Proposal

Introduction

Goals 

I have compiled a list of goals for education. I want…

  • Students to be able to think critically. This is an essential skill that will enable individuals to become life long learners.  This includes the ability to understand new information and apply it to their lives.
  • Students to be able to communicate with others. We live in a very social world where individuals will always be interacting with others whether it is face to face or over the internet. I believe it is important for my students to have the ability to use their critical thinking skills to form opinions that they can share with others, as well as be able to communicate their ideas in a way that helps them to connect to those who share passions with them.
  • To make education meaningful for students by providing authentic, hands-on, interactive learning experiences that are interesting and apply directly to the lives of each of my students. Students typically become interested and invested when they see how what they are learning can help them (humans are selfish beings).
  • To ignite a fire in each of my students that makes them excited about expanding their knowledge and developing new skills. Through helping them to see recognize their abilities, it will achieve one of the goals above of making my students life long learners as they will determine ways that they are internally motivated to continuously learn.
  • To remove the fear of failure. Through creating an environment where students understand that in order to learn, they will be making mistakes and learning from them, I hope to restore each individual’s sense of creativity. When there is a fear of failure, individuals are less likely to take risks and less learning takes place as a result. In addition, I hope to remove formal grades and replace them with meaningful feedback from educators, peers, and those in the community. 

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Full video from TED: Build a school in the cloud: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3jYVe1RGaU.

  • Students to take ownership for their learning.  Through giving the students choice in what and how they learn, they will develop essential skills. Also, by removing myself from the front of the classroom, and having the students teach themselves and each other, I will be seen less as the “teacher with all the answers” and more as a facilitator for learning who helps the students to discover.
  • The whole student to be considered in education. Rather than focusing on developing only their knowledge base, we should be considering the overall happiness of each individual. To do this, education needs to be personalized and responsive to student needs.
  • To overhaul the views of society which place more importance on the subject areas that are considered to be academic. This view leads to many individuals feeling that they are not smart and not successful if they do not hold a certain set of skills or interests. The following video demonstrates a society that has been “overhauled” where there is “respect and dignity in all work in Finalnd”:

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Full video from The Finland Phenomenonhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbqJwTjx7PQ

School Environment

  • I see students having a “home base” working in passion groups, with others who have similar interests to them. This would replace the model where subjects are divided by rooms and students are divided randomly. In these passion areas, students will still be learning a variety of subjects, yet the focus will be on integration and application of topics of interests of the students.
  • Inspiring physical environments that promote collaboration and innovative thinking. Such physical environments would be supplied with the tools necessary for individuals to explore passion areas (remember this is an ideal situation). Specifically, I imagine individual desks replaced by standing workbenches and multiple study areas in a larger room.
  • Students having input in how their time would be spent (division of project preparation, community exploration, social collaboration).
  • In the following video, Sugata Mitra proposes the idea of the Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE). More information on SOLE can be found here: SOLE Support. I love that he has backed up his suggestion with classrooms that have successfully used the SOLE method. In these classrooms, the teacher’s role is to ask the student interesting questions, and allow the students to use resources and work in collaborative groups in order to investigate and explore what the answer might be.

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Full video, TED: Build a School in a Cloud, found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3jYVe1RGaU.

  • It is important to create connections to the community and between learning and student life. Kiran Bir Sethi hightlights the importance of “blurring the boundaries between school and life“. I love the presenter’s point that “passion is contagious”:

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Full video, TED: Teaching kids to take charge, found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKU-FEGabuY.

Study areas

The following are suggested passion areas that would be offered for students. I would suggest that in grade 9 students have the opportunity to explore all passion areas that are of any interest to them but in the more senior grades that individuals choose a pathway. Of course as it is important to give students choice, it would be possible for them to work in multiple passion areas if they took ownership for their learning and dedicated themselves fully. Beyond this, it is important for passion areas to have the opportunity to work together on collaborative projects that mimic how different professions work inter-collaboratively in the “real world”.

  • Trades (carpentry/mechanic/plumber/refrigeration/etc.)
  • Sciences (biotechnology/physiotherapy/environmental engineer/medicine/etc.)
  • Arts (journalism/art/graphic design/fashion/photography/architecture/etc.)
  • Social Sciences (human justice/women studies/history/law/etc.)
  • Business (accounting/administration/entrepreneurship/finance/marketing/etc.)

Student work

After watching the following video, I was inspired. There were certain components that stuck out to me:

  • There is a focus on four main bodies of learning: English, math, social sciences, and natural sciences.
  • Students have choice in how they study each of the four main bodies of learning.
  • There are three components to their schooling: weekly questions; individual endeavour; and collaborative endeavour. Specifically, the weekly questions are great as the students get to choose a topic to explore each week that is fascinating to them. And at the end of the week they have to find a way to present to their peers, which is also fantastic as this is a clear demonstration of what they have learned.
  • Beyond the knowledge they are gaining, all students in this program are developing multiple life skills throughout all they are doing.

Based on the above video and other sources of inspiration, in an ideal school I imagine students would:

  • Explore their passion area through meaningful investigations (just as with the weekly questions above) that equip them to work in the same area they are passionate about. In these explorations, students can choose to work in small groups or individually but must start out the week by creating a mini proposal outlining what they plan to investigate for the week, which bodies of learning they will work on, as well as how they plan to share it with others.
  • Have the chance to work alone and in groups. It is important for students to do both solo and group projects as these work on developing different skill sets.
  • Document and share their learning through online portfolios. It is important for individuals to share what they are working on with others in the class and through the online community as it brings meaning to what they are doing. By putting their work out there, they get the chance to receive feedback and connect with others around the world interested in the same area.
  • Be able to participate in active learning experiences. In the following video, the presenter (Daphne Koller) speaks about what students need and what they definitely do not need:

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Full video, TED: What we’re learning from online education, found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6FvJ6jMGHU.

Teachers

  • By working in areas that they are passionate about, with individuals who are excited about the content, teachers will stay motivated to bring the best to the students.
  • The role of the teacher is to support, rather than lead the students. As teachers, we can provide ideas for inspiration, help students to make connections in the community, use our previous knowledge to guide them.
  • I imagine multiple professionals working within passion areas. This does not necessarily mean co-teaching, more so it is an attempt at utilizing and capitalizing on the knowledge and power of social learning. By having multiple professionals in the same learning space, student groups will have the opportunity to work with many teachers with the same passion and interests that they hold.
  • The role of teachers is not to be the “holder of the information”. Nor is it our role to give our students a grade that ranks their work against others. Rather, it is our job to support students and provide them with meaningful feedback that helps them grow as a whole.
  • It is our job to build meaningful relationships with the students we can support all aspects of their lives, and help them to make connections in the community that will help them to be successful after school.

Curriculum

  • Rather than requiring that each student learns the exact same content, I propose that our curriculum is a set of skill outcomes. This will give individuals the chance to demonstrate the development of their skills through their chosen subject areas.
  • Students are to demonstrate an ability to think critically, use information effectively, communicate constructively (written and verbal), work in a social setting, take risks willingly, manage their time, act as a leader, set and achieve realistic goals and reflect on experiences.

Final Thoughts

Although this is my “ideal school system” and aspects of it are based off my dreams that are not (currently) possible based on limitations in our present school systems, much of what I have described above is achievable. If nothing else, take away the importance of teaching the whole individual – developing students who are compassionate towards others, understand how they fit in their communities, and who see that they have the ability to succeed in what ever they love. 

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3 thoughts on “Proposal

  1. First of all, what an amazing post! You’ve done a great job articulating your thoughts on education. I was planning to make a similar-themed post on my blog, but now that the bar has been raised so high it may take me a few more weeks so I can really think though my ideas! I really like how you handled the curriculum by using skill outcomes rather than focus on content. It begs the question, what subject specific skills do students need to know as they progress through high school. As far as the sciences go, I think the skills are pretty much the same across Bio, Chem, and Physics.

    • Wow, thanks! This is definitely a work in progress – more so a collection of my thoughts for now. I would agree that the same set of skills is required across the sciences. Looking forward to reading your blog post!
      Ps thanks for the inspiration – the video that you posted a couple months ago (that I included here) is really what got me thinking!

  2. Pingback: What does my classroom look like: beta version | danieljatkins

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