While researching innovative approaches to educating our children, I came across a pilot project that was run this past summer at a single school in New York City. It’s been dubbed “School of One,” and the approach is very similar to the types of things I mentioned as possibilities in “The Textbook of the Future?” To quote this New York Times article:
The program […] consists mainly of students working individually or in small groups on laptop computers to complete math lessons in the form of quizzes, games and worksheets. Each student must take a quiz at the end of each day; the results are fed into a computer program to determine whether they will move on to a new topic the next day.
Now, he added, “we’re looking in a way that I don’t think anyone has looked at — at the way children learn, pacing them at their own pace, all of it tied to the mastery of content and skill and achievement.”
Once the students arrive at school, they receive their individual playlists identifying the lessons they have to complete for the day, which could involve virtual tutoring online, computer worksheets or small-group lessons with a classroom teacher.
This is exactly the type of thing I think we should be moving toward! If done right, School of One should ensure that all students get the education they need, via the best learning style for them, and by the end of the year all of the students should have had the chance to complete all of the core curriculum along with, hopefully, some bonus activities based on their interests. One child that participated in this program actually said that the educational games he played making solving mathematical equations fun! Imagine that!
If you pair up my vision of the future textbook with School of One, with a little additional effort and funding I think you have a solid base for the future of education. In the article, an HR professional for the New York City school where this took place said that running schools this way should cost about the same as running a school the way it’s done now. Many detractors of moving to more technology-focused schools claim that costs would be much higher — that may not hold up after all!
In fact, many of the things that schools traditionally pay a lot of money for are available for free, as pointed out by The Innovative Educator. Chief among them – Microsoft Live@edu and Google Apps for Education. Both are completely free (as in puppies). A school using Google Apps can provide word processing, spreadsheet, website building and presentation software along with e-mail completely free to students and teachers! Just make sure the Internet connection is up and running (or install Google Gears for offline access).
I guess the chief reason for this post is to point out that things are happening despite the naysayers. School of One is exactly what I hope my son will experience when he begins school. With some luck, funding and pressure from parents, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for those of us who believe that the continuous evolution of major systems is the only way forward.