The best thing about the “Microsoft-designed school of the future,” detailed in the September 20th article “No more teachers, no more books” may be the schedule and the school’s overall approach to learning. According to the article:

Because some studies have shown students do better with a later start to the school day, classes run from 9:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The building, though, is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., giving access for study time, group project work or community activities. The school’s cafeteria — where students purchase food with a swipe of the same card used to open lockers — serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. By spring semester, that same swipe of the card will give students a full breakdown of their caloric intake — and allow educators to track nutrition with student achievement.

Students’ class schedules look different, too. They don’t take calculus, English or biology. Instead, they attend inquiry sessions, during which interdisciplinary instruction tackles real-life questions such as “Should Philadelphians be worried about avian flu?” Students learn the science behind the disease and study the environmental concerns. They discover how to research the topic, then they learn how to communicate their findings.

“It’s more like life and less like school. I can’t think of anything I do that is ‘This is math, this is social studies,’ ” said Shirley Grover, who is called the “chief learner.” That is School-of-the-Future speak for principal. Likewise, the children aren’t “students.” They are “learners.” Those instructing them are “educators.” The labels may sound like corporate semantics, but Grover insists the titles make a difference. The children are discovering, she said, that learning isn’t something you just do in school. It is a life process.

Support for inquiry-based learning and integrated learning is not just laudable, it is downright revolutionary in our era of high stakes accountability. From my quick read of the article, it sounds like the teachers are encouraged to embrace “messier” forms of assessment than simply scantron-based testing. If this is indeed the case, it seems that the pedagogical changes in this school are just as significant as the technological ones. Sounds like a good case study for an EduTopia video documentary!

Via Raymond Hartfield.

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