Jeff Sandefer at the Acton Academy in Austin, TX describes the innovative work they are doing there:
At the Acton Academy in Austin, TX, we are experimenting with 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.
While we are in the early stages of refining the model, I believe schools like ours can deliver a transformative learning experience for less than $2,000 annually per student.
My favorite surprise:
Surprise #3: In the 21st Century, ‘Learning to Do’ and ‘Learning to Be’ are ten times more important than ‘Learning to Know.’
The Academic Technology Committee at UHS has been engaging in a lively discussion about digital distractions and digital opportunities.
An article that highlighted one end of the debate examines how some faculty at Northwestern University have started to ban technology in lecture courses as a result of the rampant distraction stoked, in part, by the ubiquity digital technology.
As a counterpoint, an article by Sal Khan asks educators to rethink our assumptions about what a class or school should be. The neuroscience of attention reveals why lectures are ineffective and how digital technology can help facilitate more active learning.
Inevitable, technology – whether in education or in society at large – isn’t an either/or proposition. Grey area abounds. Which is why robust discourse is so essential if we are to figure out the best ways technology can enhance teaching and learning – and the ways it can derail it.
While I’m sure there are many lasting impressions from the 20:20 Vision Symposium, it seems that a universal memory were some of Laura Deming’s closing comments. I personally appreciated her undomesticated energy and enthusiasm. Her passion and precocious talent make her a poster child for the virtues of self-directed learning in my mind. Yet her unbridled quest for life-extension quickly revealed some serious tunnel vision: when asked if she thought about the ethical dimensions of her work in biotechnology, she bluntly said, “no.” The auditorium seemed to recoil in response. These comments, and this sentiment in general, underscore the importance of a liberal arts education.
Nothing exists in isolation. Everything is interconnected. Science has revealed this truth in spades. So, while scientific and technological breakthroughs may be incubated in a lab or workshop, they quickly reverberate into social, economic and environmental domains. As increasing breakthroughs in biotechnology may banish infectious and chronic diseases into the annals of history, this long fabled fountain of youth might also unleash unintended consequences. This is why all scientific and technological progress must be matched with ethical and humanistic progress. If our external development quantum leaps past our internal development then we unknowingly sow the seeds for the terror of tomorrow. Nuclear fission takes a high level of cognitive development, but doesn’t guarantee that those who know how to split an atom have the intelligence to use it wisely – if at all. Hiroshima and Fukushima are grim reminders of this principle.
As science and technology continue to develop at an exponential rate, how can we ensure that our internal development is keeping pace? Taking an interdisciplinary approach could be a good place to start. I can envision a Civ-like class that learns about not only the science of biotechnology, but also explores the economic, social and ethical dimensions that come bundled in the manipulation of genes. For example, biomedical engineering should be learned alongside a close reading of Frankenstein, an investigation into moral philosophy, and scenario planning into its socioeconomic impact.
James Baldwin once said that, “Not everything faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” So my question to you is: how should we face the seismic changes that are taking place on planet earth (biotechnology being just one of them) that promise to reconfigure what it means to be human?