iSchool in the middle

I spent a day with the NYC iSchool co-principals thinking about a middle school design. Not surprisingly, we decided it should look at lot like iSchool: engaging integrated projects with individualized online learning. Other design elements we discussed included:

· A month long ‘welcome to middle school’ block emphasizing study skills, organization, project management, and working in teams

· Ungraded divisions with gateway performance demonstration gateways

· Less time online than upper secondary with a more structured day

· Long day with before/after school supervision/activities from 7am to 6pm

· Four 10 week quarters with two week breaks that include extra time/targeted assistance and enrichment (192+20 days)

· An Advisory session that meet at least twice a week with a structured curriculum and time for 1:1 progress checks

· 1:1 access to a combination of thin client netbooks and desktops at school and a desire to use iTouch as soon as apps develop (we discussed a 24/7 1:1 program but expressed concerns about safety/security)

Because iSchool blends projects with online learning and gives students a variety of choices, it presents the most complex scheduling challenge I’ve ever run into. They need a powerful and flexible ERP package and a couple computer science grad students to figure it out.

I really appreciate education pioneers like Mary and Alisa that are figuring out what the future looks like for the rest of us.

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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