Nathan taking part in ‘Education, Equity and Technology’ workshop hosted by Santa Fe Institute

UW–Madison’s Mitchell Nathan is taking part in a virtual workshop on Jan. 19 that’s being hosted by the Santa Fe Institute and is titled, “Education, Equity and Technology.”

Nathan is a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor with the School of Education’s highly regarded Department of Educational Psychology.

Mitchell Nathan

“It’s often said that making lasting changes in education is so difficult because the many elements of education all operate within a complex system, where perturbations along one dimension are likely to be nullified by those along other, interconnected dimensions,” says Nathan. “Yet we are asking more and more of education to serve as a means for addressing societal problems. The scholars at the Santa Fe Institute have been among the world’s thought leaders for conceptualizing how thinking about the systems themselves can lead to social change.”

A summary of the workshop explains how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education systems in a range of ways.

“The pandemic accelerated a shift to online learning, which brings the potential optimize the educational experience for individual learners and deliver quality content to all students,” a preview of the workshop notes. “At the same time, school closures and the ensuing lack of infrastructure they provide jeopardized the ability of under-served students to take advantage of such opportunities. How is technology improving the learning process and making education more equitable and inclusive? How can we ensure that all students have access to the best learning technologies through our education systems?”

Nathan will be delivering a presentation called, “Scale-Down Methodology: A Systems Approach for Scaling-up Educational Innovation.”

A preview summary of Nathan’s talk explains: “Scale-up approaches of educational innovations tend to start with the rigorous study of isolated, elemental learning phenomena. Taking these successful interventions to scale often involves considerable practical adaptations that are not specified by the learning theory but then severely reduce its benefits for learning in new settings. Consequently, it is rare to implement successful education scale-up of research-based interventions to authentic learning settings. Scale-down methodology, in contrast, takes a systemic rather than elemental perspective, starting with the critical role of the learning context in order to make educational innovation and improvement viable at scale.”

To learn more about the virtual workshop and all of the participants, check out this Santa Fe Institute web page.

“It is a very exciting and promising development to see this esteemed organization turning its attention to issues of education,” says Nathan. “I am optimistic that this will contribute to new insights, conversations, methodologies, and theories for how to think about for improving the educational experiences for all learners and teachers.”