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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Next Generation Learning

by folkbum

Things are a bit slow around the blog, because I'm in Austin, TX, on the dime of the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Stupski Foundation for a conference. (And yesterday I had the a fantastic lunch here with blog comments regular apc--great conversation, great achiote.) I was a bit of a last-minute addition to the Wisconsin team that's looking at how to implement the "innovation labs" funded by a significant grant awarded us (and five other states) earlier this spring. I'm here with some actually important people, including State Superintendent Tony Evers, a couple of Milwaukee-area district superintendents, a bunch of CESA1 folk, and some DPI people, too. So far, so good. We seem to get along.

The basic premise of the whole deal here is that right now education in this country happens within a 19th-century system designed to meet the needs of 19th-century students in a 19th-century economy. And that worked reasonably well for more than 100 years. But now we're dealing with 21st-century students in a 21st-century economy, and the system is no longer working reasonably well at all, at least not for great big swaths of students. Many students still navigate the system well, sure; but even many of them do so in spite of what we do to them, not because of it.

So I wanna harness the power of the blog here for a minute: Imagine if you will that you're me, and you're here, and you have the blank slate in front of you. You can design a system--or at least a school or a cluster of schools--that is not bound by the antiquated traditions of things like traditional school calendars, age-based cohorts, "Carnegie units" for graduation, and so forth. A system that is designed not around schools and schooling but learners and learning. What does it look like? What happens in your imagination when you wave your magic wand?

How did the present system work or not work for you? How is it working or not working for your children now? How should it have been, how should it be now, to meet actual learner needs as opposed to the needs of schools and teachers?

Specific ideas will be most helpful here. The broad principle of the thing--that we need to decouple the notions of learning and schooling--is well established. (And if you want to do a bit of reading, check pages 9-17 in this pdf from CCSSO.) But it's ideas for specific implementations of next-generation learning that I'm looking for.

Which is not to say that I don't have ideas or that the talented tabelful of people here with me don't either. But "crowdsourcing" is one of those 21st-century skills that often produces better results than small groups of decision-makers removed from the people affected by those decisions. Leave me a comment or shoot me an email; I'll be checking in regularly this week for all your brilliant ideas.

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