by Malia M. Hoffmann, Ed.D.
Often we hear that our education system needs reform. But what does reform mean; what does that reform look like? How should our schools of the future look?
I have thrown this topic of discussion out to my PLN (professional learning network) to find out their thoughts. Together we have come up with some interesting ideas if we were not held to boundaries.
For the Trekkies out there, naturally, we thought of the Vulcan School of Learning pods (John Randall, personal communication, January 13, 2016 & Smith, 2011). This takes personalized learning to a new level. Great idea in theory, every student has multiple screens and information at their fingertips.
The system asks questions and moves on based upon the answers. However, there is something missing from this kind of learning; collaboration, it is isolated. As we know, Spock struggled with human emotion, which is essential to our children's understanding.
Collaborating and working with others is a must in most jobs. Working with others, communicating, understanding, and exercising emotional intelligence is also necessary to child development and education.
Doing the Vulcan learning pods one better, and applicable to today’s classrooms imagine movable desks/pods for students loaded with the needed technology, connected to the world.
Individually, in their pods students learn the background information, tied to the other students in other classrooms or around the world, they self assess, and eventually move out of their pods to collaborate with the rest of the class.
The teacher orchestrates this, providing timelines, checking in on the students understanding, and regrouping students as needed. Informal formative assessment is constant. Learning is at the forefront here, not assessment.
Which brings me to schools that are not so galatic. I’m sure you have heard Finland mentioned as a top tier education system, and they are. I realized that when comparing Finland to America, we are not comparing apples to apples here, but it’s not to say we can’t learn something from the way the educate.
Finnish students don’t start school until they are 7 years old, rarely take test or do homework until they are well into their teens, take one standardized test at the age of 16, and children are not measured for their first 6 years of their education (Taylor, 2011).
Can you imagine the learning that could happen in an environment such as this? Taking testing out of the equation makes room for students to learn and enjoy it without the stress of a test. I think about the informal learning I do when I seek out knowledge just out of curiosity.
I travel down the rabbit hole of information just to satiate need for knowledge. If we could cultivate this within our schools, perhaps students would be more excited to go school. Minimizing the testing that takes places makes more room for curiosity and discovery.
It is possible that we can have a mashup of Vulcan and Finnish Schools today, not just in the future. We have the technology available to us, mobile devices, interactive whiteboards, and the means to connect with schools across the world.
We simply need to reallocate all the funding that goes towards testing our students and put it back into educating them. In 2015, we spent $1.7 Billion on standardized testing (Ujifusa, 2015).
That is an incredible amount of money that could be shifted into beefing up our wifi networks, putting the best technology tools in the hands of our students, as well as provide training for teachers on those tools.
This a little bit of innovation and restructuring our students could learn like Vulcans.
Atalla, S., Hoffmann, M., Neben, J., & Randall, J. (2016, January 13). CUI ed tech PLN. [Professional Learning Community].
Smith, J. (2011, June 23). Star Trek 2009 Vulcan video. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://goo.gl/e01oVM
Taylor, A. (2011). 26 amazing facts about finland's unorthodox education system. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/finland-education-school-2011-12?op=1
Ujifusa, A. (2015). Standardized testing costs states $1.7 billion a year, study says. Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/11/29/13testcosts.h32.html