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School of One

August 20, 2010

It has been almost a year since Logan and I set off on our epic journey, and three months since our return.  During our trip, everyone asked “What happens next year?” and our answer changed over time.  Logan joked, “50skatekid tours the world!” but we seriously considered on-line schooling, where the teacher/student ratio stays 1:1 and the heavy lifting of the teaching workload is done by a pro, remotely.  But we decided that after a year of isolation from his peers, Logan stands to learn more (good and bad) from navigating the mysterious galaxy of pre-teen society than from any academic subject.  So, in a few weeks, he’ll enroll in seventh grade at the local public school, where he’ll keep pace with his peers, socially and scholastically, while getting support in his weak areas. 

In my educational fantasies, however, he attends a futuristic school with equal socialization but greater customization, wherein each student pursues a personalized curriculum, tuned to his interests, ability level, and learning style – instead of marching through standard courses in groups of twenty-four under a rigid bell schedule.  According to an article by Ta-Nehisi Coates (“The Littlest Schoolhouse”), my dream is coming true.  Starting with math education, the “school of one” system uses personality surveys and computer testing to determine learning styles and isolate areas of weakness, and then computer software produces a tailored lesson plan, which the teacher vets, adjusts and executes.  “The result is that one student might learn to add fractions at a dry-erase board with a small group, while … another student learns about factoring through a game on his laptop.”  It tries to “move from the classroom as the locus of instruction delivery, to the student as the focus of instructional attainment” says Joel Klien, chancellor of New York City’s schools.  Hopefully, this program will spread to other schools and other subjects.

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