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Laptops, personalized learning replace lectures in schools

Sixth graders at Waukesha STEM Academy work on an exploration related to baseball marketing for class. (Angela Peterson/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MCT)

Last year, Kim Crosby spent about 80 percent of her class time teaching math concepts at Waukesha STEM Academy in Wisconsin. For the other 20 percent, she helped students individually.

This year, that time was reversed: 80 percent of her class time was spent moving from student to student; about one-fifth continued to be a standard lecture format. The rest of the direct-instruction materials she wanted students to see, she assigned them to watch or read at home.

“To me, this makes more sense,” Crosby said.

When it comes to challenging traditional ideas about how schools should operate, this two-year-old charter school is building a reputation with a curriculum that focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math, and where student schedules can change every day.

Students choose when they want to eat and when they want to work during a 60-minute lunch, and they randomly can be found working in groups behind the reception desk—or in the teachers lounge.

It might sound like too much freedom for middle-schoolers, but not to Principal Ryan Krohn.

“If we want kids to act like adults and be responsible and come up with ideas and manage their time,” he said, “why do we continue to tell them exactly what to do and expect them to do it in the same way and at the same time as everyone else?”

Krohn is part of a growing network of educators in Wisconsin and across the nation calling for learning environments that are less lecture-driven and more collaborative. They want children to think better for themselves. They believe teachers must use technology in more sophisticated ways to advance learning. They believe the immediate payoff is more engagement. The long-term goal: higher achievement.

Dramatic spending cuts, calls from taxpayers for greater efficiency, and rapidly evolving technology are propelling such ideas forward and causing more people to question the seemingly immutable norms of traditional schooling:

Why are classes still largely structured around lecturing, when research shows learners often retain information better through writing about it or explaining it, with feedback?

Why do schools largely group children by similar age instead of similar ability?

Why is memorization and fact-regurgitation so heavily valued when school leaders and employers say they want greater problem solving and critical thinking skills from graduates?

Promising opportunities

New technologies offer promising opportunities for schools to move away from the factory-style instruction model to one where learning plans are customized for each student—something already common in special education but largely absent from the mainstream.

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Comments:

  1. ilearner 24-7

    June 21, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    United kingdom- I am really trying to advocate and push this here and being met with apathy and frustration. What would really help me is success stories with hard data to quantify and justify any commitment. Please respond and HELP.

  2. Tomsmcdonald

    June 21, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    ilearner

    You need to support and validate your argument for the new personalized learning paradigm by following, learning and sharing research proven, learning methodologies

    You can start your teacher facilitated, personalized learning path here:
    +
    http://mcdonaldsalesandmarketing.biz/
    +
    http://mcdonaldsalesandmarketing.biz/category/learning-strategies-in-2012/

  3. kisjmail

    June 21, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Who is writing the personalized learning plan? The student? The teacher? The science teacher? The math teacher? The English teacher? The art teacher? The parent? A few specially trained staff?

  4. mikebyster

    June 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    As an educator, I believe it is very important to teach material that is important for the future of the students. When inventing my math and memory system Brainetics (http://www.brainetics.com), I wanted to focus on new subjects and innovative methods to teach. By teaching social media, students will be more prepared in the future. It seem like so many aspects of today’s society centers around the digital environment and social media should be considered as subject worth teaching.

    Great article,

    Mike Byster
    http://www.mikebyster.com
    Inventor of Brainetics, Educator, Author of Genius, Mathematician

  5. rkalaukoa

    June 25, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    There is an assumption that all students have access to the technology and tools. How do these schools address that? Do the schools invest in laptops and applications for all students or are students expected to have these tools? What abou internet access outside of school, or are assignments structured so that students can complete them during the school day?

  6. musa baba

    July 3, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Easy as it may appear serious work and reorientation need to be carried out,the easy of availability of the relevant tools,technology and internet access.

  7. jeffpiontek

    July 19, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    There are so many issues that are not addressed here, digital equity, professional development and professional improvement for teachers and staff that is ongoing and valid.

    Working around the world I see programs all the time that show “progress” and because of the investments made in technology many want to attribute it directly to tech use. I am still waiting to see a gold standards study that delineates that “technology use” was the ONLY factor that caused increases in ….

    I believe in the use of technology and what it can do but it must be integrated with content and guided by standards (of some sort) whether Common Core, International or state, as long as they are rigorous and focused on improvement and scaffolded.

    Only time will tell and we all shall see….