Schools are losing the war on our kids education. I mean with more and more cutbacks who and teachers seem to be the blame why little Billy or Natalie is not learning. More so some kids don’t learn the same way as other kids do. Some kids are visual, where they learn by seeing the content, while others learn by repetition and some seem to learn with little effort as possible. Some individuals can learn a music note and learn to replicate it just by hearing one note. Myself, I learn by reading articles and then also by repetition. I’m never learned just by hearing a line or a note or even by seeing.
In an article for wired magazine a teacher Sergio Juarez Correa was inspired a new teaching method he learned from another professor in the UK at the University of New Castle. The method seemed unorthodox, Sugata Mitra a professor of educational technology introduced kids in India to computers and without any instruction the kids were able to teach themselves. What they learned was quite amazing, Correa, who taught in the border of Mexico knew he was onto something.
Sugata Mitra discovered his method back in 1999 where he found that kids learned themselves how to turn on the computer and what it does all while Mitra watched in amazement. Mitra put together a study and published it in 2010 in the city of Kalikuppam, a village in southern India. With a group of 10 to 14 year olds were shown Mitra’s didactic methods and then he left the room. Over the course of 75 days the children learned how to use the computer. Mitra then gave the kids an exam on molecular biology after which they got one in four right, but with the help of another party they were getting every other questions right. “If you put a computer in front of children and remove all other adult restrictions, they will self-organize around it,” Mitra says, “like bees around a flower.”
Amazingly enough Mitra won a 1 million dollar grant from TED to keep at his work. He is now working with seven schools where five are in India and two are in the UK. There will be no teachers, or curriculum, or separation by age just six or more computers and someone to look after them. Mitra also plans to hire retired British teachers who will appear from time to time via skype to help encourage kids to look into their own thoughts and ideas and pursue all curiousness.
Back in 2009 another study done by scientists at the University of Louisville and MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences conducted a study that took 48 children between the ages of 3 and 6. The kids were given a toy that could squeak, play notes and reflect images and other things as well. One set of kids was given the toy and told about one aspect of the toy, while the other group of kids were nothing about the toy at all. It seems that the group of kids who weren’t any prior information about the toy found an average of six things they would do with the toy while the first group only found about four in all. It seems that when you let a child find out for themselves, they were more likely to find solutions. “The science is brand-new, but it’s not as if people didn’t have this intuition before,” says coauthor Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley.
This way of thinking traces back to Socrates. The way we are going is not working for us. According to the testing service ACT almost a third are “not prepared academically for first-year college courses,”from those who graduate high school in 2013. The World Economic Forum ranks the US just 49th out 148 developed and developing nations in quality in math and science instruction. To put that in perspective were behind Japan, Switzerland, Germany, France and Estonia just to name a few. “The fundamental basis of the system is fatally flawed,” says Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford and founding director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. 30 years later “In 1970 the top three skills required by the Fortune 500 were the three Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic. In 1999 the top three skills in demand were teamwork, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. We need schools that are developing these skills.”
Alternate ways of learning include a method created by Dr. Maria Montessori where she believed the kids were empty slates and kids learned naturally and had very absorbent minds capable of self-directed learning. She developed a curriculum where the kids could spend long periods of time concentrating. She was against the traditional ways of learning, believing that the structured lessons halted this concentration and slowed the learning process. She opened a school in Tarrytown,NY in 1911 in the NY times wrote “Yet this is by no means a school for defective children or tubercular children or children who are anemic. The little pupils in the big sunny classroom at Tarrytown are normal, happy, healthy American children, little sons and daughters of well-to-do suburban residents.” Even today the Montessori method is used within 5,000 schools and still shows kids developing better social and academic skills than traditional academic methods. Google founders Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page are students of the Montessori method.
Rudolph Steiner also sought out new ways of learning for children. Steiner was influenced by Goethe and Jean Piaget where there were 3 seven-year periods of child development. The Steiner curriculum consisted of 12 years teaching kids to prepare ” for living” with the emphasis on creative expression and social and spiritual values. His school became the largest school in Germany, he believed the first 7 years of a child’s life was period for being imitative and sensory based learning and therefore noncognitive learning was best at this period. Kids during this period were taught to interact with their surroundings. From age 7-14 Steiner focused on creativity and imagination, where children learn foreign languages, eurythmy, an expressive dance developed by Steiner and other performing arts. By age 14 students were ready for more structured environments that are call for social responsibility. Despite criticisms of religious teaching in the schools by 1974 there were more than 800 schools teaching the Waldorf method.
The Harkness method forms around a large oval table to is the focal point of the classroom that uses the Harkness method. Edward Harkness, who was a philanthropist and oil magnate developed this method where students sit around the table and talk about different subjects from calculus to history to English in detail. The idea is to take away the seated rows and teachers lecturing to students and keep on point. The lessons are never the same and this helps teachers with burnout. In the year 1930 Harkness gave a multi-million dollar donation to Philips Exeter Academy which was a private school. He gave the money on the terms some money be spent on a new way of educating the students of the school. The school was able to hire 26 new teachers which resulted in more intimate class settings with fewer students. This was important for the Harkness method works best with 15 or fewer students per class. The classes are now small enough so that the shy or slow individual will not be submerged,” Exeter principal Dr. Lewis Perry told the New York Times in the early years of the program. “The average boy, similarly, finds his needs cared for. In short, the Harkness plan is best defined as an attitude. It is a new approach to the problem of getting at the individual boy.”
In the first three years the method shown a 6% decrease in failing for the students which was excellent. The kids were learning and being in such close quarters, they shared their ideas with their group of ten. Students also learned speaking skills and respect for others as well. Studies have shown this method increases chances of memory retention a recall, even though the Harkness method never gained traction in public schools.
Reggio Emilia is an approach used for kids 3 to 6. The method is named after the city in northern Italy, where a teacher named Loris Malaguzzi founded a new way of teaching post World War II. The first Reggio Emilia school opened in 1945,but it was until 1991 that the method had the momentum to cultivate a following in the US. An article in Newsweek called the Diana preschool in Reggio Emilia among the best early childhood institutions in the world. In the Reggio Emilia method parents are crucial in taking an active role in the child’s early education. With no set lesson plans and a setting designed to feel like home the curriculum is also flexible all to help the child learn in a laxed setting. The growth is measured by the student not the curriculum also art supplies and art teacher are also a key factor in the development. Teachers often keep extensive documentation of a child’s development, including folders of artwork and notes about the stories behind each piece of art.
“It’s about exploring the world together and supporting children’s thinking rather than just giving them ready-made answers,” said Louise Boyd Cadwell, who was an intern at two Reggio Emilia schools in Italy in the early ’90s and then wrote a book about the teaching method. “Reggio Emilia is about full-blown human potential and how you support that in both intellectual and creative terms.”
Founded in 1968 in Framingham, Massachusetts Sudbury schools got their name from the Sudbury Valley School. Sudbury schools operate under individuality an democracy and take both principles very seriously. In Sudbury school students have complete control of what, and how they learn, even how they are evaluated if they are evaluated. A weekly school meeting votes on school rules, school budgeting matters, staff members being rehired and other matters related to the school. Every student gets a vote and every vote counts. The Sudbury philosophy is that the students are capable and able to assume a level of responsibility and making decisions for themselves. If they are wrong, they deal with the consequences. Sudbury schools believe students are inherently motivated to learn and use this ideology to defend not trying to get the teachers to develop new ways of learning. Sudbury schools have similarities with “free schools” that gained popularity in the 1970’s where students are not divided by age. The old students usually mentor the younger ones. The annual tuition for the Sudbury Valley School is $6,450 dollars.