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Richard Elmore and Elizabeth City posed some interesting questions in the sixth article in the Future of School Reform series.  Their article, Using Technology to Move Beyond Schools, presents some interesting questions which I consolidated into the one question, What School Do You Want to Attend?  They ask us to consider three possible scenarios for schools of the future, especially as it relates to the use of technology to advance learning.  The table below summarizes the three scenarios.  I pulled text from their article and reorganized it into these three categories.

School Scenarios Characteristics Roles & Relationships Outcomes
“Turtle Gets the Laptop”
  • More laptops
  • More interactive whiteboards
  • Faster Internet connections
  • More digital lessons
  • Greater use of technology for improved efficiency of operations
  • Teachers and schools continue to control access to content and learning.
  • Teachers are still gatekeepers of knowledge
  • School leaders are managers of instruction.
  • Schools are places where students go to learn from adults.
  • Schools will increasingly become custodial institutions, isolated from the lives of their students and the learning environment beyond their walls.
“Frog Gets the GPS Device”
  • Schools set the learning destinations
  • Map out the best pathways to those destinations.
  • Technology is about opening portals for learning that are connected to the world outside of schools.
  • Teachers are more knowledge brokers.
  • School leaders are entrepreneurs connecting their organizations to the broader learning environment.
  • Schools become places where adults and students get together to enter a broader learning environment.
  • Schools play an important role in determining what constitutes “knowledge” and “learning” for students.
“Caterpillar Learns to Fly”
  • Schools set broad standards for content, like the common-core standards, and broad guidance about how students and parents can get access to learning consistent with those standards.
  • Schools are on their own, competing with other types of service providers and learning modalities for the interest and loyalty of students and their parents.
  • Family combines services from organizations into a learning plan for its children.
  • Students choose to focus on one type of learning for a period of time—six months in an intensive language program, or three months on a biology expedition.
  • Students choose to work on areas of learning exclusively through online vendors.
  • Students would accumulate digital learning portfolios summarizing their learning and proficiency around broad standards and would be available for higher education institutions and potential employers to access.
  • Schools cease to play a determining role in what constitutes knowledge and learning.
  • Schools, as we know them would gradually cease to exist and be replaced by social networks organized around the learning goals of students and their families.

Here are a set of excellent questions they pose at the end of their article:

  • Is “school” a brick-and-mortar building, or a way of organizing and providing access and support for learning?
  • Who decides what and how to learn?
  • What is society’s role in that decision-making?
  • How do we ensure that the students who have the most to gain and lose in any fundamental transformation of “school”—the very students least well served by the current institution of school—are best supported to thrive and succeed?

I like their set of questions because it seems to me they are fairly broad, but fundamentally important.  Can school be something other than a building with classrooms with four walls that hide the learning from others?  The eSchool of the Month (eSchool News, June 2011, page 35) profiles Open High School in Utah, a full-service high school that serves students in Utah.  It currently serves 250 students in grades 9 and 10 and will be adding programs for 11th and 12th graders this coming year.  As a open, public charter school, they offer a full range of courses in a Moodle-like environment.   Open High School’s performance indicators, such as achievement levels on high-stakes tests, prove to be quite strong in the early phases.  Parent surveys they have conducted, as well as student surveys, indicate a high-level of satisfaction.  Seems to me that Open High School could be an example of “Caterpillar Learns to Fly.”

How would you categorize your school right now?  Are there other categories than the three that Richard Elmore and Elizabeth City propose?  Share a comment on what you are thinking.