Ask the wrong question — get the wrong answer!

I remember taking debate class as a kid and our teacher, Mr. Black, cautioned us that it was vital to learn to ask the right questions. He advised us to watch out for the proverbial “When are you going to stop beating your wife?” question because of the assumption that was already built into it.

I find myself thinking of that often listening to folks talk about school and learning. I hear lots of folks giving lots of ideas and opinions, but the majority of them all seem to be based on a vast list of assumptions that aren’t necessarily true.

The latest example of this was a recent Yahoo news article entitled “Will longer school year help or hurt U.S. students?” The article features Sec. Arne Duncan supporting the notion that students in this country need more time in school to be successful. The problem with that standard response is that it is based on several assumptions which are totally outdated. Let’s examine a few of them.

Assumption #1 — Students learn by being in school. There are several problems with this assumption. The first is the notion that schools are interested in having students learn. I have argued before that it’s tough to prove that. What schools are actually interested in is getting students to respond in particular ways to a particular curriculum. The System has no way to value student learning — only successful response to instruction. Is it any wonder that kids do the minimum possible? They learn to shut down their curiosity and enthusiasm for school subjects because outside of some occasional “extra credit”, it does them no good. A student in a world literature class may be assigned to read Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Great! And if she gets so excited by the work that she reads an additional half dozen books by Hesse, what is the result? LOL “How nice, Maria”

Assumption #2 — Kids could learn more if they were in school longer. The research is clear — student engagement is tied to academic success. The latest Gallup Research study on student engagement shows that the longer kids are in school, the less engaged they feel (http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2013/01/07/intriguing-gallup-student-poll-results-but-not-something-id-quote-a-lot/#.UOtTQvkwCww.twitter). Other studies (Kidwell, Leadership Magazine, Journal of California School Administrators, March-April 2010)”The Impact of Student Engagement on Learning”) validate a direct correlation between student engagement and factors such as drop-out rates and general academic achievement. So we know kids feel less engaged with school the longer they are in it, and we know that student engagement is a key to academic success. Who in their right mind would suggest doing more of what we have proof is not working?

Assumption #3 — If kids aren’t in school, they won’t be learning. It’s hard to rank these assumptions in terms of how laughable they are but this one would certainly vie for a high rank. If anyone can think of ANYthing academic that is taught in a classroom in a school that can’t be learned outside of school, I’d be interested to hear what it is! The truth is that thanks to the Internet any student can learn anything they want — and do it at their own pace, at a place of their own choosing, alone or with peers of their own choosing and probably through the lens of what is interesting to them.

The shame of the current school system is that we are NOT teaching kids how to learn. The most that can be said for most “innovative” schools is that they are using technology so that students increase their skill at responding to instruction.

Engaging in a debate on “Will longer school year help or hurt US students?” is just the type of question that keeps the U.S. school system a “school” system instead of transitioning it to a “learning” system. Our kids will continue to suffer for that, and so will we.

We’ve got to change the question. Let’s start asking “Given all of the opportunities of the 21st Century, what’s the best way to help students learn?”

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Learning to Practice Magic

I saw a simple graphic the other day. It had two circles on it. One that was labeled “Your comfort zone”, and the other, larger circle said “Where the magic happens” They didn’t overlap.

It made me think of several things. First of all the daring nature of the act of creating something. We can perfect what we have been doing and stay comfortable. Most of us spend much of our lives perfecting that. As we perfect what we have been doing that comfort zone may not expand, but its walls get thicker and it becomes harder and harder to both break out of it, and also invade it from the outside. If you did well in school, chances are you got pretty good at perfecting things within your comfort zone. You learned to do what the teacher said, follow the rubric, and pass the test over assigned material. Bravo! Great! Congratulations!

But was there magic in your schooling? Do you look back with a sense of astonishment over what you created? Not likely. Not your fault, either. And certainly not your teachers’ fault. After all, they were perfecting things within their teaching comfort zones at the same time you were perfecting your responses to them.

I long for us to move to where the magic happens. How? I guess that’s the best beginning — asking a question! Imagine what would begin to happen if we taught kids to ask questions. Imagine the magic they might discover in the world around them and even in what they were studying (not to be confused with responding to what the teacher was teaching).

Last week I went to the Conservatory in Chicago. The trip out was filled with its own wonder, but that’s for another blog. My head exploded with the wonder of the place! If you think a bunch of plants under glass sounds boring, then I’m sorry for the magic of wondering that has been beaten out of you. My imagination exploded with questions! I was so happy to have my iPhone with me so I could access answers and be led to new questions as well.

Want to have a great weekend? Figure out a way to get out of your comfort zone. Easiest way to do that is admit to ignorance and then start asking questions about something you observe, or a place you visit, either for the first or the hundredth time. See how many questions you can ask about just one thing. Look for wonder — discover some of the magic; learn how to make some magic happen.

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Goodbye Language Learning: Hello “Learning Languages”

How many learning languages do you have? Which languages do you use to learn which things? In the 21st C, interconnected world, the more learning languages you can use, the more you can learn!

I spent a good deal of my career engaged in what turned out to be a pretty ineffective pursuit. I taught French to high school kids.

Now don’t get me wrong — I LOVED it! It was among the most fulfilling things I have done in my life. And, as a matter of fact, I think a majority of my students loved having me teach them. Many were with me for multiple years, and the opportunity to see them grow and mature over time was certainly rewarding. We “bonded” over the years — and if you were in my French III class and studied St. Exupery’s The Little Prince with me, that phrase should have special meaning to you, even after ten or twenty (or more) years.

I loved teaching French. I was good at it. In fact, I was lucky enough one year to be selected as the Kentucky Teacher of the Year. I was good at teaching French. I was even good at teaching kids to respond to my French teaching. The problem is, I wasn’t at good at helping kids learn French for the long haul. There were exceptions, of course — I had a (very) few who still speak and use French on a daily basis today. But believe me, they are the exception.

For the most part we enjoyed class. The students generally got good grades, and were well served in fulfilling college entrance requirements, etc. I also had a heck of a good time teaching them about France, the French speaking world, French C/culture, etc. We sang, we read, we laughed, we danced, we ate, we watched movies, we saw slides. It was formidable!

Problem is, while many of them may have liked me and enjoyed the class, very few would consider themselves bilingual today. They are wonderful, successful parents and adults; they still keep up with me on Facebook. They just don’t speak or use French anymore for anything. In fact, if more than a couple dozen (out of many hundreds of students over the years) were rated above the Novice level on any proficiency scale, I’d be very surprised.

And while I have tremendous respect for my language teaching colleagues, I don’t think I am unique. I look at the data. This is hard to accept, let alone swallow so that it can be digested. In a word, the data are appalling. With very, very few exceptions, the only people in this country who are skilled users of another language are those who spoke a language other than English in the home while growing up (Robinson, Rivers, and Brecht in The Modern Language Journal 90, 2006, 457-472).

Perhaps the emergence of K-12 Immersion programs will make a dent, but I fear that even if effective, it is too limited and too late.

Now truth be told, we don’t know what price we’ve paid for this. It certainly did no harm to the system of schooling that we have. We maintained a cadre of teachers who taught students to respond to our teaching in our classrooms. In fact, school as we have known it is probably like the proverbial sausage-making factory. We took in all manner of kids, batch processed them until they bore no resemblance to their original form and came out with the same vocabulary, the same lessons studied, etc. Yes, yes, really limited metaphor, but please understand I offer it more as a commentary on how we handle kids than I do as a comment on the kids. So, the factory kept going, we didn’t worry much about the quality coming out as long as it met minimum standards ,and the employees kept their jobs.

We can’t afford to teach language anymore. We don’t need language teaching or even language learning — we need to help in the acquisition of “learning languages”. Just think for a moment how much can be learned that was unavailable to us before the net. If a student of mine in Nicholasville, KY, wanted to read Paris Match, or watch a French movie, guess the limit of their options — my class! If they wanted help learning how to solve differential equations or tips on applying Newton’s Third Law? Once again, they were mostly limited to what and who was within a short distance of their physical location. Today? Totally different! They have the net and access the information of the world and can chat face to face with virtually anyone, anywhere — and do it any time! They can even log on to Khan Academy to get a lesson on equations or Newton in a wide variety of languages.

The opportunity is available today for them to learn anything they want, in any way they want, in any language they want, at any time they want.

We don’t need language learning! And we can’t afford language teachers. We need to begin to focus on the development of “learning languages”. The more languages a learner is proficient in, the more they can learn.

The new challenge to my profession is to serve students as an expert in [French] as a learning language!

More on this in another blog.

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It’s Not About Flipping

A recent FaceBook posting of mine suggested that the secret of success in a flipped classroom has less to do with content conveyance at home, and more to do with the opportunities to enhance and deepen the student-teacher relationship during class. The many affirming responses from teachers suggested that they all know experimentally what the research confirms — relationships are the key.

So here’s my followup comment on teacher evaluation — forget looking at test scores on standardized tests as the primary indicator of either teacher or student success. Instead, make sure at the beginning of the year that students and parents understand clearly the minimum expectations for learning that term/year. (I say minimum because learners should never be held back, and should be able to progress more rapidly — and have it count!) At the end of the year all 3 (student, teacher and parents/caregivers) vote on whether the learner stays with that teacher for the next year of learning. They would, of course, take into account the idea of whether the learner was making the progress in line with the learning expectations, and certainly they would have access to standardized scores when available. If I were an administrator I would rather see those scores than any other. If significant numbers (certainly anything over 50%) of students and parents opted OUT of the influence of a teacher, that would be a huge red flag. Likewise, if the teacher is not bonding for learning successes with students and wants to turn over at least half of them and “trade them in for a new batch”, I’d want to know that as well.

I believe that a great teacher who has the opportunity to create strong bonds with students can “coach” that learner even beyond their own area of knowledge and expertise. Do you think Michael Phelps’ coach is a faster swimmer than Phelps is? Look at Missy Franklin’s coach, Todd Schmitz (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303674004577434550791785644.html). Want to talk about the value of relationships? He started coaching her when she was 7. Before that he was a bar tender, waited tables and had a lawn mowing business. His coaching techniques differ greatly from Phelps’ coach. The important common factor? It’s not just about what you know, it’s what you can help kids accomplish and they do that through the strength of the bonds you forge. Great teachers, especially those who work with students for more than one course or year know this. Certainly coaches and drama teachers and band directors and language teachers know this. Their students become successful in life, not merely because the coach or teacher knows a lot. They bond with their students, not for days, but for years.

Forget tests that measure how much value a student has been able to add to a school with a year under a certain teacher. Instead, give me teachers who commit to their learners for the long run, who see their success in the long-term success of their students. I don’t want any student housed for a year with teachers who see their own role as achieving high success in getting students to respond to their proscribed curriculum. I want teachers who can forge long-term bonds with individuals and care about them so deeply and for so long that both student and teacher commit themselves to deep learning over time, filled with a sense of joy and excitement and success.

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A Look Back: Professional Organization Advocacy

I’m amazed by the energy that many of my colleagues are focusing on what they see as threats to their position/program/curricular design/department, etc.

I recently opened up an email from a very strong regional association of teachers of a certain discipline. The main thing on the front page was about their advocacy program. They are ready to go to battle for their members to restore shrinking budgets, reclaim lost positions, reinstate professional development funds . . . Well, you get the idea – “The future is here and we aren’t going to stand for it!”

Don’t get me wrong, I get it! I have seen and heard the fear on the faces of colleagues as positions are lost and programs are cut. These exact a high personal toll on folks and I can empathize with the feeling of powerlessness and loss that comes when one is cut adrift. However, I think we make a very grave error when we fail to understand that we won’t be going back. A new reality is upon us and a future filled with even more dramatic change is right behind.

Part of the new reality is found in the numbers – state and local budgets are shrinking for many reasons. Good grief, all over the countries libraries are being closed, street lights are being taken down and society’s most vulnerable are facing cuts that threaten their very ability to stay alive. It’s not that districts and states are choosing to redirect money that once went to certain school departments or materials, the money isn’t there!

But what’s amazing is the way these current drastic (and negative) changes are blinding many teachers to what is the real threat to the status quo. I’m always impressed with how hard working and dedicated teachers are. I’m not terribly impressed with the data about the success of the status quo, so I don’t look at threats to the current system as necessarily a bad thing. No, the real threat to the status quo is not political or even purely financial, it’s technological. Think of how much the world has changed in the last fifteen years. Schools and teachers no longer have the monopoly on anything. Want to learn a language, get online! You can choose any way to learn it that may appeal to you. You might choose a traditional course that is offered online so that you control time, place and pace. You might choose a totally audio approach, you might choose an iPod-based approach, you might go it alone and immerse yourself in news, music, video and film from one of the cultures of the targeted language. Need to learn algebra? Same thing, choose any way YOU want to learn, and in addition, you can choose things like the Khan Academy or a MMORPG-based course like the one from Florida Virtual (and yes, you can earn a “regular” school credit when you demonstrate the needed skill level. If you have other learning goals you may want to choose from the menus of a MOOC (a Massive Online Open Course). The point is, if I want or need to learn something, enrolling in a traditional course, with no control over the instructor, the content, the pace, the place or anything else would be at the very bottom of my list. And it’s not going to be long at all before every student and every parent understands that these choices already exist for them – they just haven’t found out that they could choose to take advantage of them.

It’s not declining budgets that are the threat to the systems of the past. It’s technology which will open wide the doors to new opportunities for learning.

Professional organizations that are looking at their futures and not their behinds, will understand that true responsibility to the membership consists of preparing and equipping them to be part of the wonders of the future, not the ongoing struggles of the past.

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Mastery Learning – I don’t buy it anymore

Mastery “Learning” – a few brief thoughts
January 18, 2011

Like many other things I used to take for granted in education, I recently began to question my blind acceptance of the term “mastery learning”.

Here are a few thoughts . . .

The notion of “mastery learning” is actually a wild concept when you step back from it. What do you really learn so completely as to master it? I don’t know of a single competitor in any field who would consider themselves as having “mastered” a field, be it tennis, golf, baseball, piano playing, or video-game playing. Those who succeed continue to practice and learn and push themselves. Mastery learning implies that you can reach an end with something – you’ve mastered it – now move on to the next thing. What a crazy notion!
Can a student in high school really master social studies, or chemistry, or French II? For goodness sakes, many of the things we think we would like them to “master” don’t even really exist. There is no such thing as Spanish III for instance, and there really isn’t any such thing as 7th grade math or even 8th grade algebra. All we have is a collection of items that an individual teacher or group of teachers has said compose a certain course.
I also am hard pressed to think of many things worth learning that are finite. I guess you could say that a student might “master” knowing the list of states and their capitals, or the alphabet, or the ability to put the numbers 1-100 in proper order, but aren’t the things we really want kids to master usually open ended? Could any college freshman “master” freshman composition?

While the concept of mastery learning may seem to focus on the learner, the way I have always understood the term actually turns out to be another example of our deeply embedded teacher-centered system. Mastery learning is used to describe a learner who has successfully responded to a narrow set of skills or concepts picked out by a teacher. It’s mastery responsiveness, not mastery learning.

I wish teachers would value mastery wondering above all, and its companion, mastery questioning. “Mrs. Smith, how far will the circles spread out from a pebble I drop in the lake behind my house?” “Mr. Goa, I know that on a summer day the sky looks really blue when I look up, but I can’t see any blue between my face and my hand, why not?” “Dr. Snow, can you help me figure out a way to get my rocket to soar an extra 100 feet so I have more time to use the remote camera I strapped on it?” Mr. McCue, I was wondering if poems about rockets are more popular if they subtly evoke rocket sounds.” Mrs. Cates, why do the hills in my neighborhood stop all of a sudden at Clark Street?”

Let’s move from talking about mastery learning and start encouraging mastery wondering.

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Technology as a Connection, not a Solution

Face Book posting, January 25, 2010 – 2:45 p.m.

I saw a piece in last week ASCD’s SmartLinks about SmartBoards and their effectiveness in the classroom. Many of you have heard me give my 2 rules for them – 1) Because they are a sizable investment (up to $5000) I would want them in use at least 50% of the time; 2) No teacher could touch them. I know, sounds counter intuitive, but the thought was that having students help learning occur via the Smartboards would have many benefits. Besides saving tons of money on PD for teachers, it would ensure deep student understanding of the concept by the students responsible for causing learning to occur that day, etc.

I made a comment on my FB page after posting the link to the ASCD story today and got some interesting reactions. Then as luck would have it, I watched a short video by Zak George. Now you may not have heard of him, but he works with dogs. One of the reasons I like him is because he stresses over and over that it’s not about control, it’s about the connection with your dog that is important, the “bond” that you have heard me talk about in referring to one of the great secrets in The Little Prince.

Zak was talking about discontinuing rewards once a “trick” is learned (Dan Pink would love this). In fact, he used the example that when you were in 2nd or 3rd grade you might have gotten a piece of candy from the teacher for learning your multiplication tables. By the time you are in 6th grade, that was certainly no longer the case. He said the whole point of the reward is not the focus on the behavior that is learned, but instead it’s a way to establish the connection and signify praise, pride and accomplishment of something new. That was when it hit me.

You have perhaps picked up on my observation that it’s all about relationships in the learning process – that’s what teachers (should) do best. Unfortunately, the relationship we hold to be most valuable is the one between the teacher and the content, and we see how the student reacts to that relationship. In a learning environment, the most important relationship should be between the teacher and the student, and the learning of content and skills is enabled by that relationship. The deeper it is, the more the child can and will learn.

This answered the technology question for me. We have made the same mistake there – we believe the untruth that the most important relationship is between the teacher and the technology, and then we see how the student reacts. Witness the huge investment in PD to help teachers understand how to use the newest technology. What we need to realize is that technology should be seen as just one more way to connect the teacher and the student. What’s the best way to use technology to connect with kids? I sure don’t think the answer is for the teacher to be the “guardian” of the technology, like the Wizard of Oz behind the screen moving the levers to impress Dorothy and her friends. If we recognize that technology is just one more way to connect to students, then teachers no longer need to feel like they have to be the expert, the guru, or the Wizard. They have the freedom to do what I originally suggested, turn the technology over to the student to use in accomplishing the goals. Don’t forget, Dorothy and company were not helped by the Wizard’s “technology”. They came to understand that it had been about relationships all along.

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“Time Warp” thinking in Education

Back in the days when we used to write checks, it was pretty common to get the year wrong in January. Force of habit. What amazes me is the way so many education leaders and thinkers seem to be stuck in a time warp and have trouble understanding that this isn’t 1970. We aren’t still writing checks by hand like we used to. Let me give you an example . . .

The headline “Rural Students” in the Report Roundup section of the January 6, 2010 edition of Education Week carries this pull quote immediately under it: “Students in Rural Schools Have Limited Access to Advanced Mathematics Courses.” Are you kidding? I mean, really, are you kidding? In the U.S. today there is ‘virtually’ no limit to access to any course.

What makes me angry is the real problem in 2010; namely, the unwillingness of teachers, schools, and districts to encourage and document learning when it occurs outside of their buildings or schedules. With internet access available at home, at school, at the public library, or elsewhere, the access is there! Why perpetuate the culture of dependence that has become so entrenched? Why do we hold onto the myth that the only learning that “counts” is what happens in 175 days from August to June – and only between 8 AM and 3 PM — and only from a “certified” teacher, and only when it occurs in a school building?

It is unacceptable that we continue to spread the myth that students lack access to opportunities for learning. This is 2010, not 1970, remember? It’s a bit like saying that students lack access to the latest video making the rounds on YouTube because the clip isn’t available on one of three channels that the student’s TV receives.

Students and parents need to begin demanding that schools understand that a new but important part of the educator’s role is to validate and document learning, no matter the time, the place or the source. While there may still be a few rare and isolated instances of pockets with no connection to the outside world, that is not the problem. The problem is systems that will not document learning when it occurs. We should be teaching students how to access the unbelievable learning resources available to them.

It’s 2010. The future’s ours, if we can free it!

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American Education — Race to the Top in a K-Car

This morning I was listening to a report on the opening of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. You know the scene, every year the car manufacturers get together to roll out their latest models, and congratulate one another with prizes.

It made me think back to what earlier auto shows must have been like. I checked out the website and learned that this was the 21st anniversary of the event going international. Hmmm that would have made it about 1989 when they realized that the world was changing. A bit late, perhaps, considering that in 1979 90% of the cars in America were actually made in America, but by 1989 the transition to a world economy was in full swing.

By 2005 over 60% of the US car market belonged to the Japanese alone. We all lament that the auto industry couldn’t see it coming, or if they did, they didn’t know what to do. If the “Big 3” had realized how the world was fundamentally changing would it have made a difference, or would they still have been trying as hard as they could to bring out those old “new” models every year?

That brings me to the K-Car, the vehicle that defined Chrysler during the 80’s. Google “K-Car” and you will be amazed. Initial articles make you scratch your head in wonder that we aren’t all still driving them. The reports make them sound pretty fantastic. Too bad the company officials kept busy improving a product that was farther and farther out of touch with the world and that was becoming more and more irrelevant to the consumer.

It’s easy to rail against the auto companies and wonder how they could have been so blind. The rest of the world was increasing industrial capacity by leaps and bounds at the same time as they were increasing the available manufacturing work force. This was accompanied by rapid technological advances in the industry, along with global communication and supply networks that were rendering old auto manufacturing models obsolete. Why couldn’t they see? Why didn’t they think to apply a litmus test when roaring through production of the K-Car? If they had asked if their basic business model was the same as it had been twenty years before while the rest of the world was fundamentally changing, they might have at least had a chance. But they were too busy building cars that fewer and fewer people actually wanted while congratulating themselves and handing out awards at the annual NAAS.

So is American education in a ‘Race to the Top in a K-Car’? Try the litmus test – Is there anything in the fundamental nature of the proposals in Race to the Top that could not have been done 20 years ago? No. For instance, look at the four school reform models: Turnaround; Restart; School Closure and Transformation. You’d think we were Rip Van Winkle, waking up after 20 years and picking up like nothing in the world had changed. Any of those 4 could have been done 20 years ago. Every single “new” initiative is based on the notion that school will still be the only acceptable place to acknowledge as a learning environment. But the world has fundamentally changed. Students are wired to one another and to the rest of the world in ways that we didn’t imagine even ten years ago. While there is, of course, mention of the use of technology scattered throughout the administration’s plans, I have yet to hear of one element that would really pass the litmus test. Ignore the changing world; get the new education K-Cars built!

Suppose a student “aces“ the mandatory state assessment in mathematics, but then it is discovered that the student did all of her work on her own, using her iPhone and home computer, studying with teachers and content experts and other students from around the world. Could that happen today? Of course! Are student’s today learning amazing things and producing amazing products outside of school? Of course! Is this a trend that will decrease as learning apps proliferate at geometric rates? Not on your life The world has changed! Mr Duncan, it’s not 1989!! So tell me, should the school get credit for that student’s assessment scores? You tell me. Better yet, tell Arnie Duncan, if you can find him. He will probably be awarding a “Race to the Top” school a ribbon for “Highest Achievement in a 19th Century Institution”. Maybe the winners in the Race To The Top should be given the “Chrysler Award”, in honor of a vanishing but cherished institution!

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Jan 2 2010 Supercoolschool

Face it. We used to be dependent on schools (public, private, or charter) to bring together the people and the resources that would make it possible for large numbers of kids to learn things. As time went on, schools made sure they had certified teachers and then “certified” learning in a host of mysterious ways (like A-F grades). Finally, the schools were themselves “certified”, thus closing the loop in a very tight way.

The only real challenge to that was homeschooling but for many reasons, historically, that didn’t account for many students.

We have a new set of realities to face. Now we have entered the “What if” age of education.

What if . . . any individual or group could organize a virtual school? They could certainly provide the content necessary for learning; and provide it in an endless variety of ways to a seemingly unlimited number of learners.

What if . . . there were lots of ways that learners could demonstrate their knowledge and abilities? Frankly, watching a kid on a YouTube video analyze the mathematics and physics of a skate board park she had designed and built would give me a much better clue as to what she knows than if she shows me a report card where she has a single letter grade from a teacher I don’t know in a school I have never heard of.

What if . . . it were possible for kids to learn and not have limits put on their expectations by class syllabi and teachers?

What if all this were possible today?

Would we still “need” schools? Would the public still be willing to pour billions and billions of tax dollars into public school systems with mediocre results?

What scares me is that this IS possible and possible today. If you need proof, check out www.supercoolschool.com. “Get started within a couple of clicks and create your next generation online school – educating others has never been easier!” With a couple clicks of a mouse you can try it free for a 30 day trial!

While there is much that I think needs to be changed in schools (public, private and charter) today, I am truly afraid of schools letting themselves become obsolete because of their inability to change. I am afraid of the ramifications of losing millions of talented teachers and administrators.

Someone remind me why I shouldn’t be afraid of the presence of the wonderful possibilities for learning that I described.

We need to remember what Jarvis said in What Would Google Do? Do what you do best, and outsource the rest! If schools and teachers are no longer the best content resource for anything (and honestly they aren’t in the age of the Net), then where is the real value? I think it’s in the ability of teachers to form long term relationships with learners (at least 3 years) and to take the responsibility of guiding kids to learning opportunities and then documenting learning no matter when, where, or from whom it occurs.

Challenging and exhilarating opportunities!

What if . . . the future is here?

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Supercoolschool

Face it. We used to be dependent on schools (public, private, or charter) to bring together the people and the resources that would make it possible for large numbers of kids to learn things. As time went on, schools made sure they had certified teachers and then “certified” learning in a host of mysterious ways (like A-F grades). Finally, the schools were themselves “certified”, thus closing the loop in a very tight way.

The only real challenge to that was homeschooling but for many reasons, historically, that didn’t account for many students.

We have a new set of realities to face. Now we have entered the “What if” age of education.

What if . . . any individual or group could organize a virtual school? They could certainly provide the content necessary for learning; and provide it in an endless variety of ways to a seemingly unlimited number of learners.

What if . . . there were lots of ways that learners could demonstrate their knowledge and abilities? Frankly, watching a kid on a YouTube video analyze the mathematics and physics of a skate board park she had designed and built would give me a much better clue as to what she knows than if she shows me a report card where she has a single letter grade from a teacher I don’t know in a school I have never heard of.

What if . . . it were possible for kids to learn and not have limits put on their expectations by class syllabi and teachers?

What if all this were possible today?

Would we still “need” schools? Would the public still be willing to pour billions and billions of tax dollars into public school systems with mediocre results?

What scares me is that this IS possible and possible today. If you need proof, check out www.supercoolschool.com. “Get started within a couple of clicks and create your next generation online school – educating others has never been easier!” With a couple clicks of a mouse you can try it free for a 30 day trial!

While there is much that I think needs to be changed in schools (public, private and charter) today, I am truly afraid of schools letting themselves become obsolete because of their inability to change. I am afraid of the ramifications of losing millions of talented teachers and administrators.

Someone remind me why I shouldn’t be afraid of the presence of the wonderful possibilities for learning that I described.

We need to remember what Jarvis said in What Would Google Do? Do what you do best, and outsource the rest! If schools and teachers are no longer the best content resource for anything (and honestly they aren’t in the age of the Net), then where is the real value? I think it’s in the ability of teachers to form long term relationships with learners (at least 3 years) and to take the responsibility of guiding kids to learning opportunities and then documenting learning no matter when, where, or from whom it occurs.

Challenging and exhilarating opportunities!

What if . . . the future is here?

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