How new should a new school be?

During a recent school design session, I was struck by the challenge of designing a high school right now.  If it opens in 2010, what should it look like in 2014 when the first class graduates?  Here’s just a couple of the new design questions:
1. Time to flip?  Is digital content good enough to rely on it for primary instructional delivery?  A growing number of virtual and blended schools think the answer is yes even with first gen content.  By 2013-14 there will be a new gen of adaptive content, social learning platforms, and learning games.
2. Cohort of individualized?  Online curriculum and adaptive assessments is making it easier to created a customized learning path for every student (e.g., Kunskapsskolan).  Schools like High Tech High perfer to take advantage of diverse cohorts engaging in real world projects.  Some schools schools like NYC iSchool are blending group projects and individualized online learning.
3. Devices?  Given how fast hardware is changing, it’s hard to know what mixture of desktop, laptops and PDAs is best–depends on the program.  For a blended program, I’m leaning toward netbooks, iTouch, and a few high end multimedia edit stations.
4. Staffing? A blended format allows new staffing models that can incorporate several levels of staff including a group of well paid master teachers and a distributed leadership model.
5. Time and space?   A fully or partially online curriculum opens up new opportunities for what school looks like, how it works, where it’s held, and how much time students spend there.  Even with the potential for fully virtual schools, most families will opt for a full time school (don’t underestimate the importance of the custodial role!).

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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