Education Futures mailbag
10 Mar 2008

Education Futures mailbag

With many folks away at SXSW, CIES

10 Mar 2008

With many folks away at SXSW, CIES and AERA, the next couple weeks are going to be quiet. What better time than now to catch-up on the mail!

First, Elaine Wooton sent a note a couple weeks ago in regard to my chart of Education 1.0/2.0/3.0:

I am part of a group starting a school outside D.C. called The Freedom School (www.freedomschoolMD.com). Modeled after the Subdury Valley School (sudval.org) and sort of Summerhill in England. Democratic. Kids do whatever they want all day (in an environment the adults try to ensure is “rich” with opportunities) as long as they follow the rules that they made. Total age-mixing, no curriculum unless they want it… We are actually a homeschool coop that looks just like a school, because Maryland is “complicated” (the complication is about building codes, not about starting a “school”). (Next year, the co-op will run 5 days/week with a paid staff person.)

Holy cow! …a school/coop that tries to embrace the creativity inherent in kids rather than beating it out is worth following!

She also wrote:

Strangely, the kids have had “school” 3x week since September, and have formulated many, many rules about computer access. As it stands right now, they made a rule that they can only use the computers for play from 10-12 (academics are fine any time), so that they are entirely available for other activities in the afternoon. There have also been rules about time on/time off. Also, in this environment, the computer is a social thing, usually functioning as a triangle – two kids/one computer. One kid as the user and one as a coach (or backseat driver). The typical computer lab situation in schools is totally different, 25 headphoned kids on 25 machines. I think the public school computers should always have 2 jacks, so there can be that triangle. But I digress…

That is a fascinating example of a self-organizing system. I’ve seen this happen in other classrooms where adults make an effort to step aside, too. Kids are much better at teaching each other about technology and “managing” technology than adults. What would happen if these kids worked with each other (and with adults) to develop new technologies to support their learning and knowledge-producing environments?

Second, Mark Surman posted a critique of my critique of the Cape Town Declaration, where I “worry” that “open course materials will do little to change education.” I had asked: Is there something else that we should focus on where we can use new technological and social models to develop innovative tools for education? Mark responds:

The answer is: of course! There are dozens of things that pop to mind immediately: Tools that capture, share and evolve the tacit knowledge involved in teaching practices (LAMS). Peer-to-peer learning platforms where students support each other and teachers become more like facilitators (Kusasa). Sites that connect ‘amateur’ teachers with interested learners (The School of Everything). For-credit classes that embed students in the real time, hands on learning environment of an open source software community (Seneca College). Or simply DIY learning by doing, which is the point of the web and open source in the first place (Wikipedia). While most of these are nascent examples yet to scale or even prove themselves, they hint at where things are going.

It surprises me how many people jump to the conclusion that the Cape Town Declaration ignores all this. The people who wrote the Declaration — and I suspect most people who signed it — totally get how education can and is changing.

The problem is that the Cape Town Declaration doesn’t say any of that. Maybe a new declaration is needed?

Finally, Guy Kawasaki dropped me a line to alert me that Education Futures is listed on his feed aggregator, Alltop, located at: http://education.alltop.com

Alltop is organized as a dashboard with not only education news, but also: autos, career, design, food, gadgets, humor, journalism, religion, social media, sports, venture capital, and much, much more…

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