Sunday, November 1, 2009

New Thinking, New Direction

I appreciate the opportunity to share the thoughts being generated and developed here at Van Meter. It is my hope you will receive them with an open mind. I am a systems thinker and believe to understand where we are to go we need to understand where we have been.

Looking at the current educational/system structure, one must realize that it was constructed at the turn of the last century based on the emerging system designs of that time.

The Industrial Revolution, at the turn of the last century, moved educational systems thinking (manufacturing and delivery of services) to time on task and skilled craft and away from individualized “one on one” and “one to one” instruction. The thinking at that time was to move from the one room school house, with one teacher, inter-generational classrooms and exiting the school when proficiency reached, to applying the factory, assemble line concept.

Teaching and learning was equated with “work” and the means of production (instruction) defined to “time on task” with subjects taught in isolation by content specialists. The conveyor belt was replaced by the “passing time”.

Moving into the Industrial Age, “thinking” changed and the mission of education in the United States changed as well. One room school houses were replaced by the larger, consolidate school districts. This change in thinking is illustrated with NEA Committee of Ten and their recommendations (1892 see below).

We are now 10 years into a new century. “Thinking” and our systems have evolved but educational systems have not. Just as the Committee of Ten set forth recommendations for how to do/structure the work of teaching and learning, Van Meter is now working to do the same.

To the question on how to teach concepts in the "digital learning environment" paradigm, our response is to rework the structure so as to determine student passions and strengths. Based on these student discoveries, our direction is to build/create systems that can empower students. Our assumption is that when a person is there passion or strength, it releases an individual’s inner energy and that choice, and the option of choice is powerful. The use of time needs to be fluid.

Applying the system concept, perhaps the time has come to replace the factory model of teaching with the current “file share” of “Napster”. We believe this has promise as an educational structure. The concept is that students given real world challenges, in their passion/strengths, connect through technology to human and electronic resources, will access needed information to create.

For example, one might not know how make a saw, ruler, nail or hammer, however knowing how to use those tools enables a person to build a house. True you would need to know math concepts for construction, (board-feet, square yards for concrete, slop of a roof, read blueprints) however there are the tools used today are far more user friendly, requiring different thinking than ten years ago.

The other thinking is that, today many people do not know how prepare and cook food. They rely on ready-made and the microwave. This does free them up their time for other thinking and doing.

We have on site an Immersadesk R2. This device will allow us to project student created simulations/project in 3D holograms. It has on board computers that, when the simulation move and is rotate, computes the mathematical equations so as to make it go. We are leaning how to use the tool, but could never build one at Van Meter. But with the tool, students will be able to explore and create. So using then their laptops and having access to the Internet, they are not limited in their quest for solving and or creating. Their thinking is changing. All very cool!

We do not have it all figured out, but believe we are on the right track. We do recognize that new thinking does have a down side. I am reminded of the Hank Williams JR. song “A Country Boy Can Survive”. The song compares a city boy to a country boy and the skill sets need to survive. At Van Meter we recognize this and the second strand to our design is to be strategic and deliberate on having our kids learn to THINK, LEAD and SERVE.

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