This past week, National Public Radio (NPR) posted an interesting blog about schools and what should be obsolete in the future by Greg Stack titled “10 Things in School That Should Be Obsolete“. Looking at everything from teacher centered classrooms and learning in prescribed places to computer labs, large bathrooms, and institutional food, it made the counterargument for each. I would like to share some of my reactions.
- Computer labs. Describing the typically separate computer lab that is in most schools, the author argues for computer connectivity throughout the school building. He describes how for many kids out of school, this is their typical situation. He feels that in school, schools should offer the same connectivity we have all become used to today. He feels school should treat computers “like pencils as opposed to microscopes.”While I say to myself, “Yes of course!,” I wonder what the cost would be for districts to have WIFI throughout a building. I marvel at the difference between now and when I was in school.
- Learning in prescribed places: The author argues that our most memorable experiences of learning in school probably occurred: working in a group; while on a trip; doing a project ; or learning by talking with friends. –Not in the prescribed classroom space. He argues for schools that make use out of all their space and outside space, outdoor classrooms, field trips, etc. for learning. In looking back on my high school years in particular, I do remember the French class where we did a fashion show as a standout experience in blending newly obtained vocabulary and context; projects as feeling like a conduit to higher learning and freer thought (I remember distinctively feeling like we were driving learning during those times, while our teacher was in the back seat); and field trips where being outside of our homogenous community meant everything to someone feeling the constraint and restraint of a small town. I remember our teachers taking us outside on beautiful days for English class and even a business class, when the gorgeous weather was so distracting inside. I remember still learning and being extra excited to learn outside the four walls. Our class not only focused on the lesson, but perhaps paid extra attention, as it wasn’t leaking outside.
- Teacher Centered Classrooms: The author discusses how the typical classroom is set up for classroom control and management and makes the case that better learning occurs when it is student centered. Such devices as the smart board; project centered learning; and small groups of kids working together are the author’s antithesis of the teacher centered classroom. As a parent and a layperson who volunteers in the classroom, I understand the value of a teacher centered classroom, from a behavioral management point of view, particularly with young children and perhaps older students. But doesn’t real learning come alive and students become engaged when they are “planfully” given at least some of the reigns? Yes, for sure to what the author argues, but done artfully by a teacher who strongly manages a classroom.
- Isolated classrooms: The author discusses how many teachers teach in an isolated environment, where colleagues are figuratively and literally kept from one another by distinctively separate classrooms, rather than working more openly and connectedly. He states that outside of the classroom, people work in teams and are visually and aurally connected. I imagine there is both pleasure and pain in such a scenario. I would think such separate classrooms lend themselves to teachers injecting their specific style and personality in classroom, without someone telling them how they must or should do something. Yet, seeing classrooms where the blinds are closed and the door is shut, also appears isolating to both student and teacher alike. There seems to be a world of shared ideas and support in a school, when the classroom is open to it.
- Departmental organization: The author makes the argument that schools tend to place all the math teachers together, the English teachers separate, and the science teachers in another wing. Building off what was previously said, this seems both isolating and unsupportive to some degree. In the real world, math and English stand side by side. Mixing different subject areas in a school’s building design, emulates a world where great skills are necessary in all areas. I agree with the author in that rethinking how schools organize classrooms based on subject, would help teachers view students more holistically. It seems like it would help teachers pinpoint a students strengths and weaknesses, far more accurately, and lend itself to better curriculum and lesson planning.
There are five other areas the author looks at in this article. What seems relevant to your child as they are educated today? What do you recall from your classroom experience that promote or negate the author’s arguments?