centers for continual learning

Will · Creating "Centers for Continual Learning"
I actually had a conversation around that recently with Joel Backon, the Director of IT at Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut. And while there’s nothing inherently new about this idea, the way Joel framed it made a lot of sense. And it centers around this basic question: In a world where we have access to so much information and knowledge, where technology is providing more and more personalized learning environments for our students that are of quality and high engagement, do we really need to meet with our students five days a week, face to face, in physical space? In other words, could we work toward a model that allows students to work independently for let’s say one day a week, thus freeing teachers up to do the important work of unlearning and relearning either on their own or with their colleagues? Can a blended learning solution that takes advantage of all the Web affords perhaps make the Google “20% time” idea a possibility in schools?
Victorian ideas of motivation, behavior training, and the value of central planning have been overturned by the many new innovations and ideas of the 20th, and now 21st, century. But our institutions remain stuck in structures and habits that are Victorian and are clearly not working.

I blog about the structural principle of compulsory attendance and how that has effectively cut out the family, the one force that would prove a counterweight to institutional expansion and help focus support on the child.  Clearly, ending compulsory attendance at a stroke would be a huge hurdle especially when we have a flawed funding system, dependent on the mandate.  But awareness of this structural issue could help us ensure that educational reforms move us in the right direction.

Will's Richardson's ideas about 20% of time are one way of beginning that journey. Richardson couches the choice in terms of teachers and one can infer a sort of computer-at-home day coming out of this. If parents could not choose that day or time, it could add stress to families. But if the kids could get more than an offsite shunting to a computer and get 20% of time with a real choice of what they do, like at Google, the results might be quite amazing. Even those that did "nothing" but play outside, get exercise, rest, sleep, meditate or daydream, cook and eat real food, even these laggards (italized for sarcasm) would show real improvement.

We need to move to a decentralized, open access system where the families are the ones driving what choices are made. Opening up and providing real choices for students in every school would be a start on moving toward a full learning services model.
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