I have written and rewritten this intro trying not to sound too negative, but the whole reason that I am starting this blog and getting involved is that I see a problem. The progressive education movement in the U.S. has been stuck in a quagmire for the past 20 years. Maybe in a future post I will detail why I think this is and what caused it, but for now I want to focus on solutions.
Computers and the internet have changed education, but it has been a slow and mostly superficial change. We still teach with the same methods and models; we have just ported some things online. For example, when doing a research paper, instead of taking the class to the library, we give them each a laptop so they can do their research on the internet.
But we could do so much more. The classic example from business I can think of is Walmart. They were not the first retailer to use computers to keep their inventory. But they revolutionized the industry by using them to analyse what products sold in various types of neighborhoods and how much of each product they should keep on the shelves at the different locations.
Curriculum is being uploaded to the internet at a very rapid pace, and that would be the first step, but it needs to be organized into courses and modularized. Each standard would have several modules, each teaching through a different mode. So the teacher and parent could choose a series of modules to individualize the curriculum to that student. Because we would have a vast bank of curricular material the student would no longer be forced to do the exact same activity that all their classmates do. The particular activity that each student would do would be tailored to their learning style. The curriculum would be available anywhere the student went, if they changed schools the curriculum would follow with them. And then you could truly have longitudinal data because you could not only keep track of how well a student learned but what exact lesson they learned from. Best of all, it would be free for anyone to use. So every child throughout the world would have access to a first class curriculum.
The structure of schools can also be optimized to improve education. The size of high schools has grown because of the need to hire specialized teachers. But their services, lectures, grading, etc., can be delivered online. Activities such as textbook reading, laboratories, practice work, etc., can be done asynchronously by the student. All that would be needed is an in-person education expert to make sure the students stay on task and get help when they need it. School size could be as little as ten students. This would reduce many of the problems endemic in modern high schools such as drugs and violence. And eliminate many of the administrative tasks like organizing a fleet of school buses.
So that is my idea, we should go back to the one room schoolhouse style of school. I think it is superior in just about every way. A student would stay with a facilitator for four or five years, so they would really get to know each other. The facilitator would easily be able to individualize the curriculum in consultation with the expert teachers. The classroom would consist of students on different grade level. At times they would get together to do non-grade specific activities. The older kids would mentor the younger ones, which would be good for both.
I could go on and on.