School of One: Toward the Killer App

School of One deserves the recognition it received from Time Magazine as one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2009. It’s the best working example of an adaptive instructional system.
Last summer the School of One team, lead by Joel Rose, tagged thousands of content objects for the sixth grade math-based learning level, mode, theme, and length. Using an algorithm informed by daily assessments, a unique ‘playlist’ is prepared for each student mapping out the next step through a maze of 189 math skills, each requiring about four lessons each. The program was piloted in summer school in 2009.
During the 2009-10 year, School of One served as an after school program at three NYC middle schools For the last two months, it has been the core math program for 6th and 7th grade in MS288. Next fall, School of One will expand to several more middle schools (with the possible addition of 8th grade) as the core math program.

School of One

It’s important to note that teachers play an important role in School of One. Instruction includes small group lessons with a teacher–with the benefit that all students are well prepared to participate in the lesson because they are all at the same instructional level. Instruction also includes video from vendors like Guarenteach, online one-on-one tutoring, and games. And sometimes students even use pencils.
Wonky sidebar: School of One uses their own assessment system and generally separates instructional delivery from assessment. The big (and complicated) opportunity for next gen learning platforms is to incorporate content-embedded assessment from games, sims, virtual environments, quizes, as well as benchmark assessments. A really smart recommendation algorithm would be cross curriculum and would incorporate bigger chunks of adaptive content as well as projects. That’s the killer app.

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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