We know that the public schools are challenged with student performance statistics, namely average yearly progress (AYP). Many schools are struggling and failing to meet the reading and math achievement goals. Perhaps it is time to seriously consider a different model of education for the 21st century? The bricks and mortar school setting has served us well for decades, but something is not quite right. Is it possible that the social fabric of our society makes the classroom less conducive to learning? Perhaps we might consider how technology can now be used to deliver instruction, foster collaboration between students and instructors, and reduce the need to corral students into classrooms for every learning experience.
With the proliferation of distance education and blended/hybrid models of education, the public schools could likely benefit from the body of research that suggests that distance learning can be very effective. Consider this; students receive instruction on-line 2 or 3 days per week. The lessons can be presented live via a virtual classroom over an internet connection and/or through recorded video presentation. Students would have the opportunity to receive instruction multiple times if needed through playback features. During the days students receive online instruction, there is also an application of knowledge through assigned activities. Teachers would be available online and through telephone. That is the first step of the process.
After receiving the initial instruction remotely, students would come to the physical school 2 days per week. These days would be essentially learning seminars. The students would come prepared with the work completed, and questions specific to their own learning. The teacher then becomes more of a tutor to each student since each student will likely have his/her own set of questions. The entire week of learning could then be measured in terms of each individual student’s progress. The students that do not perform would be much more visible to the teacher because of performance issues. It would also be easy to track students that complete lessons online, and apply the knowledge in the seminar setting. This approach would improve student accountability because each learning task would be monitored. Teachers could not be blamed for poor students that do not complete the work. Parents would have constant access to their child’s performance on a daily basis.
A model such as this turns the current model around. Students receive initial instruction at home, and then come to the classroom to do ‘homework’. It is exactly the opossite of our current model of education. If students are not engaged during lessons, the homework becomes impossible. Hence, the lessons are recieved in a more controlled setting without social distractions, and the classroom then becomes a place for serious application of knowledge and more individualized instruction.
Surely, there are issues such as who would be home with the kids 2 or 3 days per week. That is not per se an educational issue, but none the less an important challenge. This model would likely not be suitable for elementary level students because of the difficulty of navigating the technology. Junior and senior high school students today possess the rudimentary technology skills to work on computers. Many kids today are home schooled using technology as a delivery mechanism.
If we are concerned about educating our children and evaluating achievement through performance, we need to consider other models of education that might offer greater learning benefits. We know that the schools today have lost much of their ability to control behavior which in turn negatively impacts learning. Perhaps using this paradigm for students would offer possibilities for many.
I would be interested to hear comments from parents and educators.