Transform education by measuring what matters. Hint: It's not test scores.

There’s been a lot of talk about the ethics behind corporations running schools and thus profiting off students. But if we’re really concerned about folks profiting off our kids why aren’t we spending more time focusing on assessment? If we do away with measuring success with test scores the result would be billions saved that could go toward resources and personnel dedicated to support students.

Let’s face it: Teachers know and parents are waking up to the fact that these tests are one of the most expensive and least effective ways to measure student or teacher success. So why are we willing to let the government and policymakers forcibly impose this corporate-driven assessment from companies like Pearson upon our children even if it makes them sick???

What if instead we measured success in things that really mattered to students, parents and teachers.  

For example...

Students have:

  • A plan to find and develop their passion(s).
  • A team of mentors, guidance, and/or advisors to help guide them in discovery and development of their passions.
  • Customized success plans that they help design.
  • Advisors who are deeply involved in and responsible for their lives and their success.
  • An opportunity to learn about what they are interested in the world with real world experts.
  • Reported they are satisfied with support they receive from the school.
  • An authentic portfolio that can be used for career, academic, or civic pursuits.

Teachers and schools are measured by:

  • Success is moving students along to
    • Career
    • College and/or
    • Civic endeavors

that enable them to achieve their plans and goals for personal success.

Pie in the sky?


The ability to do this, do it at scale, and report progress already exists.

Here’s how it works?

Primary Schools
For primary schools it works by incorporating the Schoolwide Enrichment Model and Total Talent Portfolio. In schools incorporating this model students and their teachers know they’ve got talent and they build upon students talents, interests, passions, ability and learning styles.  This method honors the idea that children are more than numbers and data. Instead they use Total Talent Portfolios to help them pursue engaging activities in areas of deep personal interest. The portfolio reveals that our children are unique individuals who are represented by much more than a number but instead what they have done with samples of real work and meaningful work that is not just handed in but worthy of the world. Visit this and this to see what this looks like in action..

Secondary Schools
See how this works for secondary students by checking out Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor’s Big Picture School model. As I reported earlier this year, these schools take on the responsibility of ensuring each student moves on to the college, career, or experience that aligns with their interests and goals and their teachers are evaluated on their ability to help make that happen.  

This is possible. It can be done. It is being done. It is the corporations that are getting in the way with infiltrating our schools with the multi-billion dollar testing industry that is good for politicians and good for business, but we all know this is not good for children and is robbing them of the very resources they need for success.

If we work to move the conversation to measuring success by meeting our student’s personal goals in college, career, and/or life experiences we accomplish these goals:
  • Instead of teaching to the test we teach to the student.
  • Billions of dollars are restored toward resources for students.
  • Schools are held accountable, not for test scores, but for placement in what matters: college, career, and/or civic duty.

Here are three things we can do about this.
  1. Demand this data from schools.
  2. Opt out of tests.
    • There is a group for doing so in every state on Facebook. Find it by searching “Opt out of standardized tests” followed by the name of your state.
  3. Talk to politicians about alternatives.

Let's stop celebrating test scores and accepting the status quo. Our children deserve to be more than a number. They deserve more than to be prepared to be compliant little beings who memorize, regurgitate and fill in bubbles on demand..OR ELSE! Parents and teachers must stand up for what matters for our children. The evidence is not one-size-fits-all tests. Instead let's honoring and recognizing the personalized success plans that are unique to each child and prepare them to move on to the college, career, and/or civic experience that will help them achieve their goals.
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Is compulsory education really necessary?

Editor’s note: This post was born as a result of a #StuVoice chat that addressed the teaching characteristics most conducive to learning. In the chat I responded to a Tweet that stated, “If we're going to keep students in school, our technology needs to catch up!” I responded, “Why keep students in school if they can learn w/out it?” Elliot Hallmark had several insightful responses to that question. I asked him to expand on his thoughts and thus the following post was born. 

Guest post by Elliot Hallmark 
Staff member at Clearview Sudbury School in Austin, Texas 

There are many examples where compulsory education has been unnecessary such as un-schoolers, home schoolers, hunter gather societies, non-western modern cultures, and graduates of radical deschooled institutions. Yet the claim that school is unnecessary strikes many people as unfounded. After all, the circumstances of these various groups, privileged families and members of non-industrial societies, is not representative of everyone. 

So, the thinking persists that abolishing compulsory education would be ultimately abandoning most children, leaving them directionless and struggling fiercely to achieve even an adequate living. Underprivileged children especially would be left completely without the tools they need to succeed. Already, the correlation between family socioeconomic standing and success in school is striking. As funding to public schools decreases, the achievement of the underprivileged drops even further. To make attendance of public school voluntary would be madness! We must take steps to increase the effectiveness of schooling, which is surely the most influential tool we have to ensure the education of children. 


Imagine a study 
Though compulsory education seems to dominate the waking hours of the youth, what evidence do we have that it is such an influential tool? To my knowledge, no such study has been done, so we will have to imagine it. In our imaginary study, lets sample a wide variety of people; people of all levels of income, high school graduates and drop-outs, drug users and those determined to succeed, public, private, home and un-schoolers as well as those who have attended institutions for youth with no curriculum, or adult initiated classes/evaluations. And lets control for a wide variety of variables:
  • Family Income
  • IQ, Knowledge-level and skill set of family members and other daily adult contacts
  • Level of success achieved by members of family members and other daily adult contacts
  • Quantity of quality (non-coerced) time spent with adults
  • Access to enough healthful food
  • The elusive factor "x", or destiny
  • Frequency of extra-ordinary, non-habitual experiences (like camping and travel)
  • 16,380 hours over 13 years of compulsory education
  • Hours spent on unsolicited homework and examinations
  • Time spent segregated according to age, gender, race or social class
In this imaginary study, I believe that we would find that the last few variables affect the ultimate success (achieved level of ability and happiness) of students the least. Considering the success of unschoolers and graduates of deschooled institutions, one may wonder if the effect of over 15,000 hours of compulsory education and thousands of hours of unsolicited after school work contribute more than negligibly. That schooling is effective at all may infact be a gross misinterpretation based on a lack of data. 

To my knowledge, there have been no large, quantitative studies done which account for these other factors and that compare compulsory education with simply supporting the activities of the young. Perhaps access to knowledgeable/skillful adult contacts, material resources (food, technology, comfortable space) and extra-ordinary experiences are the more important factors determining success. These variables may also strongly correlate with family income, neighborhood, etc. 

In this case, improving the quantity and quality of compulsory education is the least effective approach to achieving a populace that considers themselves successful and at peace. 

A solution 
A more effective strategy would be to spend funds on increasing access for all children and teens to the other, more important factors. This includes funding internship programs, mentors, access to inspiring and productive technology and opportunities for consensual formal pedagogy. Schools could be replaced by institutions that offer abundant resources for play, creation, engagement and learning. These institutions could be a refuge from a dysfunctional home life, or complement a healthy one. Peter Gray discusses his time at an institution like this:
Many years ago, when I was a college student in New York City, I worked at an after-school community center in one of the poorest sections of the city. It was sponsored by the YMCA, for kids who couldn’t afford the “real Y.” It was free, and the clientele were almost entirely Puerto Rican and African American. The center was in a run-down building and there was only one full-time staff member (a sweet, gentle man from the community) and me, who was there only part-time during the after-school hours. It served roughly two hundred kids. There was a rickety old gym, games, some books, and a place where kids could do homework if they wanted to. It was all their own choice. The kids who came ranged in age from about 7 to about 18, and they often played in age-mixed groups—both indoors and on the street outside the building. Sometimes I saw older kids helping younger ones with homework, and I frequently saw older kids reading to younger ones or teaching them games. This was a stimulating environment, almost entirely run by the kids. I never saw serious bullying. Shabby as the building was, the kids took pride in their center, and they took good care of one another in and around it. Today, most people don’t believe that such a thing can exist. Our estimation of the abilities of kids—especially poor ones—has reached an all-time low.
Dollars and sense 
There is one striking benefit of institutions such as these which support the activities of the young and do not impose an agenda. They are significantly less expensive to run. Gone are the several layers of bureaucrats and their associated salaries. Gone are hours adults need to spend preparing tests and grading assignments. Gone is the need to buy 150 copies each of dozens of different textbooks that very few (if any) of the students are interested in. Instead, these funds can be spent on items considered valuable by the students themselves. 

Institutions where the student body along with staff democratically decide how to allocate their budget have found that this is indeed the case. They are able to achieve a much more rich environment on a budget often lower per student than that of a public school. These institutions are filled with all the musical instruments, computers (with quality software), books, and innumerable other resources the students could want. 

Race to Nowhere 
Another benefit is that the young would no longer be burdened with unnecessary stress. The rate of anxiety disorders and suicide would likely decrease. Parents would no longer have to struggle along with their children over school assignments. Children would have all the time they need to play. 

Statistical data does not currently exist to support either the claim that compulsory schooling is necessary for many, or that it can happily be abandoned. Still, the amount of qualitative evidence that compulsory schooling is not necessary in many situations is substantial. Studies do support the theory that non-school related circumstances, which correlate with socioeconomic standing, do however play a significant role. 

It is worth considering whether our society can start to transition to a model the respects the young and addresses their desires. Such a mode of education would be beneficial in many ways. In this respect, the growing number of unschoolers and curriculum-less institutions for the young are promising and likely to advance this discussion.
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The Blended Workplace

Standardized tests are not the only thing in education that is outdated and wasteful.  The other thing is having central and district offices.  Sure they were necessary last century, but this century??? 
Back in the 90s when I worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers we got rid of an entire building in Manhattan and moved to something called "hoteling." You worked from where you were and if you had to come in for a meeting or something you checked in that day (like you would in a hotel) and got an office or conference room. This saved the company MILLIONS. 
Seth Godin addressed this in his article, "Goodbye to the Office" and when you think about it, this would not only be a great way to save money for the business office, but also for school districts.  Imagine what the savings could go toward for our students!
Will school systems ever catch up?
I don't know.

I've spoken with folks who run online schools who are worried about buildings for their teachers.
Forget the building the classes are online! Give em a laptop and a wireless port (or money toward internet) and you don't need to waste that money on an office! I bet you could even tack on an extra half hour to the work day in saved commuting time.  
Seth poses these questions:
Why go to work in an office/plant/factory?
  1. That's where the machines are.
  2. That's where the items I need to work on are.
  3. The boss needs to keep tabs on my productivity.
  4. There are important meetings to go to.
  5. It's a source of energy.
  6. The people I collaborate with all day are there.
  7. I need someplace to go.
  1. If you have a laptop, you probably have the machine already, in your house.
  2. If you do work with a keyboard and a mouse, the items you need to work on are on your laptop, not in the office.
  3. The boss can easily keep tabs on productivity digitally.
  4. How many meetings are important? If you didn't go, what would happen?
  5. You can get energy from people other than those in the same company.
  6. Of the 100 people in your office, how many do you collaborate with daily?
  7. So go someplace. But it doesn't have to be to your office.
School systems can do this now and save money that could go toward student resources,  lowering class sizes, and so much more.  

Are they too stuck in their old ways or do you think there are some that'd give this a whirl?
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Want to connect your students this school year? Here are 5 ideas.

This piece was originally posted in SmartBlog on Education in Ideas that WorkSocial Media in Education
Editor's note:  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has named August as Connected Educator Month. The U.S. Department of Education’s Connected Educators initiative seeks to celebrate and encourage educators at all levels to collaborate and participate in online learning resources and communities. This piece was written to support this initiative.

Unlike their parents, today’s students can communicate, collaborate, cooperate, and connect with the world in meaningful ways that were never before possible. It is incumbent upon educators to support students in doing this effectively in order to empower them to do work that will not only lead them to personal success, but is also worthy of the world.
So, how can educators do this? Here are five ways to help your students get connected:
  1. Uncover student interests. Start by supporting young people in discovering, then developing their interests, which may turn into passions. One way to do this is by giving them a student interest inventory.
  2. Connect at the local level. Once a class or school has supported students in identifying interests, share the results so those who care about the same things can connect. Schools using a service like ePals might want to share their interests with students in partner schools to widen the circle with which they are connecting.
  3. Connect via your school’s online platform. Once you have identified student interests in your school, help them set up groups online via places like Edmondo and in person with school-based groups and clubs where students and teachers who share interests can connect, discuss, learn, grow, and create.
  4. Connect via social media. Support students in finding those who share their interests via social media using platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. If a group or hashtag doesn’t exist, support and empower students in starting their own.
  5. Comment on blogs and publications. Help students find out who’s writing about what they care about. When they do, support them in joining the conversation by commenting on those topics and even proposing a guest post or article.
Congratulations! Once you’ve supported students in these five ways, you’ve put them on the road to becoming a connected student with a learning network that will assist them in achieving success in areas that are of deep personal interest.
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Help for educators who want to differentiate student learning this school year

Innovative educators know we can help students learn most effectively when we differentiate learning in ways that enable them to draw upon their personal strengths and talents. However, some teachers groan when anyone talks about using this method of teaching because it can seem overwhelming to assess and evaluate the skills of each student and then design a customized program for optimum learning conditions.  

While there are programs like School of One that do this work by hand, it can be costly and overwhelming. It is important to provide tools and resources that make it possible to help each student achieve and demonstrate deeper learning. Fortunately there are more and more adaptive technology programs like Renzulli Learning Systems or Dreambox that can be used to support educators in doing this work. You can 
click here to see how teachers are using such tools to differentiate math instruction.  

Here are ways you can get started with differentiating learning in your classroom.

  • Evaluate students: It starts with evaluating students by assessing their talents, interests, abilities, learning style and preferred environment. The nice thing provided by some of the technology programs is that it automates the evaluation and can enable you to group students by various factors as well as find activities that best align to their profile. Automating tasks such as these makes the work of differentiating learning more manageable.
  • Set goals: Teachers are given educational goals for students to meet. This works out best when students are invited to set their own goals with the expert support of their teacher. This includes identifying and helping them build upon what they already know. Support them in recognizing and appreciating their existing knowledge as you work with students to identify a plan for achieving their personal goals.
  • Provide skills for success: Help students develop skills for success by discussing various opportunities and choices for achieving learning goals. This helps students feel more confident in their skills, and it increases the likelihood that they will be motivated to continue learning more.
When we differentiate learning to customize it to the needs of each child, students thrive, parents appreciate the special attention that is given to their children, and schools realize the benefits of hiring educators who are able to incorporate this instructional method into teaching and learning.
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Make writing, speaking, and listening more fun with Voki

Guest post by Willyn Webb | Cross posted at Teaching Generation Text

Students come to Delta Opportunity School for many reasons, but the one they all have in common is that they are credit deficient. Most feel incapable of writing even a basic essay. Thus every student has an individual learning plan focusing on their needs. In the small group English class there are students ranging in age from 15 to 20 as they are grouped not according to their grade level in school, but according to their ability level. The students love working at their level. So many have been passed along due to their age and many have missed important skills due to multiple moves, crisis in live, or nonattendance. 

Efforts towards improving reading, writing, speaking, and listening are always at the forefront of learning for students. Making writing fun, using the skills they do have (such as texting and talking on the phone), and learning from each other are goals that teachers have in the classroom. To meet that goal, teachers have incorporated a tool called Voki and the use of student-owned devices to help improve these skills. Students who had never written a personal experience essay found themselves writing and enjoying it after first practicing with texted notes and calling Voki either at home or at school.

The embedded example below is from Joey, a student who had been placed in special education courses, labeled, and passed along until his mother started advocating for something more. Now he is thriving at Delta Opportunity School with love, support, counseling, and instruction in small groups of regular kids using innovative tools such as Voki. This personal experience became his first ever essay and was also used as an example by the American Lung Association. Joey has since written (some with Voki and some without) many wonderful essays and delivered a presentation in front of his class. This is remarkable given that previously he got so nervous he could barely get through a single sentence.

More and more teachers at Delta Opportunity School are finding that when we let the kids use the tools they are currently hiding in their pockets, great things happen. Students are stepping up and learning, growing, and achieving. Student’s resulting self-esteem is an invaluable tool for further growth and teachers have discovered that enhancing learning can be fun!
On the Voki website students create their avatar, and then get the call number to record the voice. This can be done at or away from school, on a cell phone or a landline. Students can read a written speech, speak impromptu, and use texted or written outlines or notes. The Vokis can be shared via email, on a class website, blog, or wiki. Students can watch one another’s Vokis and comment on them by creating another Voki. Students love listening to each others' Vokis as much as love making their own. Revision, the step of the writing process that most all students dread, is fun and easy with Voki. If you don’t like your Voki, simply re-record. It is all part of the process. 

Learn more about this free, easy tool at 

You can more about enhancing learning through cell phones in Teaching Generation Text.
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The hottest posts that everyone's reading!

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Aug 21, 2012, 17 comments            2211                                                                                                                      
Aug 20, 2012, 0 comments               1882                                                                                                                      
Aug 19, 2012, 3 comments               1527                                                                                                                      
Jul 18, 2012, 1 comment                   1222                                                                                                                      
Aug 23, 2012, 2 comments               1216       
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"Get on the Bandwagon!" another cartoon by Jeff Branzburg

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Preparing Students for Success Means Budgeting for a Tech Coordinator - Agree?

Guest post by Nick Fier | Cross posted at A Tech Coordinator for Elementary Schools

Editor's note:  As we approach this school year and the Office of Educational Technology for New York City fades quietly into the ether, this post by tech coach, Nick Fier is timely and relevant.  

We tend to spend more money on "things" than we do on "people."  Though there is a great amount of disparity out there, it does seem clear that schools today are filling up with technology.  What they are not also filling on is a dedicated person who has the job to coordinate the technology throughout the building.  I do not mean a technician, or I might say I don't mean only a technician.  What I mean is that every building needs an expert educator who will coordinate the use of technology for Students, Teachers, Parents, and Administrators.  

This is a big job and can't be on top of teaching a full or almost full course load.  It needs to be someone who can coach teachers in supporting students in the use of resources and search out and facilitate the use of the best equipment and software that suites the school curriculum and community.

Schools that don't have this person are using technology in a hit or miss manner and as a result they are not using technology to its full potential.

We are so focused on putting technology in the hands of learners. That is great, but it won't meet with success until we focus on putting a person in every school that can facilitate the use of that technology in a way that it can be used to the fullest potential in a consistent manner in every school.
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The Innovative Educator hosts keynote student panel at 9 pm EST tonight!

What happens when students are kept prisoners of their teacher's past?

For today’s youth life outside of school is a fast-paced, connected environment where students have the freedom to learn in the spaces and with the tools they love. Once inside school walls however, digital devices and resources are often banned, collaborating is viewed as cheating, tools of engagement are seen as weapons of mass distraction, and students are prohibited from accessing the very sites and resources necessary for real-world success. 

During the Learning 2.0 Live Virtual Event I spoke to a panel of tech savvy students devoted to education reform. We discussed:

  • Problems that result when we restrict students from using technology
  • Some of the flawed logic for doing so, and
  • Solutions to overcome these obstacles  

Listen to the session here.

Students who will be on the panel include (in alphabetical order):

Jabreel Chisley |  Ohio Virtual Academy Sophomore
A sophomore with the Ohio Virtual Academy and an advocate for and researcher of meaningful responsible education reforms, special education, early childhood education, poverty issues, and gender and sexuality equality within public schools. Also blogs for the Cooperative Catalyst, a progressive education reform blog, as a student blogger.
Twitter:  @enragedstudent 

Lucia Grigoli | Newton North High School Senior Lucia is a senior at Newton North High School in Newton, Massachusetts. She serves on her school's Student-Faculty Administration, where she introduced and successfully passed a  bill to utilize social media in school for educational purposes.

In addition to her work on the local level, Lucia is a national advocate for student voice. She helps lead a national initiative to give students a voice in their own education, in addition to being a board member at both the I.M.P.A.C.T Academy for Youth and the National Young Women’s Council.
Twitter: @luciagrigoli

Nikhil Goyal | Syosset High School Junior
At age 17, Nikhil Goyal is the author of One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School to be published in September 2012 by Alternative Education Resource Organization. His pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, NBC, Huffington Post, and Edutopia. He has also contributed three Letters to the Editors for the New York Times. Nikhil has spoken to thousands at conferences and TEDx events around the world from Qatar to Spain. He has also guest lectured at Baruch College in New York. He is leading a Learning Revolution movement to transform the American school system. A senior at Syosset High School, Nikhil lives with his family in Woodbury, New York.
Twitter:  @TalkPolitical

Imtiaz Majeed |  West Orange High Graduate, 2012
Imtiaz is a 17 year old entrepreneur, blogger and lifelong learner.
Twitter:  @ImtiazZMajeed
Where you will be joining from: Orlando, Florida

Zak Malamed |  Great Neck South High Graduate, 2012
Zak Malamed is an 18-year-old advocate for the student voice in education policy. He is the organizer of the #StuVoice Twitter chats and These efforts focus on uniting and centralizing the student voice. Futhermore, Student Voice provides a support network of students worldwide that will work with students and for students to enhance and empower the student voice.

A graduate of Great Neck South High School, Malamed served as Class President for three years and Student Government President for one year. He also served as Long Island Regional Director and Political Director for the New York High School Democrats. He works summers at The Lanier Law Firm, PLLC. Malamed also serves on the Do Something Youth Advisory Council, the National Youth Association’s Policy Council, and is working closely with local politicians to develop youth advisory cabinets. In 2012, he received both the NASSP/Herff Jones Principal's Leadership Award and awards from the Long Island Press for his work as a high school journalist. Today he practices journalism at The Student Voice blog and as a
contributor to the Huffington Post. This fall he will be a freshman Government and Politics major at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Twitter:  @zakmal

Nathan Wong |  McGill University Management Psychology Student
Nathan is an undergraduate student at McGill University. He loves to find novel ways to apply the concepts he is learning in school to real-life organizations and social situations, with a particular focus on the field of education. To do so, he creates and facilitates workshops, blogs, Tweets, and has speaks at conferences such as this year’s 140edu conference.
Upon graduation in 2013 Nathan plans to implement his ideas on a larger scale and is considering doing this via being a curriculum designer, a team-building coach, or an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist.

Nathan is passionate about helping students explore their fullest potential, and to understand the inexorable value of learning. He believes that our educational systems have yet to catch up with the past 50+ years of psychological literature. Nevertheless, he has faith that, in the future, our schools will find ways to better motivate and inspire their students.
Twitter:  @Engaging_Edu
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Here's what our standardized tests are really measuring. Shame!

Seth Godin does a great job of explaining why doing well on standardized tests does not a great nation make in this video.  

Listen as Godin explains how the founders of public school worked to preserve the interests of corporations (Andrew Carnegie) and government (Woodrow Wilson). Godin quickly outlines that to which those like John Taylor Gatto has devoted hundreds of pages. 

We needed public school for two reasons:
1) We were afraid we'd run out of good factory workers.
2) We were afraid we'd run out of folks who wanted to buy stuff.

So we created public schools to serve two purposes:
1) Train people to be compliant factory workers who were great at sitting in rows and following instructions.
2) We needed to teach people that if they wanted to fit in they needed to buy the stuff we told them to buy.

Our standardized tests measure our success in accomplishing these goals.
That's why people like Yong Zhao who heads Global Ed for University of Oregon explains countries like China are not proud when their students do well on these tests.  They know they kill innovation and creativity.  

Parents, teachers, administrators, do these test scores really make you proud?  If not, what will you do about it?
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Why going to school to learn is no longer necessary

was recently interviewed for “Class Dismissed,” the first full-length documentary devoted to exploring homeschooling as a viable alternative to the industrial school model. Class Dismissed will challenge its viewers to take a fresh look at what it means to be educated, the difference between education and schooling and speak to the many misconceptions that surround homeschooling, while offering up a radical new way of thinking about the process of education.

In this video excerpt I explain why we no longer need to go to school to learn what we need for success.  

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Would you take classes if you weren’t forced?

I recently began wondering how people learn best. Specifically, how do people choose to learn when they are not forced to take classes because they want a job that required certain pieces of paper. Would classes be the method of choice and if not, what was?

So, I put my question on Twitter.

Lisa Nielsen @InnovativeEdu
If you didn't NEED a class to get that piece of paper (i.e. degree/diploma) is a class really the way you'd choose to learn? #edchat

I got a response.

Kelly Vaughan@luciente11
@InnovativeEdu Yes! I actually PREFER learning many/most things in classes. More engaging, social, accountability to process & others...

Then several more which you can read here and then a blog post.  

I thought about it.  


Some people really like classes, but I do not.

As an adult, aside from the classes I needed for my teaching and administrative licenses, have I taken classes to learn?

I asked that out loud and my bestie happened to be standing by and shared three things I learned that required classes.

Volleyball, ballroom dancing, and snowboarding.

But were these really “classes?” What I mean by that is were these the type of classes that we would take at a school to get a degree/diploma? In general, I’d say they’re not. Which for me was the problem with school and classes.  They are disconnected from learning in their real context.  When I choose to learn, while I will seek out someone with experience, I don’t go to a school, I go to the environment i.e. the beach, the dance floor, the slope.  

So maybe I was asking the wrong question.

Maybe the question should be this:

Lisa Nielsen@InnovativeEdu
When you want to learn something (outside what's required for a degree) do you go to school to do so? If not, where do you go? #edchat

Here are some of the responses I received.

jodi jackson stewart@nextmalawi
@InnovativeEdu online (especially blogs), library, friends that are experts.#edchat

@InnovativeEdu The internet! #edchat

Nicole Bucka@nbucka
@InnovativeEdu #EdChatRi Prof org CEC, ASCD; sites Center on Instruction and ; books-Simplifying RTI (amazing); twitter

Kimi Wei@kimiwei
@InnovativeEdu Go to reference librarians, trade organizations, search, books. I've been an autodidact all my life. It's easy. #edchat

But why is this important?

If you believe school life should be supporting our success in real life, then it stands to reason, that school children should have the opportunity to learn in the ways we learn best when given the freedom to do so.  

Understandably this would be different for different people. For example, Kelly Vaughan and I clearly have differences in at least one of the ways we like to learn.  Like jodi jackson stewart and Jen, I prefer learning via the internet through reading blogs, on social media, and with members of my personal learning network.

However, regardless of the way we choose to learn, there are some important similarities. In her blog post, Kelly notes what she enjoys about learning when it is not forced.

  1. Attendance is not compulsory. It is by choice.
  2. Self determined readiness to learn this information.
  3. Ability to select a teacher that is a good fit.
  4. Ability to choose a setting that feels right.
  5. Not having the requirement to juggle so many classes at once.

And, that is why both my questions were wrong.  

It is not whether we take classes or learn online that is important. Nor is it important if we prefer learning at a school, library, or on a slope.  

What is important is not what we do but rather what we don’t do.

When it comes to school what we rob students of is the freedom to choose.

So that finally gets me to the right question...I think:

Lisa Nielsen@InnovativeEdu
How can we give students the freedom to choose what, where, when, from whom, and how to learn? #edchat
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