Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Thursday, 19 July 2012
Monday, 16 January 2012
A telling quotation from the 2004 program evaluation on charter schools in the United States. The failure to offer something comprehensively different to that which already exists can probably be held as the number one failure of the structure. If there is no quantifiable difference in instructional strategies between Charater Schools and traditional forms of schooling then why support the the higher cost model during economic downturns?
"Instructional Strategies. While charter schools have the opportunity to use alternative instructional strategies (e.g., distance learning), 91 percent of the charter schools surveyed in 2001-02 used classroom based instruction as their primary instructional delivery method"
Friday, 12 August 2011
“What we’re moving toward,” Horn says, “is the realization that if our expectation is to educate every single child successfully, then we need structures that can individualize and personalize, and there’s no way to do it in the way we have historically approached this.” (Davis)
We need options. It seems that digital access offers learners the freedom and resources they need to maximize their learning potential. But, what about those among us for whom the digital age symbolizes a loss of the tactile and a disconnect with the real world around us?
Aside from the reams of information and entertainment offered by Internet access, the increasingly sedentary lifestyle partly attributable to our global addiction to the screen – what about the learner who just doesn’t connect with computers? What about the notion of Nature Deficit Disorder? What about all of the research and writing that went into books like Nabhan and Trimble’s The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places, Richard Louv’s Lost Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder or Kahn and Kelhert’s Children and Nature. Add critiques of our techno dependence like Neil Postman’s Technolopy: The Surrender of Culture to Technology and we are struck with a serious conundrum.
Should our schools be incorporating more or less digital media?
Students need digital access and some need more face time and others need time to go home and work in isolation. This has been well known and applied in a variety of ways since Gardner's multiple intelligences came along thirty years ago.
But what about these other aspects? MOOC's and e-learning and workstations are fantastic but what happened to that notion of educating the 'whole child', a catchphrase so popular during the 90's?
The NexGen ultimate tour is now complete and it is worth taking another look at their model of expedition education, if only as a reminder of the soft values that the digital age can easily overlook.
Interviewed after their fifteenth and last game, George Stubbs captures the elusive nature of goal-setting.
Clearly education happened, yet the goals from the outset were murky.
"How is this being paid for? How’s the bus going to work? What are the details? At some point I just sort of trusted him, and I think that’s what everyone did."
The NexGen team begain their tour 3 - 6 and finished 8 - 7. They evolved as a team and through travel, challenging themselves by raising expections, through peer teaching they ended the tour not only better ultimate players, but as Stubbs says, "better people".
"We’ve made lifelong friends, we’ve all become better ultimate players…we’re all thrilled with it and I think every single person on the tour would say the same thing."
"None of us knew what exactly to expect other than that it was going to be a ton of fun and that’s exactly what it was. We’re all better people for it."
Stubbs has difficulty articulating his growth over the month. It can by mystifying to clearly establish the learning goals and assessment of 'personal growth'. Surely, leadership skills and co-operation were fundamental.
In many ways NexGen reminds us of the importance of experiences like residential summer camps and outdoor centres. Camp Wenonah near Bracebridge, Ontario whose mission statement, "Providing opportunities that develop a healthy respect and appreciation for one's self and others and for the natural world", admonishes us not to neglect those soft skills that remain crucial, even within the educational shift brought on by the digital age.
Tuesday, 9 August 2011
For decades educators have been searching for ways to individualize education, researching methods for students to explore their own interests at their own pace. Unfortunately, our traditional structure of education makes this difficult. Even Vinny Chase from Entourage understands that we do not all learn the same, nor do we all have the same learning objectives,
Vince: So, how’s it look?
E: Your grammar’s horrible.
Vince: Who cares?
E: We were in the same class since we were six,
it’s shocking to me that you can’t punctuate.
Vince: E – it’s all stream of consciousness.
Turtle: You can’t really spell either Vinn.
E: No, it isn’t.
Johnny: It’s O-l
E: No, it isn’t
Johnny: So says you.
E: Are you guys all illiterate? Mrs. Carbonne would
shoot herself if she could hear this.
Although traditional schooling worked for E., apparently Mrs. Carbonne’s English class was not able to address the learning needs, or perhaps learning interests of Vince, Johnny or Turtle. Maybe Mrs. Carbonne needed a more constructivist approach. Maybe Mrs. Carbonne needed a structure that applied some of the concepts of blended learning.
Blended learning generally refers to incorporating online learning into traditional brick-and-mortar schools to create hybrid learning experiences for students. It has been happening for a long time in a multitude of ways. The Carpe Diem Charter school in Arizona claims many successes through their blended learning model. Their particular structure tries to solve a part of a riddle that frustrates many educators, namely that “students are losing the motivation to learn.” If we ignore the suggestion that students all used to be excited about school, we are left with the notion of motivation. No doubt Vincent Chase had the same issues as a student.
Carpe Diem school claims to understand that, “nobody learns the same subject area at the same pace or with the same abilities”. They claim to ‘de-systematize’ everything.
After watching the Carpe Diem promotion video, cost and funding questions leap to mind, despite the convincing chart. Surely this must cost a fortune. However, Jay P. Greene, author of Education Myths claims that they have simply juggled the traditional funding model.
“Carpe Diem has successfully substituted technology for labor. With seven grade levels and 240 students they have only 1 math teacher and one aide who focuses on math. Covering 6-12 and 240 students and getting the best results with a demographically challenging student body = no problem for Carpe Diem. Their founder, Rick Ogston, told me they use less staff than a typical model, and have cash reserves in the bank despite relatively low per pupil funding in AZ. They have never received support from philanthropic foundations, making due with state funding…” (Greene)
In many ways Carpe Diem impresses. As blended learning models continue to emerge, we must hope that governments do not insist on adopting a standard program for every school in the province, but instead embrace the multitude of possibilities to suit the needs of the diverse communities around the country. Ontario’s ‘Homework Help Initiative’, offering free math help online to students in school divisions across the province is a step in the right direction. Undoubtedly more of this is to follow.
Is money better spent on machines that people? Carpe Diem seems to think so. This sounds like a tough sell to teacher unions across the country, but the educational accountants in Alberta can attest: When the economy suffers, it is easier to stop buying computers than stop paying teachers.
Wednesday, 3 August 2011
The movies and the stage are vastly different mediums, often identified by film’s ability to transcend time and place versus the physical presence of the actors in theatre. It would be hard to argue against the success of film over the past century. The talkies have become an unbelievably lucrative business while theatre, with few exceptions, relies on philanthropy for its survival.
Friday, 29 July 2011
If we agree that the alternative also has to respond to Gatto’s six lessons - we must consider the MOOC:
But Mr. Gatto 5/6 - it looks like the MOOC has got you covered.