Friday, October 16, 2009

Why we need a new school model

I was sitting in the Staff Room of Lisgar Collegiate Institute the other day and the conversation turned to the stresses and expectations placed on teachers by the students. In particular, one French teacher commented on how hard it is to teach when, in a class of 25 or so, you have a half dozen students who complete work quickly and ask for more while at the same time you have a half-dozen students who are struggling with the material and need help.

Thinking about this conversation supported my belief that the school model needs to change to allow more individualized instruction. In particular, I think we need to use computers and other technologies to make it possible for students to learn at their own pace. There is no reason other than practicality that all students in a course have to take 5 months (in a semestered system) to learn the material. The reality is some students can learn the material in a month or two and other students may need 7 or eight months. Putting everybody on a 5 month time frame bores the most talented students and forces the weakest students to struggle. This is not a recipe for good education.

Here are some quotes from a speech by Jeb Bush reported on the EdReformer blog. I am no Bush fan of any kind, but what Jeb is saying makes sense and fits with what I have seen about the education system.
" an individualized system, students wouldn’t necessarily take the same test on the same day. Testing would occur when a student had mastered the required skills."
"...students could take more advanced classes and dually enroll in college before even graduating from high school."
"How could we possibly do this for 50 million students? We need to harness technology to tailor lessons to each child’s learning style and ability. This concept was only a dream a generation ago. Now it can be accomplished."
"We have the ability to create the iTunes of the education world where teachers and students could access rich and rigorous content from different sources to create a learning experience that meets the individual needs of the students."
"Technology wouldn’t replace the teacher but it would redefine their role. Lectures might be given online to thousands of students, while classroom teachers might become more like coaches or tutors available to provide one-on-one support, again based on whatever the student needed."

When I agree with Jeb Bush society needs to pay attention. The model of schooling and education in North America needs to be modified and updated.

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