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Learning About Learning Differently

Posted on | February 20, 2010 | Comments Off on Learning About Learning Differently

When we finished with Learning from L.A. and The Transformation of Great American School Districts, we came to the crashing insight that almost all the education reform we had seen was about rearranging what adults did.  All the reforms had a trickle down assumption, such as, “if teaching became more interesting for teachers, students would learn more.”  Across the country, but particularly in Los Angeles, we saw what Transformations co-editor dubbed “permanent crisis:” a continuing assertion that some great turning point was upon a school district, or the whole institution of public education.  In the case of Los Angeles, commentators have called the school district “in crisis” for 20 years.  That notion defies the conventional political wisdom, because in a crisis is supposed to draw sufficient attention from the political system to resolve the situation and move on.

I came to believe that changes in teaching and learning were the most likely social events to break the “permanent crisis” cycle.   And with some assistance from the John and Dora Haynes Foundation, which has financed public policy research in Los Angeles for many decades, I have begun to study settings in which students learn differently.  I’ll be reporting on those findings here and in other venues.  [In this regard see my review of  Disrupting Class about the capacity of new learning technologies to upend how education works.  Click on the Projects link at the top of the page.]

Thus far, I have looked at the Scottish intranet system, GLOW, that has the capacity to link all 700,000 students in the country, their teachers, their families, and the national curriculum.  I’m beginning to explore the question: If they can do it in Scotland, why can we?   I have also been looking at the California Virtual Academy, which is growing by leaps and bounds.  It combines the learn-at-home idea of home schooling with a packaged curriculum and live teacher support.   Then, I traveled to St. Paul, MN, to look at the most project-based of project based learning at the Avalon school.  And most recently I visited the New Tech school at Jefferson High School and The Design High School, a charter located in the Pico-Union District in L.A.


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Charles Taylor Kerchner is an Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Fellow at Claremont Graduate University. My daily musings appear in the blog. The archives of my EdWeek blog are available via link under the 'On California' head. Some of my photography can be seen by clicking on 'Gallery.' And numerous links to academic work and other research and commentary can be found by clicking on 'Projects.'


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