A gumball perspective on global handschooling

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Posted on 25th January 2011 by Judy Breck in Equality | Mobiles | Next

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In this video presentation from NUMBERSUSA.ORG, Roy Beck uses each gumball to represent one million impoverished people. The theme of Beck’s presentation is the futility of immigration as a means of curing poverty. He concludes that it is much more effective to bring the change to where they live to lift the 5.6 billion people represented by the gumballs, than to solve their woes through immigration.

Let’s use the gumballs to think about handschooling:

Most of the 5.6 billion people represented in the gumballs already have a mobile phone. Soon essentially all of them will.

Impoverish people, as Beck calls these billions, are trending strongly to leapfrogging stationery computers to use the internet, connecting online with their mobiles instead.

Most of the student-aged population in the gumballs have inadequate schools or none at all. The task of building, equipping, and running enough schools could take decades — if indeed it can be done at all. Each gumball = a million students, which is the number of students in the world’s largest school system, in New York City. That system has more than 1600 individual schools. Even a handful of gumballs is many hundreds of schools.

Instead of pouring money into building a hundreds of old time brick and mortar schools each year, to enroll a gumball or two worth of students, why not enlightened Beck’s full jars of student-age and older people right away? They can use their mobiles to browse the Web to locate knowledge and learn it.

I suggest you watch Beck’s video and think about it in terms of education instead of immigration. The massiveness of th challenge of building schools is made dramatically clear — yet the handschooling solution is within our easy reach.

HT/R. Dalke

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.

Handschooling blog is about 5 ways to help the new education arise

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Posted on 18th February 2010 by Judy Breck in General | Schools we now have

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UPDATE: This has been revised: Findability and Commons are combined and the new section Next is added. The heading beneath the logo is slightly revised. Handschooling.com is a work in progress. Thanks for your patience. Judy

The heading beneath the logo is:

Meet the new phoenix arising from the ashes of failed education, and help it take off


There are pages being developed to replace the roughly sketched ones now online for these 5 areas of action:
1 Mobiles
2 Findability
3 Nurture
4 Next
5 Politics

The purpose of Handschooling.com is to explain and illustrate the 5 areas and to make practical suggestions for action by readers in each of them. This blog is about how to use our talents, resources, and influence as educators, parents, and citizens during the transition from analog schooling to the new schooling arising around the global knowledge commons.

Hopefully, I am not overdoing the bird! Several readers have sent positive comments since my last post about the metaphor of the phoenix for what is happening to education. The phoenix myth has persisted in several cultures for many centuries, as reflected in the manuscripts and images collected in The Medieval Bestiary, the source of the images in this post. The idea is a powerful one that rings true. The phoenix reminds us that sometimes it is better to let an old institution go up in flames, and then to enjoy a creative rebirth. Handschooling.com focuses on the new young fledgling of 21st century learning — which is now like the little fellow spreading his wings here: A phoenix rising from the still-glowing ashes of the fire that consumed its previous incarnation.

Although we still await the full conflagration of schooling’s aging analog-cored incarnation, here we turn our attention and support to the exciting new fledgling.

School big thinker ignores the internet

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Posted on 6th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Schools we now have

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This education “big-thinker” never mentions the internet in this nine-minute talk on “Becoming Internationally Competitive.” If you want to spend the time to watch this video, ask yourself as you do whether it is about the 1980s or 1950s or even earlier. The are almost no clues that the internet exists. The students and teachers use pencils, pads, and printed workbooks to write by hand. A botany class uses printed images of leaves — when they could, for example, be learning something new each day from the Botany Photo of the Day.

The students we see in the video are from excelling schools in countries where students average far better on tests than do students from USA public schools. Kids are shown from Finland, whose education ranks highest by the video’s standards. Finland is tech-drenched; it is the home of Nokia. In Finland 79% of the population use the internet and each of the 5.5 million people has a legal right to a one-megabit broadband connection. It is almost certain that every Finnish student in the video owns a smartphone that browses the internet and would beautifully display the Botany Photo of the Day. Yet in the video we only briefly see a student using a handheld calculator and one quick look at a classroom with 1990s era desktop computers on tables.

The big-thinker narrator laments, after showing scenes from schools in other countries, that USA schools are inferior. She says at one point that in our “low income schools science is barely taught.” She concludes the video with a discussion of common course standards — and saying that the federal government is organizing itself to fund new assessments that will be tied to the common course standards. She says that the federal role will be to design an approach that is more internationally comparable.

OKAY, this is oversimplified, but: Why not provide kids in whatever are our “low income schools” with smartphones so they can learn about nature from Botany Photo of the Day and the comprehensive natural sciences openly available online – like these samples for botany?

And what possible clue is there in the video to how the “low income schools” in the USA — and all the kids around the world NOT in the superior countries — could ever have deep knowledge experience like the narrator touts. A great start is handschooling where deep knowledge awaits online.

Learning basic history, science, math in kids’ hands

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Posted on 23rd January 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Nurture

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boysSchoolEvery boy in the picture above (by Griff Witte/the Washington Post) can learn basic history, science, math and more — in spite of what was reported last week in a front page Washington Post story:

“ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — With a curriculum that glorifies violence in the name of Islam and ignores basic history, science and math, Pakistan’s public education system has become a major barrier to U.S. efforts to defeat extremist groups here, U.S. and Pakistani officials say. . . .

“. . . according to education reform advocates here, any effort to improve the system faces the reality of intense institutional pressure to keep the schools exactly the way they are.”

How widespread is this intransigence toward changing schooling? This kind of stubbornness is not just found in Islamabad. Intense pressure to keep schools as they are ranges in different places and cultures from orthodoxy to tradition to profit issues by vested interests and control demands by unions and, most sadly, a panoply of corruption.

While we deal across the planet with the inertia and intransigence that promises to perpetuate failing schools for at least another generation or two of kids, why not let the kids trapped in these schools learn the basics with handschooling? To do that, we need to get a mobile that browses the internet to each kid, and focus more on sharpening the findability online of basic subjects. Every boy in the picture above could learn his algebra from a mobile friendly tutorial in Urdu, Punjabi – and one day the full range of local languages. My guess is that many Pakistanis of their generation are already doing some handschooling beyond their school walls — or when they have no school to attend.
Originally posted in GoldenSwamp.com