March 14, 2007

The One-Size-Fits-None Education

Our son starts college this fall. It's a big milestone. It has me thinking a lot - not only about how much I’ll miss his being at home, but also about how much better K-12 education could be. We were extremely fortunate to have found Charles Armstrong School for him; Rosalie Whitlock leads the school with an inspiring and clarifying mantra that governs every decision there: “What’s in it for the kids?”

The approach CAS takes for dyslexic learners is applicable to all learners; dyslexia just happens to be a label for one set of mind characteristics. And even that label is an ambiguous umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of differences in visual and auditory processing. Ideally, all kids could develop an early awareness of their particular strengths and weaknesses and approach learning and life in a way that caters to their specific aptitudes and interests. So individualizing Rosalie’s mantra, what if we could ask for each student: “What’s in it for the kid?”

How can we provide an individualized education for everyone? It seems a bit ambitious as we struggle with basic problems of large class sizes, standardized tests, overloaded teachers, high drop-out rates, budget shortfalls, etc. But I’ve personally seen the great work from organizations like Charles Armstrong School, Mel Levine’s All Kinds of Minds and Charles Schwab’s Schwab Learning that motivates me to explore ways to contribute. I’m not an educator, but I’ll start by listing some of the problems I most want to solve:

Classroom unidirectional, undifferentiated

  • 1 textbook, 1 teacher, 1 curriculum ==> 35 students, 20 intelligences, 16 types, 4 styles…

Time, location artificially constrain quality

  • 1 day, 1 time, 1 location, 1 teacher ==> Global experts on “TiVo” for my lifelong learning

“How to Learn” underemphasized

  • The “WHAT” focus ==> the “HOW” of working your brain with variations for interests, aptitudes, and learning styles

Marginal relevance to real-life skills

  • The 1950s “organization man” ==> Collaboration, context, curiosity on topics that inspire passion

As a technology guy, I’m drawn to exploring ways computing might help. Clearly, computing is only part of the solution; but it’s also clear that our opportunities to apply computing to these problems have advanced far beyond the standalone drill tools on some PC in the corner of the classroom. So much of the innovation in computing today relates to connecting people, organizing information, and making the web a collaborative medium that blurs the lines between consumers and producers of valuable resources.

So I’ve put up a My Kind of Mind web site as a playground for trying out ideas. Nothing there yet, but I hope to use some of my time-off this week to flesh out ideas and get things started. In the meantime, if you’re interested in helping in any way, please subscribe to the My Kind of Mind group.

1 comment:

Michael Ehline said...

I just got "My Baby Can Read." Watching 6 month old infants read. NO JOKE.