#30 A Learner-Centered School of Future - A Thought Experiment

We talk about the future of work in the HigherEd space - at conferences, at webinars, in papers. But we fund billions to K12 startups that are complementing our current Industrial Age Education system! How will we create leaders of mid 21st century tomorrow, with a 19th-century curriculum?

2020 was the year of EdTech for both entrepreneurs and investors, but it wasn’t the year of Education for an overwhelming majority.

The current factory-model, Industrial-Age school system has highly compartmentalized learning into subject areas, and students are expected to learn the same content in the same amount of time. The current school system strives for standardization and was not designed to meet individual learners’ needs. Rather it was designed to sort students into laborers and managers, and students are forced to move on with the rest of the class regardless of whether or not they have mastered the subject, and thus many students accumulate learning deficits and eventually drop out.

Sir Ken Robinson’s amazing TedTalk, Do schools kill creativity? struck a profound chord with me (it remains to this day the most popular TED talk of all time, having been viewed nearly 50 million times). I decided to explore ideas from the talks and also his book Creative Schools, and The Learner-Centered Paradigm of Education further.

What might a learner-centered school of the future look like?

A Thought Experiment Vision #1

Moving away from a factory-model, Industrial-Age school system that compartmentalized learning into subject areas, and students are expected to learn the same content in the same amount of time.

# 1 - Imagine that there are no grade levels for this school. Instead, each of the students strives to master and check off the skills from a master repository of skills to be acquired.

# 2 - Each student has different levels of progress in every skill, according to his or her interests, talents, and pace. The student moves to the next topic as soon as she or he masters the current one. While each student must reach mastery level before moving on, students also do not need to wait for others who are not yet at that level of learning.

#3 - The teacher is a guide or facilitator who works with the student for at least four years, building a long-term, caring relationship. The teacher’s role is to help the student and parents to decide upon appropriate learning goals and to help identify and facilitate the best way for the student to achieve those goals. Each student has a personal learning plan that is jointly developed every two months by the student, parents, and teacher.

#4 - Most learning is interdisciplinary, drawing from both specific and general knowledge and interpersonal and decision-making skills. Much of the focus is on developing higher-order thinking skills.

#5 - Instead of marks or grades, students receive ratings of “developing,” “proficient” (the minimum required to pass), or “expert” in every skill area.

# 6 - Each teacher has a group of students with whom she or he works for several years—a developmental stage of their lives. The teacher works with 3–10 other teachers in a small learning community (SLC) in which the learners are multi-aged and get to know each other well.

# 7 - Students get to choose which teacher they want (stating their first, second, and third choice), and teacher bonuses are based on the amount of demand for them.

This is just one of many possible alternate visions, most ideas need further elaboration on details. Nonetheless, this picture of a learner-centered paradigm of schooling could help us to prevail over the industrial-age paradigm of learning and schools so that we can create a better place for our children to learn.

While it's great that we are teaching every kid on the planet to code today, we really need to focus on the core problem - Reimagining the Industrial Age school education system and overhauling it!

We need more experimental school models that combine innovative pedagogy, new outcome constructs, and powerful tools that enable enriching learning experiences.

We need more schools that allow our kids to fail and want to get up and try again and again.

It just seems apt to close this one out, with another of my favorite quote by Sir Ken Robinson.

Alternate vision #2 - coming soon!

Thanks for taking out the time to read Impacting With EdTech. Hope you liked this issue. Any thoughts, comments, or suggestions? Feel free to reply by email or reach out to me on Twitter. If you think someone else will be benefited, feel free to forward the email.Appreciate your support!