Unless you're an educator, you probably haven't heard predictions by thought leaders that the traditional school system is on its way out. More surprisingly, these predictions are being borne out by experiments where new learning models are being tried out.
Acton Academy in Austin, TX is a case in point, where a "Learner Driven Community -- a disruptive approach led by self-directed learners, in a community tightly bound by personal covenants and contracts, using the full power of the internet to craft a transformative, personalized learning path," is being tried out.
Inspired in-turn by Sugata Mitra's hole-in-the-wall experiment, the academy is attempting to create a new type of learning environment that is not bound by the traditional notion of a classroom, a school, or even the need for a teacher. Whats more, the results are there to see. "We haven't taught any math. Not one minute," says Jeff Sendefer, a 'Middle School Guide' at Acton. "Instead we have relied on a collection of game-based adaptive math programs such as Khan Academy. Despite having many Eagles who entered with low test scores, all but one of our Eagles is now on an advanced high school math track." Intrigued? Read this full article for the top 10 surprising conclusions that came out of the program.
Call me old-fashioned, but in my mind, I still feel teachers have their place in the world. Setting aside other considerations, there is something intangible that a one-to-one interaction with a teacher brings that cannot be replaced. Every person I've ever met has a story about at least one teacher who played a significant role in shaping who this person is. Not all teachers are the same, and it is telling that every person mentions this one favorite teacher who made an impact.
The "disruptive combination of superior performance and lower cost" sounds familiar to anyone coming from the corporate world. But as we all know, there is no free lunch and there is always a price to pay. If the price is the chance of meeting that 'one teacher who changed your life,' is it still worth it? Only time will tell.