I got to experience the Central Iowa Bloggers (Twitter #CIB) event this morning at Panera U. Facilitated by “Mayor” Mike Sansone this was an opportunity to network and share with fellow bloggers. At first it felt weird, being the only Superintendent of Schools present, and this being my first time. But after four hours, (6:30 to 10:30 am) I had connected, networked, and shared. In the many “take-aways”, one was very clear. My new friends all shared a frustration and concern about education. To me this was an affirmation of the need to evolve teaching and learning. When the Van Meter story was shared, 1:1 computers in grades 7-12, virtual reality, students’ blogging, and video conferencing, the common response was an affirming, drawn out “nice."
My thinking after this event drifted back to conversations with Scott McLeod, Angela Maiers, Will Richardson, Bill Daggett, Ray McNulty and others. At Van Meter, we are committed to taking generated ideas and concepts and making operational a new 21st century school system by August 2012. Stay tuned, 32 months and counting!
What school will look like after 2012?
Secondary Principal Deron Durflinger is one of Van Meter’s “rock stars." He is a visionary educational leader who is contributing and facilitating the Districts’ transformation. His current blog ”Pay Teachers $100,000 or more” puts forth the concept of teachers becoming independent contractors. The concept being that current state funding would flow through to parents, and that parents then could contract with individual teachers for their student’s instruction. Using wireless laptop computers instruction could then be blended between “onsite” and “online."
I see this concept as viable, raising teacher pay and providing students access, via internet, to high quality instruction throughout the state. Choice and competition would empower parents and incent good teachers. The concept I add is that educators be elevated to the same level as medical doctors, and that the physical support system be structure like the Iowa Mercy Hospital system.
In the Mercy system, there is a large “hub” hospital with satellite outpatient and walk-in clinics. Doctors and health care professionals travel and rotate amongst the clinics and hospitals. Every area of the state is covered and has access to quality medical care. Applying this thinking to education, “hub” schools would be established. Local rural school would become the satellite “outpatient and walk-in clinics”. These satellite facilities could be existing schools, allowing Districts to keep their local school “footprint."
Currently, at Iowa 1:1 schools Van Meter, Newell –Fonda, and South Hamilton teachers and students have connect via iChat to co-teach Spanish. Going forward it could be possible that this class be taught by one teacher, not the three currently. Additionally, lets say that a student wants to take Chinese and lives in Elkader. That student could connect with a Chinese teacher and class in Cedar Rapids, using Skype to participate. The Elkader student could access the class either by being on campus in Elkader or from their home.
This is a very powerful model with potential for cost savings and improving instruction. The next challenge is to train teachers on how to teach in this modality. The emerging theme is that new teacher skill sets will be required.
Another important “take-away” from my morning with the Central Iowa Bloggers (CIB) is that many of the Bloggers I met have the needed skill sets. In my four hours of “networking and sharing”, I saw: relationship building, electronic social networking, facilitation, manipulating of the web to access knowledge, the creation of new knowledge, and mind blowing ideas. The trick will be to get them to realize they would be great teachers (and could make $100,000).