Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. ~ Mark Twain
This week, I was afforded the opportunity to see, first hand, the power of technology to revolutionize educational pedagogy. The School of One is a transformational math program being implemented at several New York City public schools–including Dr. Sun Yat Sen Intermediate School in Chinatown.
School of One was co-founded by Joel Rose (who recently resigned) and Chris Rush (who works for Wireless Generation) for the purpose of providing personalized learning to all students, all of the time. Students participating in the program tak part in multiple modalities to address standards in mathematics. These modalities include small group instruction, independent practice, cooperative learning and virtual tutorials.
Individualization at the School of One relies upon a computer algorithm that provides each student with a daily individualized “play list” (schedule) based upon a brief, five question assessment that the students complete at the end of each instructional session. Development of the algorithm involved taking standards and breaking them into associated skill sets (dependencies) necessary to gain proficiency in the standard. The assessment is designed to address the specific daily objective, or skill, the student is working on.
Content (lessons), from a variety of curriculum providers, is linked to the sill sets, giving teachers a foundation of material with which to plan instruction. At the end of the day, the algorithm generates a unique schedule for each student — including the specific skill to be addressed during the next day’s lesson, as well as the modality to be employed. Teachers have access to all of this information through an informational portal where they are able to monitor student progress and plan to address deficiencies.
Students who master a skill move on to the next skill set, or standard. Those who do not demonstrate proficiency, continue to work on that skill with different lessons and modalities. This process is empowering for students since they know that they know exactly what they are working on and that they will only be moving forward when they know the material.
Naysayers may view the School of One as overly mechanized and impersonal. This is far from reality. Each teacher is assigned a sub-set of students and they assume responsibility for the academic progress and social well-being of these students. In addition, students receive much more individual attention than they would in a traditional classroom — frequently working 1:1 with a teacher or tutor. The system also seems to be logically beneficial for teachers as well, providing specificity without diminishing flexibility of instruction, and dramatically reducing the student to teacher ratio.
School of One may not be a panacea for public education, but it certainly deserves consideration from educational reformers. The program engages students, personalizes their instruction, allows kids to progress based upon content mastery, and permits teachers to focus their efforts on instructional methodology. The promise of this program illustrates the importance of appropriately involving other fields/professions (i.e. engineeering) in the process of educational reform. We all have a stake in improving the education of our students. The School of One demonstrates how outside entities, who are willing to listen to educators, can positively contribute to the educational experiences and outcomes of our kids.