Learn from the Web while waiting for Superman

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Posted on 23rd March 2011 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Next | Obamaschool | Schools we now have

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Waiting for Superman is a GREAT movie. But something should be added!! While waiting and working for super schools with super teachers, we can do this immediately: show every kid how to learn everything known by humankind through the device they already have.

I saw Waiting for Superman this afternoon for the first time. In thinking about it afterward, I realized I could remember no mobile devices being used by any of the kids. This is both archaic and inaccurate. I can remember way back in 1999 being at a mentor meeting attended by a dozen students from New York City public high schools. We were sitting around a conference table at a business office in Manhattan. Just out of curiosity, I asked them how many were carrying cellphones. They ALL had them, and that was twelve years ago.

It is uncertain that very many more American students are truly going to have the great schools and teachers the movie longs for. It is very certain that essentially every school-age American will carry a Web browsing mobile device — and probably already are. While we are working for the great schools with great teachers, why not also work to show youngsters how to handschool themselves.

I knew a brilliant black woman from New York City who had a Ph.D from Columbia University. She gave up her other careers to work as a first grade teacher in one of the worst schools in Harlem. She explained to me: “If I can get them at that age and teach them to read, they will be okay.”

We should do all the things suggested and implied in Waiting for Superman. We should do one more thing: Teach individual students how to learn everything known through the mobile Web. That is another way to help them to be okay.

UPDATE: This Handschooling post from a year ago gives more on how learning can be done with individual devices:
Ignoring intertwingularity was education’s shark jump

Fix the schools? “We need to help Daisy”

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Posted on 10th October 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Next | Obamaschool | Schools we now have

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A Washington Post Opinion piece this morning makes two things plain: the leaders of massive failing USA public schools have no new ideas, and any kid can tell you what is really needed.

This WaPo featured article is actually titled: “How to fix our schools,” and signed by the top individuals running the biggest districts where 2.5 million children attend and school failures are rampant. We are getting here, a “manifesto” from the heads of school districts in New York City, Washington DC, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston and others.

If you are the parent of young children whose schooling will play out over the next decade, how could you read this article and fail be crushed by what it means for your kids? There is nothing new suggested. What is suggested has been tried and proven virtually impossible to accomplish. The theme is we need to get rid of bad teachers and attract good teachers. There is no whisper of blame for the bureaucratic and vested interests who control the schools (and control the jobs of the authors of the article).

The video interview embedded above of Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the D.C. Public School system, accompanies the article. Extremely revealing, in the interview at 3.40, is her description of taking her daughters, ages 8 and 11, to see the “Waiting for Superman” movie about American public schools. Rhee says that after seeing the movie — which features five students combatting problems with public schools — the Rhee daughters reacted by worrying about the specific kids, not the system. They kept saying, their mother reports: “What are we going to do about Daisy? Can somebody help Daisy?” Rhee tried, she goes on to say, to explain to her daughters that each individual child in the movie represents millions of real kids. How does that answer her daughter’s question?

Out of the mouths of babes: “Why not help Daisy?”

The theme of this blog is to advocate that Daisy take schooling into her own hands. Here is how to help Daisy right now:

1. Get her a mobile browser that is her own device and that has 24/7 wireless connectivity to the internet. A laptop, tablet, or smart phone accomplish this step.

2. Give her some assistance on learning how to use the open online websites and networks to learn real knowledge. Force her school to let her use her mobile as she wishes at school, as long as it is not disruptive.

These two steps are something we could actually accomplish very quickly and cheaply for millions of kids — while those power people at the schools go around the teachers-need-to-be-better circle once again. It is even possible that the pressure of having students able to learn using sources outside of school may actually pressure the education establishment into making real changes.

Now, put the standards in the kids’ hands

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Posted on 12th March 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Schools we now have

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The Common Core State Standards were “released” this week, but they are bundled inside of pdfs — not readable online. Click the image at the right to start digging to download them to your computer.

The pdfs are but a minor obstacle between what the standards contain and the kids who are supposed to learn the stuff. State boards will debate the content, curriculum and textbook writers will be paid to include them in upcoming publications, printers and truckers will be paid to manufacture and deliver the paper versions, teachers will be trained to teach the content of the standards, kids will sit through lessons in which their age and grade matches what is taught, tests will be given and taken.

In the meantime, the content of the standards should be put openly and unbundled online. The list in the illustration at the top of this post is from the pdf “Appendix B: Illustrative Texts” downloadable from the Core Standards page. That 195-page pdf should be put online in searchable form today. Every work of literature it lists should be immediately made openly free to be read on mobile devices: laptops, smartphones, and cellphones with internet browsers. The costs of compensating copyright holders would be miniscule compared to printing and delivering hardcopies of these works to America’s school children.

The material for all of the Core Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies and Science should also be made openly available for handschooling.

Why not, then, an open race to the top competition? Perhaps Amazon would award free book downloads to students passing quizzes Amazon would provide for kid readers to take to show they had read standards works. Multiple competitions could be held, with trophies and prizes for winning readers. With that sort of incentive, by the time the standard works get assigned to your kids in class, they can tell the teacher: “I read that.”

You may be thinking that we must be sensitive to kids in failing schools who might not go online to read good books or learn math or history. Yet, what real expectation is there that the announced standards will penetrate to their dysfunctional school experience and cause them to read The Odyssey, The Grapes of Wrath, and the other works in the standards. When these works — plus the math, history, and science — are put into the mobile device in their hand, we will see what they do.

Findability in the global commons is the new core of education

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Posted on 23rd February 2010 by Judy Breck in Findability | Mobiles | Next

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Handschooling is stunningly exciting and hopeful because every youngster on earth will soon have individual access to knowledge. Grumpy posts here about Obamaschool are not the real spirit of this website — but knocking us off of the socialist track is necessary before the new individualized learning can emerge.

The image above — half of which is now in the sidebar — illustrates the conjunction of the two main factors of handschooling:

    1. what is know by humankind and needs to be learned by each new generation has moved online where it is mirroring its cognitive network structure, and
    2. individual mobile devices are now available by which each student can individually connect to the global knowledge commons the network has created.

      The most deeply interesting subject is the networking of what is known online. There is so much chaos and conflict in education that it is very hard to get focus on this core phenomenon. Yet the fact that knowledge itself is a network and that almost suddenly it has found a new medium — the internet — in which to nestle itself conforming to its own cognitive structure is astounding. This event ranks with the invention of language, writing, and printing. This migration of what is known by the human species into a spontaneous virtual medium is most spectacular because no one thought it up. It just happened. Until we reconfigure schooling around the networking of knowledge in the open internet, we are spinning our pedagogical wheels. Finding and connecting ideas in this medium is the core around which we will invent the future of education.