Many high school programs today are not engaging students using 21st
Century skills. Teenagers are bored and are required to do much memorization, which often tends to be knowledge, which is short term. Information studied usually has no application value and is lost within twelve days. Teens today must be challenged with curriculum that is rigorous and meaningful. A personalized approach to learning allows for learners to have some choice in topics studied permitting flexible time for processing with availability often 24/7.
Utilizing programs such as the Big History Project and The Great Books Program, learners would be immersed in a humanities course that would emphasize deep reading and large amounts of reflective writing. An inquiry approach would be used to discuss issues relating to the study of World History/American History while integrating the best literature written. All of this would be accomplished using a cooperative approach while sharing opinions and evidence. This will enable students to learn from history and learn from society’s successes, as well as, its mistakes.
Using online teachers, science, foreign language, and math could be personalized and progress would be measured by mastery and competency assessments. This approach would allow the student to achieve within their ability and take the necessary time to be successful. Some students would solidify skills while others would move forward when appropriate. Online math could include valuable topics for all citizens such as financial literacy and statistics. Science and foreign language could be tied back to Big History and examine our global relationships. Online courses could also offer other languages like Arabic and Chinese, which are generally not available in a normal course of studies.
There also must be room in the curriculum for Project Based Learning where the student could have a hands-on experience in either doing a Maker Project or doing an investigation on a topic of personal interest. Both types of learning would culminate in a presentation in front of an audience showing the students new found knowledge and enhanced speaking skills. Often Project Based Learning deals with real world issues such as hunger, the environment, or local community concerns such as preservation of open space or a local fundraising need.
The new High School model would also include time for the student to have
fun and to have some physical activity with friends in an informal setting. Also a part of the new model would be the opportunity to do internships in the 11th and 12th grade years. Teens would get wonderful real world experience in financial institutions, hospitals, libraries, art facilities, etc.
So, the reimagined school would look quite different from the industrial
model of teacher as “sage on the stage” to a new engaging climate with teacher as “guide on the side.” This reimagined school would put the student at the center of the educational landscape by making the experience personalized and life changing. Students would find their other voice and would be ready to take on the challenges of an always changing society. Their worlds would move away from just the classroom to the outer limits using the tech available, such as internet websites including You-Tube, Google, and visits via Skype from fellow students and experts across the world.
It’s about asking “what schools should be” rather than staying in the
somewhat static limbo. It is moving away from what is “good enough” to what will benefit our next generation. Our children are capable of doing some amazing things so we must help them to “Imagine The Future” where we celebrate diverse knowledge and interest instead of trying to standardize knowledge and skills.
Andrea Schleciher (2010) said: “We must prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created, technologies that have not yet been invented, and problems that we don’t know will arise.” Our high schools must provide our students with the ability to communicate effectively, think creatively, use knowledge wisely, and work collectively.
Joseph A. Pacelli
Headmaster, Oak Hill Academy