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Thursday, March 3, 2011

21st Century Schools

The impact of technology on our institutions is a fact that is recognized in our day to day lives. Online banking, email, online music and yes even blogging as a way to communicate. But some institutions are slower to adapt than others. If you walked into a school in the mid 1800's and walked into a school today what would you notice? Of course there would be differences but the one commonality would be that most of the instruction is being done by a teacher standing in front of a class of 25 or 30 students. With the technology of the 1850's this might have made sense but is it the primary model that is best in the 21st century? Is the school calendar which was developed in our agricultural past with the need to have students off in the summers to help on farms still the calendar that we should be following when it isn't the reality for almost all students today? Report after report have shown the negative impact of the summer break on student learning.

Anyone who has had multiple children has seen how differently each child learns. How often do you hear that a child is a "visual learner" or an "hands on learner." Is the present classroom set up for these learners? What would our results be if the schools used a model of learning pods for different learning styles than mostly classrooms with teachers speaking to 25 students? Would this model excite more students with school if they had the choice of how they learned? Now what I would expect to hear from school administrators and teachers is that they have these types of learning experiences now but I wonder if it is "adaptation around the edges" as opposed to a real revolution in how schools operate. What maybe driving the charter school movement is that they are not tied to a model just because that is the way it has always been done.

I approach this topic as a life long student and parent of children who have been fortunate to have had excellent experiences with Howard County schools. But I have also seen how Howard County seems to be moving in a direction with some high performing schools and others performing far below the average County standards. Are we becoming "two Howard Counties" when it comes to our schools? The Tech Magnet concept has been tried to create more diversity in our high schools. Maybe new individualized learning schools would be another way to have diversity of students that would strengthen some of our lower performing schools.

I have seen the dedication and excellence of Howard County teachers and school administrators. I would be interested in getting their input on this topic. If you know teachers and administrators let them know about this blog and ask them to comment. Of course they can do so without using their real names! I am recommending a site for a program called School of One that shows one new model.

1 comment:

Anne said...

I'm definitely interested in a re-imagining of how we educate our children. Finding a way to better work with individual learning differences would be enormous.