Saturday, November 12, 2005

Still Trying to Transform Schools... Hopefully With Technology

Alan November has a wonderful speech on the need to transform schools. He convincingly cites many business examples of Friedman's The World is Flat. (MIT has a movie of Thomas L. Friedman giving a speech on his book.) Alan gives examples of how some schools are transforming to meet today's world. Alan urges all schools to change.



I thought of Alan's speech as I was going through some old books. I found one from 1989, Anne Lewis' Restructuring American Schools (Arlington, VA: American Association of School Administrators). I remembered that the New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Schools (NYSCATE) had a “Restructuring & Technology Newsletter” for numerous years. Each of these had convincing arguments as to why and how schools should change.



As I began to think about the 1989 restructuring movement, I thought about the most famous example of why schools should change. A wonderful fable called “The Saber-Tooth Curriculum” by J. Abner Peddiwell (a.k.a Benjamin Bloom) tells about a curriculum that no longer served the needs of the school; tiger-scaring was a critical element of the curriculum even though there were no longer tigers to scare. His powerful 1939 tale could be told today. Unfortunately, this witty tale did not cause schools to change their curriculums.

Are schools finally ready to transform? Is technology going to be the catalyst or tipping point to make it happen? Do we show our colleagues that technology allows their students to work with students in other parts of the world just as easily as working with a class next door? Social Studies students can email paragraphs on what freedom means to students in other countries and those students can react. Science students can videoconference about erosion in the local geography of a place thousands of miles away. English students can use Skype to talk with students in other countries about a common theme such as discrimination in The Chosen. Math students can create web pages comparing local prices of common foods with students in other countries.

Transforming Schools...Hopefully, it will happen through technology.

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