I was intrigued by a comment left on A Plethora of Technology the other day. Originally, I was pointed there through Karl’s post about Barry’s short video about the time we spend in our classrooms. Here is that video
After viewing the video and realizing that Barry and I belong to NJECC, I got excited at the prospect of knowing the geographic approximation of another blogger so close to me. But what really piqued my interest was the comment that followed mine on the post, left by Mickey dealing with the actual content of the 180 days or 150 hours of instructional time needed for credit. It concluded with the following paragraph:
I agree with you that specific instructional time is at a premium. However, short of extending the day or increasing the days in the academic year, this will continue to be a dilemma that has to be worked around as best as we can within the constraints of school structure. Knowing the key big ideas (essential questions) that students need to know and basing instruction on those big ideas, should be the direction that teachers and administrators set their sights on. If quality and instruction and engaged learning is happening, not only do test scores fall into place, but students learn much more than any standardized test can purport to assess.
In reading this comment, I was automatically hooked on two things:
- the solution to this problem was too obvious to be the correct one–personal learning environments designed by the student and hosted by the school district or center of learning.
- Where was “Mickey” coming from? I needed to know this because in order to formulate a response, I wanted to know what type of learning situation he or she was involved in.
The first point above seems readily available to any district that is willing to commit one or two people to learning how to install, manage, and set up a Moodle, Drupal, or OpenAcademic module. Allowing for the extension of the classroom outside of the 150 hours or 180 days through the use of these learning management systems will work to help foster the environment that Barry was originally talking about in his Montclair State class. Time is solved through student involvement in learning outside of the 40, 50, or 80 minutes we see them.
Then, after using the Blogger profile, I came to find that “Mickey” is immersed in solving very similar problems with redesigning his or her classrooms, and has done some great thinking on the skills he or she sees as important for students to know as they move beyond high school and into the world (check out this post) Here are Mickey’s thoughts on the what a learning environment might look like.
Just conceptualizing what a school might look like that addresses learning in a way that allows students to be immersed in learning that is meaningful, preparing them for future dilemmas, is nearly out of the realm of my thinking. Yet, our school is contemplating this very idea as we plan for a new school where schooling is done differently, which has a science, math and technology focus, and that is a place where community involvement is the norm. The requirements of such a school will require that the planners have a strong technology and science background as well as a vision that will guide the design process. The ideas of what the future holds for our students is critical as designing takes place. Thinking about what my classroom needs to look like, not only physically but also what typical instructional periods will look like are extremely important for the design.
In this description, I would also add the idea of a personal learning environment to the mix. Students, in this idea of School 2.0 will need to let go of the instructor as lone expert model just as much as teachers and administrators do. Giving them the freedom to create their own learning environments, seek out experts beyond the classroom, and access the incredible amount of information freely available to them (MIT OpenCourseWare, LectureFox, etc.) will do more for bringing them in contact with the set of skills they will need to succeed in an unmapped future.