Throughout the majority of my voting life, I’ve done my best to research the candidates before arbitrarily choosing a side, which in my case means voting Republican for financial positions and Democrat for public relations. A few years ago I stumbled across Open Government, an idea that I believe can help us solve our problems with Democracy, and immediately became a single issue voter. These days, I still tend to vote “R” for money and “D” for people, but any candidate who supports “O” for open automatically gets my vote.
The problem with my solution is that it relies on either side to place some value in Open Government. Being passionate about the subject allows me to spot an opening in Pandora’s Box to put the people back in charge, which in the case of Springboro Schools is Blended Learning, an item that has already been approved in the current budget which blends traditional classroom education with online resources. Being that we the people are online, I see this as a great opportunity to have more influence and participate more directly in our children’s education.
As it stands, that makes for a difficult decision in the upcoming election, as the debate is divided along traditional lines. One can either support our union teachers or a mixed bag of financial responsibility and creationism. To be honest, I see the critical necessities and crucial flaws on both sides, but what I do not hear is anyone talking about their plans to improve education, apart from voting the other out of office. For all the talk about creating a 21st Century Educational System, I hear very little that differs from my parent’s education.
This point was brought home by Diana Laufenberg at her 2010 TED Talk about How to Learn? From Mistakes, in which she shared photos of her grandparents outside of their one room school. Their story was similar to her parent’s story where they also attended a one room school in order to get access to the information that was stored in their teacher’s head. By the time she attended school, information was much less scarce as it sat on her bookshelf in an encyclopedia set which was purchased the day she was born. The children she currently teaches all live in an era of information abundance, which has done away with the notion of right and wrong answers and introduced the necessity to learn how to use the knowledge they have access to.
While it’s true that the current board has invested quite a bit on new computers and is working hard to improve student access to the Internet, the dependency on technology is an incomplete vision of Blended Learning. In order for students to learn something, they need to be challenged in a way that enables them to solve problems both inside and outside of the classroom. While computers and the Internet are both valuable tools, the focus of a 21st century education, according to Diana Laufenberg, should be on experiential learning, student voices, and learning from failure, or what has since become referred to as Project-Based Learning.
So how can we as parents and citizens of Springboro build upon the Blended Learning line item in the approved budget, in order to not only “blend” the learning experience with the Internet, but with the community as a whole, including the parents, teachers, businesses, non-profits, and every other aspect of our community? How can learning focus less on standardized testing and more on the problems we face in the real world? Or to put this question in an even larger context, how can we rise above the partisan divide in order to create a 21st century educational system that teaches our children how to learn?
Check out the video below and let me know who you think could provide the type of education she describes.