Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Are American High Schools working in the Internet Age?

(continuation of  Redefining Teachers in the Internet Age)

Before we can redefine teaching we must examine schools themselves.

One of the core issues the Internet in education raises: does this always mean we need to visit a teacher in person? Traditionally the most efficient way for an expert to share knowledge was to collect a large number of people in a room at the same time and talk. Now, the Internet has the potential of bringing this conversation to a much larger group that do not necessarily need to be housed in the same place at the same time.

For the traditional American high school this raises some large questions. A lot of modern educational theory centers around manipulating large numbers of mostly unwilling participants into absorbing information and skills that they do not inherently care about. We train teachers in both delivery and assessment, and spend an inordinate amount of time on behavior management. (* In case you'd like to see an example: . *)

So what if we took this off the table? Lets say we now face the same questions education faced at the beginning of the last century when moves towards compulsory education first began. At that point there were not large buildings meant to house 2000 or more teenagers in order to teach them. At the time it was a new model centered around the need to be physically present with a teacher.

So, does this model still work? There is a lot of discussion currently around what is wrong and why in education. Perhaps part of it is the buildings themselves. Our underlying assumption that we have to put thousands of 16 year-olds in a building in order to effectively educate them might not be true anymore.

If we were, right now, building a compulsory education system from scratch would that the solution look like? Think about it for a minute. If you had to build an educational system from scratch, right now, with no infrastructure, school districts, buildings...what would you design? Would every student have access to high quality classes? How?

There are advantages to both in person and online teaching. Neither alone holds the solution to the myriad issues of quality and access that plague our educational system.

But it is time to start investigating - Are we doing it this way because it works or because of the infrastructure we already have in place?

And ultimately, what is the best way to introduce our children to collected human knowledge?

1 comment:

  1. I think the whole concept of education today is money driven. Large schools are much cheaper per student to operate. I have been teaching high school for a long time. I have found the smaller the class the better I teach and the better the kids learn. I have seen studies that demonstrate class size is not a factor in test scores. My experience sample size of one begs to differ. Get 10 kids in a class instead of thirty and all sorts of social dynamics change. The stress level goes down for all concerned.


So, what do YOU think?