Saturday, June 24, 2006

Vision of Public Education in the Year 2025

The vision of public education in the future must be realized through proactive design so it is not determined by a chaotic reaction to its ultimate downfall. Due to the fast pace of technological development and the need for schools to catch up, the education funding and delivery of public education needs a complete overhaul to allow innovation and technology to become entrenched and allow for a system that can prepare children for the challenges of the 21st century. The vision is for schools in the year 2025 to be learning environments where children can develop to their personal best. These schools are possible and will be created through a complete overhaul of public education funding and delivery in partnership with the utilization of technology.

The time has come to stop using ongoing research and pedagogical debate as an excuse for inaction. Instead, the public education system must look at business, government and universities as examples of systems that are moving forward to compete and flourish in the Age of Technology. In order to move ahead quickly and establish flourishing schools by the year 2025, the public school system needs to be funded by sources directed by the federal government and corporations. Leaving the development to the states and local districts will not allow for the expeditious change that is critical. Education leaders and researchers can also determine best practices in education and weed out methods and delivery systems that are ineffective and inefficient by utilizing computer data processing capabilities that exist today. The vision for schools in the year 2025 has to be motivated by research that shows up to 20 % of students are not responding to the back-to-basics and high-stakes testing mandated by “No Child Left Behind”. With federal legislation and support by private philanthropic organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the United States can build strong school systems to ensure its citizens will become interactive and productive citizens.

The schools of 2025 will embrace the constructivist theory of education and will provide environments that address the social and emotional development of children along with the academic. Students will progress through the schools on a developmental basis rather than on same-age groupings. Level 1 though 9 students will focus on basic academics and be engaged in learning environments that encourage the development of a passion for learning rather than the acquisition of predetermined content. Levels 10 through 12 will be the transition stage for students to have opportunities for career investigation and community involvement. Small local schools will be set up to provide community building and promotion of health and fitness along with basic academic instruction. Each school will be furnished with the technology necessary to compete nationally and internationally.

The model based on the “Tribes” format will be used in schools to build caring relationships. The “Tribes” model promotes active group and cooperative learning with a focus on positive social interaction. The success with students is based on teachers establishing close relationship with students and their parents with a common goal of success in school and post-high transition. All students will receive special status with an advisor who is assigned a manageable case load of no more than 20 students. The advisor will stay with the student through each school stage. The advisor does not just deal with the academic needs of the student but also arranges to deal with social, emotional, health and family issues. This creates a powerful triumvirate with a connection between the school, the student and the parents. Parents will not only be encouraged but expected to attend school via Internet connections throughout the school year. The school of 2025 will have the capacity for parents to log in and monitor classroom happenings. Web cam and microphone capabilities in the classroom will allow parents to observe and interact with the students and teachers in real time. Homework helpers will be available with student tutors and staff that are available after school hours in open labs, or via the Internet and email. The support for school assignments and projects will be available to students any time and anywhere.

Schools of the future will offer programs investigating personal health and fitness and team sports. Interactive gaming that has been found to be very motivational for students for physical activity such as “Dance, Dance Revolution” will be available. Students will no longer be forced into rigid class structures for physical health. The student, parents and advisor will meet regularly to review the student’s health and fitness program. A student who is showing success with karate only will be allowed to continue with that program if that is what motivates the student to be active.

At Levels l0 through 12 , students will be more mobile with mentoring and volunteer opportunities in the community at regional facilities created by a consortium of school districts for Workforce Development and Training, Performance Art, Multimedia Centers, and Sports Facilities. Students will attend these academies based on personal interest and aptitude. Students at this stage will also act as tutors to motivate younger students by seeing older students enthused about learning. Student Exchange programs will be developed to address the “Digital Divide” where student may not have access to the same technology experiences. The exchanges can be national (with urban and rural exchanges) or international.

In the schools of 2025, academic instruction will be based on the Constructivist model where the student is involved in active interaction of knowledge. Teacher roles will be as collaborators, guides and facilitators who are co-teaching or running thematic units with other teachers. All students will be provided with personal computers for school and home use. The computers will be handhelds with the ability to project images on any surface. The personal handhelds will also have webcam and microphone connections, photo and movie making, and voice recording capabilities. Technology will be utilized based on success seen in private industry, the military, and university applications and will include computer instruction, simulation, and game-based instruction. Academic courses will be delivered with a combination of Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS), multimedia, distance and online learning, simulation and game-based interactive theaters. ITS allows computer delivered instruction that analyzes student learning style, provides instruction, monitors progress, and modifies instruction to meet the need of the individual student. When the student has mastered a particular lesson the computer determines when to move to the next level of instruction. Distance and online learning will be offered to students to take courses not taught in-house from other campuses. Schools will subscribe to a distance learning and on-line library that is set up to provide enrollment and connection for courses taught by different schools. Reciprocity agreements will be set up to provide students with a wide range of class offerings. “Real Time” and “On Demand” options will be available to make use of the anywhere and anytime possibilities of eLearning. Textbooks will not be used and most assignments will be submitted by computer rather than hard copy. Simulations will be used to train students for skills that are not discovery based. The simulations will be used to evaluate strengths and allow for investigation and training for careers such as pilots, doctors, engineering construction and other areas that involve skills that cannot afford trial and error.

In the web based article “Thinking About the Future: Leaders of technology education tell us what they see ahead” Frank B. Withrow compares advances of the digital technology to the printing press and speaks to the hope that computers will change education. “Learning in traditional schools has been effective for the top 15 percent of students, but far too many schools have wasted the potential of many learners... With technology we can provide individual learning plans and programs for every student.” The students today are the canaries in the mine shaft signaling that the system is not relevant or functional for most of them. With changes in how schools are funded we can begin to develop learning environments based on Constructivist model and utilize the rich technological advances. If the transformation begins now the future looks bright. The schools in the year 2025 will finally be a true, democratic representation of successful public education for all students.


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