Immersive classes, where students learn by doing

The phrase ‘hands-on learning’ often becomes a placeholder for many things. If it does not involve experiencing the subject matter, then it’s still theoretical.

There’s a school in San Diego that doing something really amazing with teaching through experience – or ‘learning by doing’ as some call it. (It is featured in ‘Creative Schools by Ken Robinson.) At High Tech High, subjects are intensely focused on real world challenges. One project, for instance on Urban Ecology is described this way.

Students will discover how humans interact with nature in urban ecosystems. They will understand the terms sustainable and efficient in order to apply them to designing improved modern cities. 

Students end up publishing an  ‘magazine’ on the Urban Ecology, talking on publishing roles.They hold staff meeting with their Editors-in-chief, who are none other than their teachers!

Is this EdTech? Is it a computer class? Can this be used to demonstrate ‘rigor’? Yes to all three! But looking at their class structure, and philosophy, it seems that this kind of pedagogy is very different. In the end it’s not about exams, but about preparing for the real world.

Learning through customization and personalization

Would you be ok to have your child interviewed to be admitted to Kindergarten?

I know  of parents who have prepped their children for that face-to-face admission evaluation process widely used today by Charter schools. Hard to argue with this if we really want a revolution in education.

So, what if students are required to qualify to be admitted to school? Many schools resort to a lottery system, since there are a few hundred openings but a few thousand applications! But in addition to this, there’s the student interview. It’s a bit like applying for a job. One Pennsylvania charter school, Tacony Academy, has this requirement:

“each student must complete an Independent Research Presentation and present the results to a panel of teachers and administrators.

 The Independent Research Presentation should be science related and either follows Scientific Method, the Question-Answer model, or the Problem-Solution model.”

This kind of motivation tells a school how to better customize a program to the student.

Speaking of which, Ken Robinson makes a great observation as to why education should not be served like fast food.