Thursday, April 09, 2009

Arne Duncan, the Seven Day School Week, and the Myth of Sisyphus; or an alternative...

I think the reason Arne Duncan got a lot of bored stares from kids in Denver when he said
"I fundamentally think that our school day is too short, our school week is too short and our school year is too short. You're competing for jobs with kids from India and China. I think schools should be open six, seven days a week; eleven, twelve months a year,"

was because it's such a... well.. "boring" prospect.

Why in the world do we continue to think that if we just keep kids in classrooms longer that they are going to learn more?

Mr. Duncan, you are familiar with Sisyphus, I presume.

If we want kids engaged in learning year-round, why not take a new approach? I'm just brainstorming here. How about rather than send kids to the classrooms, how about sending teachers to the kids?

We could send teacher teams and current college tech students into the neighborhoods where the kids live. Whether we're talking about an urban block or a suburban cul-de-sac, we could run in wire and set up street-by-street Wi-Fi service. Then start community organized tech centers exclusively set up for project-based learning. We'd teach math and computer science in context as students work on neighborhood history projects -- researching, recording, and archiving their locale's history and voices in online interactive databases. As students interact with folks, they'd extend tech-ed outreach to people in need of new skills for a new economy.

We'd do all of this during the period we now call 'summer vacation', which really to a lot of kids ain't much of a 'vacation' anyway. And for kids who need time to work through the summer, we'd offer grants for them to do service projects instead. It'd be a lot cheaper than keeping school buildings open all summer.

Just an idea. Teaching content and tech as students engage in a connected and personalized project-based historical research project with community outreach and service requirements.

Step away from the rock, Sisyphus.


  1. Amen!! I don't think these politicians who are in charge of education have a clue...oh, yeah, that's right, they don't know what it's like to be in a classroom.

    I think your idea is great. I had a similar idea - grants, stipends, and such for summer programs that are NOT in a school building.

    How about fixing up someone's home (lots of physics applications there), going around the community with computer science students helping them with computer problems.

    By the end of the school day everyone needs a break. If we make sure every student has a computer and internet access at home, we can "extend" the learning period to afternoons, evenings, weekends, summers, etc.

    Summer would be a great time for lots of projects, especially outside projects. Keep the kids learning, keep them out of trouble, and give them something fun and worthwhile to do.

    Even better - let's ask the students what they think about this and their ideas. I bet they will come up with some great ideas for projects in the summer.

  2. Maybe the time for classrooms and schools has passed........

  3. I just happened here. but I like the way you think.

    I think they should have more 'field' classrooms. Putting what they learned into real practice. Showing them how algebra, creative writing, etc can be used and get inspired from the enviroment they live in.


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