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It’s time to change our learning model

E-School News – Joel Rose

” Perhaps the best example of educators redesigning schoolwide structures comes from the movement around small learning communities. Often used in high schools, this approach might take a 1,000-student school and break it into four 250-student learning communities all working together on the same campus. It’s a daunting task when one considers all of the scheduling, staffing, and logistical implications (the cafeteria alone!) of breaking up a large high school into smaller ones. But because educators believed that smaller learning environments would more readily enable a more personalized approach to learning, they tackled and addressed the barriers head on.” (more)

Schools need freedom to make our kids intelligent

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

In the late 1990s Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist working at Harvard University, broke intelligence into eight areas: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. Even though many psychologists disagree with Gardner’s views on intelligence, the categories he created provide a good base for the abilities people need in the modern workplace.

It is nearly impossible for someone to succeed if he/she is only intelligent in one area. Artistic products require technical and financial support and the most technical products require beauty and a strong user interface. It is pointless for a scientist to conduct amazing research unless he/she can effectively communicate his/her findings to his/her colleagues; and it makes no sense for a musician to create beautiful songs, unless he/she can execute successful contracts so the songs make him/her money.

In short, all kids need strong visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal abilities. Sadly, few children graduate from high school with strong abilities in all these areas. Perhaps it is because we have tasked our K-12 schools with so many things (teaching, coaching, parenting, counseling, etc.) that it is impossible for them to succeed.

Maybe we should encourage schools to return to their primary mission. Then they can focus all their energies on maximizing visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, and logical-mathematical intelligence.

This limited focus would give schools time to rethink their approach to building intelligence and encourage them to find ways of identifying learning gaps early. They would have time to implement third party curriculum based testing (teachers have not seen the test ahead of time) at least once a quarter. Then teachers could identify deficiencies within a few weeks of when a student has missed a concept and could take corrective action quickly,

Some people worry that returning the focus of K-12 schools to academic areas would impact students’ interpersonal and intrapersonal development. In fact, the opposite might be true. Instead of relying on schools to offer sports, leadership, and other pursuits, schools could contract with community organizations to handle these activities. These organizations have lower overhead, so they could offer these activities at a fraction of the cost. Best of all, the students would have a wider range of options available to them.

Technology has changed the world. Now it is time for us to set aside preconceived ideas and think about how we can change education to prepare children for this new world.

Gov. Jeb Bush — What Florida Can Teach America About Empowering Families Through Education Freedom

The 74 Million – Jeb Bush

“Without aspiration, our great country becomes just another country. And so it is disturbing when current surveys show that young people believe they will be worse off than their parents, and their parents agree with them. And when statistics reveal that those born into poverty are likely to remain stuck there, more so than at any time in our recent history.”(more)

What Do We Mean When We Say ‘Social And Emotional Skills’?

KQED News Mind/Shift – Anya Kamenetz

“More and more, people in education agree on the importance of schools’ paying attention to stuff other than academics. But still, no one agrees on what to call that “stuff.” I originally published a story on this topic two years ago. As I reported back then, there were a bunch of overlapping terms in play, from “character” to “grit” to “noncognitive skills.” This bagginess bugged me, as a member of the education media. It bugged researchers and policymakers too. It still does.”(more)

Together, technology and teachers can revamp schools

The Economist – Staff Writer

“IN 1953 B.F. Skinner visited his daughter’s maths class. The Harvard psychologist found every pupil learning the same topic in the same way at the same speed. A few days later he built his first “teaching machine”, which let children tackle questions at their own pace. By the mid-1960s similar gizmos were being flogged by door-to-door salesmen. Within a few years, though, enthusiasm for them had fizzled out. Since then education technology (edtech) has repeated the cycle of hype and flop, even as computers have reshaped almost every other part of life. One reason is the conservatism of teachers and their unions. But another is that the brain-stretching potential of edtech has remained unproven.”(more)

Education on dialogue imperative

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

In human societies there will always be differences of views and interests. But the reality today is that we are all interdependent and have to co-exist…. Therefore, the only sensible and intelligent way of resolving differences and clashes of interests, whether between individuals or nations, is through dialogue. – Dalai Lama

Many people find it challenging to converse about subjects that matter deeply to them without getting into a dispute. As a result, public discourse about divisive issues is often characterized by destructive debate that eventually leads to division and violence.

Social media seems to have exacerbated this problem. Before the era of electronic profiles and discussions, communication was face to face, by phone, via email, or in writing. People could select written materials of interest to them and most people were careful to communicate their political and/or social views in ways that were not offensive to those around them.

Now many people log their societal and political viewpoints in social media posts without the normal inhibitions that control they way they communicate in person. Many times the comments are personal attacks rather than ideas. In addition, the caustic comments are continually linked to a person in a visual way that tends to alienate friends and acquaintances that have different views.

While it is comforting to have supporters, it is also important to have outside input. As a result, it is imperative that we find ways to encourage dialogue. For this to happen, people need the freedom to express their viewpoints, regardless of how unconventional or radical, the wisdom and skill to present those ideas in diplomatic ways, and a willingness to listen to opposing viewpoints.

Unfortunately, these skills cannot be learned by osmosis, but must be honed over many years. With the increased focus on standardized tests, many of the classes where students learned to participate in dialog through the discussion on complex topics like firearms, law enforcement, war, race, controlled substances, social programs, gender, corruption, religion, incarceration, media and money, etc. have been removed from school offerings.

Even though these classes are challenging to teach and require government entities to turn a blind eye, students need exposure to topics that have a variety of viewpoints and so they can learn how to effectively communicate with others for the collective good.

If we allow freedom of speech and provide education on effective dialogue, perhaps we can limit the division and violence that is prevalent in the U.S. today.