Blueprint for a new kind of school

In the first F2F meeting of Concordia Chicago‘s EDT 6060 (on the future of instructional design) we had a discussion spurred by this brief history of Instructional Technology over the last century in the USA.

The questions we posed after viewing it were:  Why are classrooms today so much like those of 100 years ago? and What needs to change?  So I was able to offer my vision of a blended, open school that uses open-source  personalized computer based learning, small-group learning projects, and large group speaking and listening. (See this , this  this post for previous wikinesses on the future of schools.)  
Some of Thomas Edison’s “vision-eering” for education

I painted them the quick picture: inside the bricks-and-mortar high school building, we bust through a large number of classroom walls, and create an open, adaptable learning space with chairs and tables and ubiquitous, hi-speed wifi. Every kid has an IEP and  their day is spent working through self-paced learning modules, small-group and large group projects, meaningful PE, and just enough structure and community that everyone felt part of something important, but not so much stricture that anyone’s natural learning potential would be inhibited. There would be parallel learning–kids helping kids–and the school year would be extended right through the summer months.  In some regards, the San Francisco Flex Academy resembles this high school of the future. And one of the reasons my “new school model” would tip would be economic–it would cost less.
My cohort’s collective power to polish and correct my profferred vision then took place–classmates suggesting that my model would not work for those without intrinsic motivation or self-discipline; that it would be best to grandfather such an approach in from the grammar schools up; that at-risk kids would pose the same challenges; and that getting this over the faculty would be the biggest challenge.

But without vision, the people perish, so let me offer here some initial thoughts on the foundations of such a new school model–a sketchy blueprint, if you will, of a new charter school model.

First, its constitutional creed–its statement of first principles, self-evident truths upon which the school will be built. Who would not agree to these would not be among our founders:

  • that all children can learn, according to their own potentials and individual talents; that they learn without respect to arbitrary, externally-imposed age-levels
  • that learning needs to take place individually, in small-groups, and in large group settings
  • that for maximal learning,  children need supportive, stable community of adults including teachers, community members, adminstrtors, and parents who will nurture his/her maximal growth and development
  • that education is at the heart of a society, and needs to reflect, develop, and perpetuate the best social values
  • that all children require regular, rigorous outdoor education

We would also adopt as essential learning activities and conditions (but not exculsively) these,

  • mandatory community service
  • no building/class size larger than 150
  • mandatory work/internships for higher grades (a vocational focus)
  • outdoor P.E. 
  • a communal, school garden from which food is served and to which school compost is contributed
  • Internet communications
  • mandatory vocational skills classes like computer programming, carpentry, agriculture, plumbing, basic engineering

If it serviced children from impossible (that is, toxic to education) neighborhoods, then perhaps the school would be residential.

And you’ll notice I don’t mention standardized tests, but the idea is that if the school is doing basic literacy and numeracy (“the power standards”) in addition to these founding conditions, the tests scores will be strong.

Would you help found this new charter, wikiness reader? What ideas would you include in the school of the future?

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