Tom Vander Ark

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.

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