Jon for President!!

Transforming Education

We are on the cusp of a new era. There can and should be a giant leap forward in knowledge, humanization, and creativity. It is within our reach to let “shooting stars” shine and rescue at-risk children. It’s all about utilizing the vast amount of classroom space that already exists and cultivating respect, which is the springboard for all empowered teaching.

These will be some of the things you will see
if the above is to be realized:

• 12 hour campuses (if not 18 or 24 hour).

• Extra "credit" (as in college financial credit) for deeper investigation of existing coursework OR separate investigation of student’s own choice (both via standardized computer teaching programs).

• Homework must be submitted on disk/flashdrive only (or by internet); recorded surveillance of halls and classrooms (at teacher’s election).

• A complete embracing of the Humanities (art, music, history, drama, and literature).

• Students and teachers tested for learning and teaching styles for which matches will be cultivated and a curricula database can be accessed; Attendance or Jail mandatory.

Actually I could keep going. It’s fun. But not very persuasive.  So, to flesh out the above, let’s write a story. We’ll call it “A Day in the Life”. We will use the “diary” format.

5:30 am – I HATE getting up so early!

7:05 am – Had an Egg MacMuffin with mom before we got to school. Nice. I guess I could be taking the bus to school, but when mom takes me on her way to work, it’s pretty cool.
Got to put some finishing touches on that science report before class starts, so off to the Media Center.

9:45 am – Mr. Green’s class is such a gas! They should package this guy. Actually, I think they are. I saw the good cameras installed in his room. They only do that when a teacher achieves over 40,000 student approval points. I think that’s great. A guy like Mr. Green SHOULD be shared with the world, even if only in a projection room.

12:10 pm – Mr. Harris was not so good today. I’m glad I can go to his website to review what he intended to cover today. He has one of few sites that has hotlinks for further study, which is cool enough, but he also interlaces it with unrelated factoids and the world’s stupidest knock-knock jokes. I like Mr. Harris.

12:55 pm – Good lunch. I like the buffet format. They say that’s the way it is done on cruise ships, namely, all you want to eat / anytime you want to eat. The big difference is that at school they won’t let you go back for seconds, you’re only allowed 2 plates a day, and wasted food will cost you one of those plates. Meet the Unofficial President of the Clean Plate Club… me.

1:30 pm – I used to think Art was for sissies, until I started taking Mrs. Gleanor’s class. We not only do things, but we also see things and go places (in virtual reality). She has such a wealth of interesting information. I never knew that many artists are left-handed, and that being left-handed indicates the dominance the right side of the brain, which controls creativity. I might be more talented than I knew. I’ll check this out later after classes.

1:47 pm – I HATE those fascist, Orwellian, invasion-of-privacy spy cams that the school has in the halls. (But I love that I know how to use some of the words I learned in history, literature, and political science class.)

3:30 pm – Aaaaah, the end of scheduled classes. Now comes the hardest part. Decision time! I’ve got  3 and a half hours to blow before the late bus leaves. It’s not possible to skip out or I’ll end up like those suckers in jail down the hall. I can’t imagine what it’s like being locked up in a room with an attendant with no desks or chairs or clock or nothing. Just doing time until your penalty is up. Bad scene.
Anyway, my contract calls for my remaining at school till 7 pm for MWF. I think I’ll talk with mom to see if she will make it all five days a week next term. It’s easier on her, and there’s way too much cool stuff to do here.
First, I think I’ll get the homework out of the way. That means Media Center for an hour. Then, I’ll go out to the Phys. Ed. Field and see what’s going on. The nerds will be in the different “Extra Credit Nodules”. The couch potatoes will be watching a history movie or something in one of the projector rooms. The slow learners will be watching Mr. Green in another projection room (or in the Media Center from one of the hundreds of other teachers who have been recorded from across the country). The socialites will be webcasting to China (or is it Lithuania this week?) The moneymongers will be hiring themselves out for room monitoring or tutoring the underclassmen (when the money is available). Marching Band will be marching. Science Club will be blowing things up. To tell the truth, it’s good to be in school.

 

Wistful imaginings? Or is it a future that is affordable, achievable, and desirable? When I think of education, my mind explodes with the possibilities that computers and the internet should be contributing. Affordable realities. Customizable realities. I’ll leave you with one more thought.

Back in college, I remember a study that was done to show the “wisdom of the body”. They took two groups of kids and let them have anything they wanted to eat, whenever they wanted to eat. The only difference was that one group had only healthy food to choose from whereas the other group was allowed to include junk food choices along with the healthy choices. Of course, the junk fooders put on weight and manifested various behavioral problems.

But the healthy choicers were a surprise. They typically binged on certain foods and neglected others. Nevertheless, over time, they ate a balanced diet.

I think human learning is like that. As long as there are no “junk choices” (video games, pulp TV shows), people will migrate to their areas of interest, and go on to their areas of excellence. School should be such a place where this happens. Teachers WANT to teach. Give them some disciplinary teeth, an array of curricula to choose from for each subject, and some streamlining of the work flow via computer assistance, and WATCH OUT!

May I recommend some specific ideas:

• A National Teachers Curricula Database Site which will offer at least 10 different daily lesson plans for any given subject for any given grade; ditto that for tests; boiler-plate web pages for same (customizable); and organize all this (this is a Biggie) based on the textbook being used. (Actually, the textbook publisher who provides this information will likely get a school system’s order.)

• Someone needs to start amassing and creating educational computer programs that will also test and evaluate the subject matter covered with an eye towards assigning a standard unit of credit which can be: 1) Converted into college financial credits, or 2) Can be used to contribute to that student’s minimum credits necessary for graduation, or 3) Can be used as extra credit to raise a GPA (based on a teacher’s assignment)

• Get those cameras rolling (meaning: USB cams, multi-channel recorders, simple zoom/edit/record features… all available now, but made affordable for small schools). Recorded surveillance is a sure cure for student and teacher safety. But remember, Jail not Expulsion! Moreover, Mr. Green has some residuals awaiting him if his lesson is replayed in other venues.

• Connectivity is a real issue for a school’s main computer, the teacher’s gradebook program, and the student’s homework and test submittals. Forget about internet functionality (and security). Put it all together, price it low, make it easy (intuitive)… they will come. I might include a handheld scanner for quick entry of test answers.

• The world is waiting for someone to provide public domain virtual tours of historic places, museums, and art galleries. One piece of the puzzle has already been solved, namely, inexpensive broadband. But who will go to the Taj Mahal and St. Vito’s Cathedral (and 10,000 other places) to do the recording? (Actually a virtual Taj Mahal exists, but it’s not that good.) 
What do you think the world will do with such access? What do you think a teacher can do with such a resource (on her projector screen)? Ditto that for on-demand educational movies and lectures. Ditto that for charts, illustrations, and pictures based on lesson plans.

 

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