Archive for 'New Schools'

iPods in the Classroom

Posted on 09. Oct, 2007 by kareem.

From the NYTimes: In Some Schools, iPods Are Required Listening:

Grace Poli, a media specialist at José Martí, said that she approached district officials about buying 23 iPods for an after-school bilingual program in 2004 after being struck by students’ passion for them. Spanish-speaking students seemed bored by their English-language textbooks, she said, which they found outdated and irrelevant.

Ms. Poli said her Spanish-speaking students — known around the school as Pod People — have been able to move out of bilingual classes after just a year of using the digital devices, compared with an average of four to six years for most bilingual students.

It’s phenomenal to see educators teaching using technology and methods other than osmosis. It’s a small but important step that marks the change that formalized learning is going to see in the next 5-10 years.

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Some EduLinks for you…

Posted on 07. Oct, 2007 by kareem.

Some stories that we’ve been reading lately…

Parents must do homework, too — or kids’ grade may suffer:

So far, Mr. Frye, an English teacher at Montclair High School, has asked the parents to read and comment on a Franz Kafka story, Section 1 of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and a speech given by Robert F. Kennedy in 1968… If the parents do not comply, Mr. Frye tells them, their child’s grade may suffer — a threat on which he has made good only once in the three years he has been making such assignments.

UC Berkeley puts lectures on YouTube (YouTube link):

Berkeley officials claimed in a statement that the university is the first to make full course lectures available on YouTube. The school said that over 300 hours of videotaped courses will be available at

Why I’m homeschooling my kid in science next year:

in Colorado, all students are required to take the Colorado Student Aptitude Test (CSAP), as part of the Leave Every Child Behind Act. This means that all school year until March, but especially from January to March, my kids are getting immersed in that test. The teachers do NOTHING ELSE but teach that test.

Then, after March, when the pressure is off, the teachers pretty much coast through April, May and the first part of June. This is the only time when my kids have a real chance at getting a useful education, and it’s wasted because “Whew, we’re done with that test.”

The CSAP is the only thing that is actually measured, so everything else, like the actual education itself, is ignored.

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Are schools necessary?

Posted on 23. Aug, 2007 by jon.

It’s been a while since we’ve posted so I figured I’d chime in with a provocative title. (BTW, little to no blog posting usually means we’re getting lots of work done so that’s generally a good thing.). Anyway, was pondering today the future of schools and whether they are really necessary and relevant. Absurd? Perhaps…but consider the following 10 points:

1. Think about what happened to banks. 50 years ago it would have been difficult to imagine not going to a bank to withdraw money, make deposits, etc. Nowadays, with the exception of a few oddball things, most of us never visit a bank. We’ve found that technology can do a much better (or at least a more efficient and cost-effective) job of servicing most needs than human beings can. This increases the convenience factor, reduces the cost structure for banks and gets us out of having to stand in that annoying line on Friday afternoons. Certainly teaching children and performing financial transactions are different activities but I wonder if there aren’t at least a few parallels here.

2. Over one million students in the U.S. are now home-schooled. That represents a very significant percentage of our population who have answered this question “No.” The rise in homeschooling is an interesting trend because it is self-reinforcing. The more parents homeschool their kids the easier it is for additional parents to homeschool. My cousin homeschools his seven (yes, seven :)) kids and they’ve been very encouraged by the increased acceptance of homeschooling and resources geared towards people who make this choice for their children.

3. Schools are the product of a by-gone era. If you wanted to train people to work on a farm or on a shop floor what kinds of skills and behaviors would you try to instill? You’d want people to learn conforming behavior (don’t ask a question unless you raise your hand, ask permission for everything you do), have a lot of attention to detail, “color inside the lines” and generally not raise to much of a ruckus (which is the surest way to get labeled ADD and put on Ritalin. Of course, it’s this behavior that is exactly what schools teach. Anyone else see more than a little problem with this? The skills demanded in today’s society are much different than those demanded 50 years ago. Yet schools have changed precious little during this time.

4. Schools don’t teach technology. Perhaps the biggest reason for the growing gap between rich and poor is the ability to understand and utilize technology. Let’s put it this way. If you’re a young person and don’t get how e-mail works your ability to land a well-paying job is next to nil these days. The problem here is that schools don’t really teach technology. Sure, you’ll have the occasional CAD class or web design skills class on the docket but I’d venture to say that 99% of the technology kids learn is done outside the classroom environment. They figure out how to e-mail, IM, social network, etc. on their own. This makes schools much less relevant than in the past where the only way to learn the important stuff was in the classroom.

5. Schools don’t do all that great of a job of teaching positive socialization. A common argument against homeschooling is that kids won’t learn proper social skills. However, that assumes that schools do a good job teaching proper social skills when in reality that’s not often the case. Schools definitely produce kids who know how to bully and tease and give in to peer pressure. They do a less than stellar job of teaching leadership, emotional intelligence and teamwork. I’d offer that extracurricular activities like sports, drama, music and arts programs do a *much* better job of this. However, schools are not a necessary component here as many homeschooled kids who play on area sports teams and belong to clubs could attest to.

6. Knowledge changes ridiculously fast nowadays. In the past, people could graduate from college and become a teacher and rest assured that they wouldn’t have to learn all that much more in the future to do their job adequately. Today? Not the case unless you are teaching basic skills. Instead, knowledge refreshes ridiculously fast. Want examples of that? Watch this video:

7. Teachers aren’t prepared for that rate of change. I’d love to be all Pollyanna-ish and pretend that a relatively high number of the best and brightest people in our society decide to become teachers. However, the numbers just don’t back that up. For example, check this out:

(GRE) scores of future elementary school teachers fall near the bottom of all test takers, with GRE scores 100 points below the national average. Source

Sure, the GRE isn’t a perfect predictor of intelligence but wouldn’t it make sense for society that our best and brightest and the one imparting wisdom to future generations. Sadly, that’s not happening. Not even close.

8. The quality of free educational materials is nearing and will likely soon surpass the quality of traditional educational materials. Teachers use material (e.g., textbooks) they feel most comfortable with. That worked pretty well up until the last few years. However, with things like Wikipedia arriving quickly on the scene that doesn’t work so well anymore. Textbooks are next. Some teachers welcome Wikipedia and will adopt other new things quickly. However, many more are resistant to change. As the quality of non-traditional materials improves and surpasses that of traditional materials students learning from the latter will receive an inferior education to those learning from the former.

9. Schools simply don’t work. Here’s a fun (or not so fun depending on how you look at it) stat for you: Of every 100 ninth-graders, only 68 graduate high school on time and only 18 make it through college on time (Source). We don’t tolerate mediocrity like this in any other industries. So why do we so with what is arguably the most important sector of society. Complacency might be one reason. For years the U.S. has been at the top of the economic heap. Now as the world’s economy gets more competitive than it’s ever been (China and India: Enter stage left.) we’re rapidly falling behind (e.g., China and India collectively graduate 12 times more engineers than does the United States). The big problem is that we won’t figure out that we’ve lost the race until it’s too late to do anything about it. I’m the last person to be territorial or ethnocentric but I feel bad to think of the missed opportunities for people in the U.S. because they didn’t receive a good enough education.

10. There will be better alternatives. I know people who are building them. We’re building one. I’m not suggesting that EduRev or any of the other companies that see incredible stagnation in a $2 trillion industry as a big opportunity for financial gain and positive social impact will necessarily single-handedly makes schools obsolete. However, I think collectively the landscape for education will be much, much different in 20 years than it is today. Given the general state of disarray around education I think that’s a really, really good thing.

Would love to hear comments!

UPDATE on 08/27/07: Kareem sent me the following links. Really good stuff which is aligned with many of the points above. Looking forward to reading more Gatto!

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Democracy in Work and Schools

Posted on 07. Aug, 2007 by kareem.

In our Manifesto, we wrote that we’re designing EduRev so that it’s run democratically, instead of as a command-and-control organization. Part of the challenge in doing so is that there are few pre-existing models of democratic workplaces. The great-granddaddy of them all is Semco, based in Brazil, which is run by Ricardo Semler. Semler has written two phenomenal books, Maverick, and The Seven Day Weekend (which every new hire gets at EduRev).

So I was stoked today to finally have time to watch three videos on Semco that my friend Traci sent me some time ago.

And I was even more tickled that there was some good information on Semco’s new school, which sounds similar to Sudbury Valley.

Here are the three videos (the school bits are in the first and third videos, but they’re all interesting).

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Ten Minutes Worth of Goosebumps

Posted on 27. May, 2007 by jon.

Education is going to change a lot in the coming years. Partially because we’re currently doing it all wrong.

Watch this video for an example of a school that’s doing it entirely different.

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The intersection of video games and education

Posted on 25. Mar, 2007 by jon.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the intersection of video games and education. It seems like these are two polar opposites in today’s culture. Video games are becoming so sophisticated and engaging (so much so that the video game industry generates more money than the film industry). On the other hand, traditional education is unbelievably stagnant. So you take a game like Trauma Center for the Nintendo Wii.

Could someone actually learn medicine or surgery through a game like Trauma Center. Today the answer is no. Tomorrow the answer will be yes. Not sure how long that will take but it will happen. There are dozens of examples of this taking place today. Software like Tactical Iraqi which helps soldiers prepare more effectively for missions.

Right now you can’t learn to play guitar simply by playing Guitar Hero. In the not-too-distant future you’re going to be able to.

How frickin’ cool will that be?

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Adventurer to open first Antarctic education base

Posted on 21. Feb, 2007 by jon.

It seems like just about every day I come across some new cool and innovative approach to online learning. Like Harvard Law starting to conduct classes in Second Life. Or this…

Adventurer to open first Antarctic education base

All this is going to be a lot of fun to watch…and to help make happen.

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