Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ideal School of the Future

Jim writes:
I hope this is not a taboo subject.

I have immense respect for the caring and hard working educators I've had the privilege of knowing and working with throughout the years, but after spending 38 years in education, not much seems to have changed except that there is more bureaucracy, less academic freedom, and greatly increased stress. This is true nation-wide. Am I wrong? And yet, the world is a very different place. Everything is getting smaller and faster . . . except probably my body and mind. ;)

Are we going in the right direction?

With the exponential changes happening in technology right now, is the Twentieth Century model still viable? Will just working harder and smarter using the same school model, while collecting and sorting immense amounts of data, lead to better citizens and workers? Perhaps it will, but I'm not convinced.

I am interested in knowing your thoughts. Are you satisfied with the present direction? If not, what would you propose? What would your ideal school of the future look like?

Mary Mackinnon writes:

Here is one point of view from Joe Renzulli

Heather Westleigh writes:

Thank you to Jim for bringing this important question. Thanks to Mary for bringing this paper. I have to admit I have not made it through the entire text, but this excerpt from the opening jumps out at me, as it is what I have been saying for years (although I absorbed some of the logic from reading Gardner):

"We have become so obsessed with content standards and test scores that assess mainly memory, that we have lost sight of the most important outcomes of schooling -- thinking, reasoning, creativity and problem solving skills that allow young people to use the information driven by content standards in interesting and engaging ways."

...the article also talks about learning styles. I'm impressed so far.

More important than teaching facts is teaching how to think about facts, in my opinion. In a world of information, I shudder to think of all the misinformation that we all absorb every day. Without critical thinking skills we create a future that was all too obvious during the election. Aside from political affiliation, it was awful to hear people talk about voting for Palin because "she is hot" and not Obama because "he is Muslim". To be even more impartial I can quote people who told me they would never vote for Palin because she is a woman, or would vote for Obama because he is young. This type of thinking warps our (already thin) social fabric. Even more frightening is that these quotes are from adults, not students. (no, they were not joking) This shift in education is not new, but has been a slow progression. To be fair to schools, the problem is one without walls. It seems to be a social epidemic, fed from many directions.

More important than whether we agree with the direction is whether or not we can do anything about it. I worry that teachers are in the same position as students. We react to rules and legislation that we have no part in making. We are told that this is just how it is. We WILL use standards-based grading. If we don't like it, then what? We leave? I still have a child in the system. I am still a member of the community. I adore my students. How do I make myself heard and make change in 'the system' if I believe it is harming our children?

Deborah Meier "Educating a Democracy"
Jamie McKenzie: "You Can't Fatten a Pig by Weighing It"
President Dwight D. Eisenhower on "Democracy, Freedom, and Education"
Singularity Summit 2008 Reviewed


Scott Love writes:
It's a very relevant topic for everyone. Other sites are approaching this discussion as well from other viewpoints as educators in higher education. Here is a site that was referred to me from another teacher in Maine. Very good discussion.

http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2008/10/brave-new-classroom-20-new-blog-forum/


My dream is that we can give every family and child a more individual learning path as enabled by leveraging digital tools, applied cognitive science and the ever present teacher as mentor guiding our life long pursuits. Some call it the disruptive class. I call it the age of the mentors.

Speaking as a parent, I am constantly worried about the drill and kill approach that seems to be the regime of choice. We create grouping standards but we don't really know why anymore. I think the revolution starts one classroom at a time. One teacher at a time. One family at a time. One lawmaker at a time.

If I compare Maine to my own state of California, Maine's approach to education is much more progressive by any measure. For starters, we're forced to teach by textbooks. Sounds like a minor issue but believe me, it's a factor in how and what teachers in California actually focus on. I like the idea of the teacher picking and choosing readings.

The ideal school for me personally is a university of the mind where we recognize student's have different strengths and abilities. That we can actually understand them and appreciate other factors in how we learn.

That we can teach to their personal strengths and modalities. And that we have more time for learning and exploring, not just preparing for the next STAR test. And we would be able to meet not only in person but in cyberspace too for informal lectures, Second Life events, etc. Maybe even listen to a lecture from a teacher as hologram using the Feynman avatar.

And I'm sure Asimov would have loved this discussion too.

1 comment:

RS Love said...

Jim,

It's a very relevant topic for everyone. Other sites are approaching this discussion as well from other viewpoints as educators in higher education. Here is a site that was referred to me from another teacher in Maine. Very good discussion.

http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2008/10/brave-new-classroom-20-new-blog-forum/

My dream is that we can give every family and child a more individual learning path as enabled by leveraging digital tools, applied cognitive science and the ever present teacher as mentor guiding our life long pursuits. Some call it the disruptive class. I call it the age of the mentors.

Speaking as a parent, I am constantly worried about the drill and kill approach that seems to be the regime of choice. We create grouping standards but we don't really know why anymore. I think the revolution starts one classroom at a time. One teacher at a time. One family at a time. One lawmaker at a time.

If I compare Maine to my own state of California, Maine's approach to education is much more progressive by any measure. For starters, we're forced to teach by textbooks. Sounds like a minor issue but believe me, it's a factor in how and what teachers in California actually focus on. I like the idea of the teacher picking and choosing readings.

The ideal school for me personally is a university of the mind where we recognize student's have different strengths and abilities. That we can actually understand them and appreciate other factors in how we learn.

That we can teach to their personal strengths and modalities. And that we have more time for learning and exploring, not just preparing for the next STAR test. And we would be able to meet not only in person but in cyberspace too for informal lectures, Second Life events, etc. Maybe even listen to a lecture from a teacher as hologram using the Feynman avatar.

And I'm sure Asimov would have loved this discussion too.


Scott Love
Palo Alto, CA