Mountain View Voice

News - May 24, 2013

Teaching for the future

School district trustees get a taste of forward-looking educational models

by Nick Veronin

The head of the local elementary and middle school district said he believes local educators should be ready to say yes to "disruptive" approaches to teaching.

Craig Goldman, superintendent for the Mountain View Whisman School District, recently invited a researcher from the Clayton Christensen Institute, a non-partisan education think tank, to speak about cutting-edge instructional techniques, all of which break sharply from the way schools have worked for the past century.

"We're not looking to do something drastic at this time, but I think as we're considering our facilities needs for the future, I think we should be considering any possibility," Goldman said.

Meg Evans' presentation to the school district's board of trustees, outlined many forward-looking teaching models, many of which mimic the way offices work.

Evans, a program associate with the institute, talked about "flipping the classroom," "game-ification," "project-based learning " and "self-directed learning" — all new teaching models, which are being pioneered at different schools around the country, often with great levels of success.

Evans talked about the power of systems already in place in the district, such as Explicit Direct Instruction and the Khan Academy tutorial web video series. She also discussed learning models like self-directed learning, showing a video of a Texas school where middle-school students start their day at a work station with a computer, much like many adults in white-collar office jobs.

Students learning this way are allowed to decide what projects and assignments they want to work on and in what order. Later in the day, they may break off to work in groups, just like adults in the work-a-day world have meetings. They also have one-on-one time with teachers, which can be thought of as a one-on-one meeting with the boss.

This self-directed model is not something the district would be able to implement easily, but Evans identified the concept of flipping the classroom as "low-hanging fruit."

When a classroom is "flipped," students no longer take in lectures from teachers in the classroom. Instead they log on to the web at home and watch their lectures on the computer and return to class the following day to engage in projects and worksheets — the kind of assignments often given as homework in traditional education models.

Flipping the classroom, Evans explained, allows kids to ask for help on an assignment right then and there, instead of going to mom or dad, who might not be able to help, or simply giving up and turning on the TV.

Goldman said the presentation was purely informational — meant simply to give trustees an idea of what's out there and get them thinking about the future of education in the district. Principals from the district's schools and some teachers were in attendance at the meeting.

"I wanted the opportunity for the board and our site administrators to have a common base knowledge of the different models for providing a blended learning experience."

Moving forward, Goldman said, district administrators will work with site administrators and teachers to figure out what they can implement in the realm of forward-looking education models.

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