Yesterday, I had an energetic discussion on FB with some friends prompted by this:

I know many gifted tchrs + admins (some right here on FB) who are in environments that do not represent an optimal model of learning + who are looking for something better. Couldn’t we all get together + start a new, better school? (Yes, I know about charter schools but there are also opportunities in public ed.) Am I naive or do we lack imagination or willpower or something else?

Part of the dialogue that ensued had to do with what authority such a new school might be founded under: public school, charter school, private school, online school, hybrid, or something else.

Here are things I think are incompatible with sound public education: corporations driven by quarterly profits, publicly-elected leadership boards, and unions and/or tenure. But I am a big believer in and supporter of public education.

I’ve written before about the opportunities for reform that I think online and blended learning present to public education. People in the know seem to think that public schools are not in the position to seize this opportunity. If you haven’t seen it, Pearson and others seem to be moving quickly to capitalize.

If there is a market for this for big publishers, there is surely a niche for small groups focused on higher quality.

One big question I have is how the two roles of facilitating learning and babysitting will be divided up in the new blended world. Much has been written about the role of schools as “holding tanks.” Even if consensus could be gained that babysitting should not be schools’ role, few parents have the ability or will to supervise their children all day while they attend online school.

So if we could devise a better school online, who is in a good position to deal with the “babysitting” problem? This is especially challenging in a decentralized environment with many isolated rural families. Some possible answers: corporate day care centers (especially ones that already have infrastructure in place…Sylvan, etc.), community organizations, co-ops of parents, existing public schools. Other than post offices, it is difficult to think of organizations with physical infrastructures that outstrip public schools.

I agree with my friend Sue who has said that this situation calls for some real out of the box thinking. What are your out of the box ideas?

[And for regular readers who might wonder what this has to do with mobile technology, this seems to me to be a given in any sort of curriculum-driven reform effort, as well as for online/blended learning.]

Thinking out of the box

2 thoughts on “Thinking out of the box

  • December 19, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    You are on target, in my view, to think we can do better than we are doing. We are continuing, in most cases, to prepare information-age students for the industrial age.
    I believe politics has ruined public education–now perhaps beyond repair. Ignorance, lack of imagination, ‘commitment’ to status quo (including, but not limited to the belief that real learning can be measured by standardized tests), lack of vision, and the grossly mistaken notion that only the schools, perhaps only the teachers should be held accountable for student learning.
    Online learning or a hybrid of online learning and classroom learning could be successful. However, for online learning to be successful, we must have decisions as to which sites to allow made by people who deliver instruction. By continuing to block learning sites, continuing to ban cell phones, etc. we are continuing to inhibit learning and the desire to learn.
    Outside the box thinking: What if we had students high school age (perhaps even younger) involved in the decision-making process regarding the opportunities for and methods of learning we practice? What if we stopped trying to measure success in learning by seat time?
    I am not sure how to generate interest and resources for teaching students what they need to learn for the future they will face, rather than preparing them for the ‘future’ we faced, but I do know that if we keep doing what we have always done, we can expect to get the result we have always experienced.
    It is my hope, Karen, that you will continue to pursue the generation of interest in providing students the learning experiences they need for success. Thank you.

  • December 19, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    I am excited about the idea of a hybrid elementary school that takes babysitting needs of parents into account. I can envision a library-like open space with online laptops and ipads as well as hands-on exploratory materials in math, puzzles, art and music. In that space could be non-credentialed people (college tutors, aides, paraprofessionals, etc) that would be available to spark conversation, help students with materials, technology, and even learning problems. It would be a relatively unstructured space where children could move about based upon interests. In that space, students could access online instruction and could be assisted, where needed, by non-credentialed people in charge of supervision. From this space, teachers could come and collect varied sets of students for areas of instruction in classrooms or learning spaces nearby.

    In this way, babysitting would be provided (since parents have become dependent upon the babysitting services of schools), but it would not interfere with teaching priorities. Teachers could serve students at given times in varied parameters, and online computer assisted learning could occur as well.

    What do you think?


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