger Mom? I called myself the Tiger Cousin”). A friend suggested that YouTube might make the lessons easier for both parties: he could record the tutorial, and it could be watched (repeatedly, if necessary) when his cousin was focused and ready. Khan started making videos in his closet, hand-drawn and narrated with dry wit, encouraging his cousin to enjoy the math equations she struggled with.

Soon, other YouTube users were watching the lessons and urging Khan to make more lessons. In 2009, Khan quit his job and created the Khan Academy. He would slowly go broke, before a nearly-perfect stranger would make a huge donation, $10,000, in a simple text message. “It was a good day,” Khan reflects. When Bill Gates mentioned Khan during a conference in Aspen, he was pleasantly stunned: “What do I do now? Do I call him? I suspect he's not listed…” The audience erupts in laughter.

In an “aha!” moment, Salman Khan realized that the principle flaw in education systems is the emphasis placed on learning within rigid time constraints. How long and when a new concept or theory is taught are the most important factors, not how well it is learned (or taught, for that matter). “If you make 'when' and 'how long' the variables,” Khan told the audience, “you end up with less gaps in learning.” If students are able to learn at their own pace, in fun, interactive ways (through games, and using the peer-review system), they ultimately learn the concepts better—and Khan has proof.

At a public school in Los Altos, California, the Khan Academy is being implemented to much success. The students use a color coded chart to track their progress—which allows their teachers to provide more specialized one-on-one time in what Khan calls “optimized interactions.” More students are surpassing their own GPAs than in previous years, Khan says. His goal is to expand into more schools across the country to “prove it out,” and to create lessons in chemistry, biology and physics among other lessons; right now the Khan Academy focuses primarily on math and English. The goals are reachable, and Khan spoke excitedly about the potential to change, and improve, the education process completely.

Tenacious, confident and quietly comedic, Salman Khan was the perfect closer at the end of a long morning of keynotes. Khan's approach for the Academy is to talk about “difficult concepts in a conversational way,” so you might say that the Khan Academy is Khan himself, personified—and we would have to.

Rick Mercer: The Kids Are Alright

Rick Mercer recently took to The Rick Mercer Report to talk about “the best high school in Canada,” which, in an ironic twist of fate, is being shut down. Despite being told their school would close, the students at Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School raised the most money for Mercer's famous Spread the Net campaign. “The president of the student council at PCVS has said they're gonna keep fighting,” Mercer says. “Because Canada needs more schools like theirs, not one less. I tend to agree.”

With high praise for its arts, athletics and science programs, as well as their anti-bullying measures (a topic he has discussed before), Mercer throws his support behind the students and commends them for their bottomless energy: “In these situations, you have two options: you can do what you're told, or you can fight like hell. These kids, they went with the latter and boy, what a beautiful sight. They fought, they marched, they made the lives of the school board a living hell, and they still went out and raised fifty grand for kids in Africa,” he says. “These kids may not be able to vote, but they could teach us all a thing or two about being engaged citizens.”

Jeremy Gutsche on MBAs: It’s Not What You Learn, It’s Who You Learn With

Jeremy Gutsche, Lavin speaker and founder of Trendhunter.com, didn’t achieve success all on his own. It was his well rounded background, including an MBA from Queen’s University, that gave him the foundation he needed to become one of the world’s foremost expert on consumer trends. That — and a little help from his friends. In a recent Financial Post article on the social aspect of MBA programs, Gutsche explained how his classmates, especially one named Greg Ponesse, actually helped him launch Trendhunter: “When I was trying to keep new content popping up on the site, Greg wrote a couple of hundred articles and was one of the top contributors. He was there to say, ‘Not only am I interested in your goal and what you are doing, but I’ll help you out in my spare time.’” Later in the article, Gutsche goes on to explain that one of the most powerful skills you learn in an MBA program is the ability not only to work with others, but to connect both personally and professionally to the future leaders of the business world.

The diverse personalities and professional backgrounds that MBA programs attract also help teach students to focus on their strengths, and delegate based on merit. Gutsche explains, “my leadership style is very social — it has nothing to do with planning or being an organizer — and there was someone else in my team who was a Six Sigma specialist, so we were polar opposites. But in a team, you have to know what the other people bring. You know it might frustrate you, but it also pushes you to the next level.” The social aspects of education in all spheres, not just in MBA programs, are often sorely overlooked. Sometimes, learning how to work with people and expand your professional network end up paying off much more than knowledge gathered from a textbook.

Read more about keynote speaker Jeremy Gutsche