Sunday, February 12, 2012


There are lots of exciting movements happening in education right. And I sometimes feel that perhaps I’m somehow supposed to be always working or connected to education. While writing a bio for introductions to my new team, I realised how I have always been doing educational work since being in elementary. In Fifth grade I helped tutor 3rd graders, and in the 5th grade, Jose-Miguel (a best friend) and I also helped tutor a student who was a few grade levels behind. From that moment on its been an exciting ride.

One thing I realised is that anytime you have a student in your class who has fully mastered all preceding, pre-requisite courses and has fully mastered all prior lessons leading up to today, that student never has problems understanding the lesson that day. The learning difficulties (that have no mental, emotional, social, behavior bases) are embedded in holes in prior knowledge, things the teacher assumes that the student does not assume. Now, normally it wouldn’t be a problem when someone misunderstands something because you just spend time to correct the understanding. The problem is that in our contemporary educational institutions around the world, you continue on when a student doesn’t understand.

For example, imagine I give an exam, and 80% of people pass the exam while 20% fail the exam. I continue on the next unit, even though the student obviously didn’t master the material. Normally a teacher has the license to stay on the current unit if enough (a considerable portion) of the students struggled. But the determination of enough is subjective. And even if it is not, any student in the minority who failed or who barely passed still needs help and should not be moving ahead.

While teaching, a former wife helped me with objective-based tracking. It was a brilliant idea in which you provided incentives for students to become competent at all the objectives for each unit. This was to help avoid the problem I’ve outlined. The problem with objective-tracking is that it still did not alter the pace of teaching in the classroom. In other words, it was extremely difficult for my students to continue to go back to prior lessons and units and work on old objectives while the class was moving forward. It’s hard to continue to motivate the children to do that.

So in all these things, I was challenged. And though I believed in every child’s ability to earn an A, I knew our system worked against the students. Moreover, I worked on department chairs and principals who didn’t believe that all of my children could succeed though they might profess it publicly. What I needed was help, and help. . . has come. There are a host of new educational movements that allow children to actually become competent in an area before moving on to the subsequent area.

New Classrooms - New Classrooms designs new models for instruction that reimagine the role of educators, the use of time, the configuration of physical space, and the use of data and technology so that students can learn in ways that are personalized to their particular academic needs and strengths. They then support the implementation of these models within traditional public, charter, and independent schools.

Online University with Sebastian Thrun – I’m going to be taking an artificial intelligence class from him. He’s been so touched by the power of teaching people across the world and not trying to weed out students from his class that he won’t go back. He’s left his Stanford University job. He now runs Udacity (and you can learn to create your own search engine with no prior programming experience)

Khan Academy – With over 2800 videos, you can learn entire courses here through videos. School districts are now using Khan Academy for some of their courses with their students.

Florida Virtual School – a statewide virtual e-district where teachers can “teach” students through this online material or students may do entire coursework and grade-level work through FVS alone

Stanford University Free Online Classes

Google Education – Read the about page, they have the largest online science fair in the world

Short video how Chromebooks helped one student

iTextbook Video – allows students to interact with the textbook like placing your finger on a picture of DNA and rotating it, tapping a paragraph and adding notes, creating electronic flashcards associated with certain portions of the text, etc.

Open Education Resources – Open Education Resources are resources created by one party that are licensed for free use by everyone. The author in this medium-length article advocates that materials whose production is paid for by government funds should be free to tax payers since it’s their money that facilitated the work. To pay for the textbooks is like paying twice. It says that education, at its core, is sharing, and that the internet should be leveraged to bring down the costs of textbooks and thereby education. One example is the $5 textbook.

Reverse Mentoring – where students who know more about technology than their teachers can be used to mentor teachers in the use of technology and incorporation into the subject matter. This helps builds confidence in the students and improves the educational process and delivery through technology.

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