New school models that leverage technology provide a useful picture of the future. Last week, in a three-blog series, I profiled next generation school models that leverage new opportunities, incorporate experiential learning, and promote system redesign.


None of those old basal textbooks are aligned to the Common Core State Standards, but they all include great content. What to do? About 10,000 teachers on Edmodo have turned to the The Basal Alignment Project, an online library of revised replacement lessons from common basal reading series (3rd-5th grades) each carefully aligned to the Common Core State Standards.


Last Thursday night a closed recreation center became a Tech Center in Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood. When Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the city was closing 25 of the 55 rec centers, Andrew Coy (@AndrewCoy) a teacher at Digital Harbor High School and Shelly Blake-Plock (@BlakePlock) faculty associate at Johns Hopkins University School of Education sought an alternative to the center closing. One of the rec centers was a block from Digital Harbor High School where Andrew was developing an after-school program in web design.


The 20 breakthrough school models recognized by the Gates Foundation funded Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) took on the turnaround challenge, leveraged higher education partnerships, and improved the performance and sustainability of school networks (as outlined in part one of this three-part series). They also illustrate how blended learning supports and extends experiential learning (part two).


Critics argue that blended and competency-based learning is just testing all the time. They chafe at what appears to be more mindless box checking. When I visit credit recovery labs and see students flying through online lessons and taking end of unit multiple choice quizzes, we worry that there is some truth to the criticism.


It's great if you think you have a good sense of how a next-generation school would work, but good luck trying to get funding. Most school districts don't have a process to respond to new school proposals much less funding them. And good luck getting a grant for a charter school before you get a charter approved (i.e., when you really need the money). That's why, given the emerging potential for personalization, the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) is a timely and important program.


San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) appears to be in a time warp. Yesterday, I outlined the leadership role that the Bay Area, especially the city of San Francisco, plays in learning innovation. However, the contrast between one of the most creative cities on the planet and the local school districts is stark.


The Bay Area is unquestionably the world's leading innovation hub--and that includes learning. Ten years ago it was all about Silicon Valley, but recently Oakland emerged as an edreform hotspot.


"I think Portland is incredibly interesting," said venture investor Brad Feld in a recent article. "They have a smart counterculture of people."


When I visit with superintendents, principals, teachers, and school board members, I always ask them what they are worried about. With plans for high-access environments, tech support is on everybody's list. So, I called Keith Krueger and Denise Shorey from CoSN.


The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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