Friday, January 08, 2010

Crazy Stuff

I want to hear a few crazy ideas. I'm getting bored with the wonky stuff.

I want to hear totally imaginative things that have no regard for practicality or the status-quo or standards or traditions or best practices or cost or any of it.

Completely insane stuff.

Like replacing four years of mandatory English classes with four years of mandatory free improvisational music classes.

Like banning grades and instead assessing kids on the basis of their motivation and ability to innovate.

Like assessing basic reading, foreign language, and elementary math skills one-to-one online using tutoring programs led by college students and teachers-in-training and using physical class-time to dance, build robots, sing, write poetry, imagine pure mathematics, and learn to play together.

Like destroying all Scantron machines; blocking access to multiple choice quizzes on Moodle; and letting students choose to be graded by their peers in all subjects by means of discussion, debate, and collaboration.

Giving extra credit for demonstrating compassion. In fact, giving grades based not on academic progress, but on the progress of one's compassion.

Teaching kids that the goal of education is to not be afraid of the unknown.

Crazy stuff.

Completely unpractical stuff.

Crazy stuff.


  1. this is half and half - half crazy and half realistic.

    Give kids three grades:
    One for academic progress.
    One for disciplince - turning in work etc...
    One for social progress

  2. Thanks for posting this. If I may...

    I want to see schools turned into full service community centers complete with free health care for the entire family (doctors, nurses, emergency care).

    I want to schools turned into homeless shelters during the evenings.

    I want to see schools as community gardens growing food for lunches and sharing with the community.

    I want to see schools providing hospice and birth care.

    I want to see schools holding dances every Friday night to give adults and kids in the community something fun to do.

    I want to see classrooms turned into recording studios where kids can learn how to produce and record the music that they're into.

    And this is just for starters (wink!)...

  3. How about
    - kids get extra credit for failing fast and failing often (isn't that how we learn, really); check out the latest edition of Wired...
    - learning is all project based, cross curricular, and all "products" have a real purpose and use
    - there are no grades just accomplishments that are peer rated

    not sure how crazy these are but... I tried, if they aren't, I failed and that's okay :-)

  4. I am in favor of not having grades for students. My students are often more concerned for their grades than they are about the fact they are learning,improving, and growing.

    Your post is a great starting point, and I hope that we can all start coming up with new ideas. I feel that too often we get concerned about "best practices" that we allow ourselves to not attempt new ideas. Society is constantly changing and so must schools.

  5. Let's go back to the apprentice model. How about no set curriculum ever? Beginning in kindergarten, parent & student decide what they want to study and go wherever they can get it?

  6. Just abolish the schedule....Sort of a combination of Guthrie and csessums...and for god sakes make it voluntary and stop calling it school!!....oh an abolish all educational jargon and the whole idea that there is this profession called educator....just share what we know with those who want to know it.........

  7. Your post pretty much describes our homeschool. We love the idea of working on cool projects using toys, electronics, technology, tape, paper, crayons, grass, cameras, the cat, the violin, and the kitchen sink. We do have fun, but we take on some pretty advanced stuff. In fact, taking on the advanced stuff is easy BECAUSE it is so much fun. I vote for micro-schools with this set-up instead of massive institutions. It worked for microlending, right?

  8. Having noticed that my students are most fully engaged when they are listening to, reading, or telling stories, I propose an entire educational system based only on storytelling! For every subject!

  9. Do away with textbooks. Instead, have students connect with subject area experts (i.e. a geologist or astronomer for science class) on social networking sites. Students could ask questions face-to-face (or tweet-to-tweet) and the expert could answer questions and share prepared resources with them. It would also be a great way to tie the community back in with the school.

    Another idea: have students compile videos found online about their subjects to make their own "textbooks" that are completely digital and visual. Students could add their own annotations about what they know onto the videos so they can all learn from each other. A comments section for the video could further discussion. And, if they can't find a video, they can make one. It gets them directly involved in the learning process.

  10. Have students set their own goals at the beginning of a school year: personal, academic, social, global,cross-curricular and then be responsible for drawing up a plan for how to achieve them, and how to measure their success. Have students form learning communities with other students, regardless of age or ability, to help each other meet these goals.

  11. I have a real desire to do exactly what you are talking about doing. I want my students to know that knowledge and learning isn't at all about bubbling in the right answer on a scantron form. My delima is the state's exit testing program. I assume many other states out there are doing so as well.

    Well, I could rant on for hours about this whole standardized state testing thing, but that's another issue. I wanted to comment about paperless teaching and something I like to do.

    As I teach figurative langauge to the students of my English classes, I assign my students to compose and create a video commercial for our local area. We are an area that relies heavily on tourism, so I have my students use video cameras, still cameras, and their own words along with the video editing software I provide to make tourism commercials. Long story short, my students must include specific figurative langauge elements in their commerecials such as metaphors.

    This is just one of many ways I believe we can have our students practice and demonstrate their understanding of a subject without doing the old tired handouts and fill-in-the-blank assignments.

  12. I want to see all content opened to students and teachers. what's the point of copyright in education? (that's rhetorical)

  13. Four words: No curriculum, only authenticity.

  14. I had a high school teacher, (whose initials are Jim Dirkson) that did give extra credit for compassion, extra work, outstanding behaviour or achievement in the form of a monopoly "get out of jail free" card. We could change it in for an extra-percent on the final grade, turn in an assignment one day late, come up to 10 minutes late for one class. J.D. was one of "those teachers" whose classes I carry in my head almost 20 years later. He wasn't afraid to hook electric muscle stimulators to our throats to simulate a speech impediment in us... and deepen compassion and understanding towards those who have disabilities.

    I imagine TeachPaperless as one of "those teachers".

  15. Standardized testing with online laptops. I mean.... if I don't know something, I go online and figure it out--I think this is a more important skill than being able to select the right word in an analogy. Problem solving is a more important skill than being able to already know the answers to a standardized test.

  16. Students receive a 20-word learning objective for each "class". They can then spend their time however they like. At any time, then can schedule an examination to get credit for any class. There is no penalty for failing the examinations, which typically consist of discussions with an expert and responding to several short answer prompts - both of which are structured to mimic possible real world use of knowledge from the "class".


    Give ultimate decision-making authority to students. Allow them to debate and discuss all aspects of how their school is run, even those governed by law. If they can come to a conclusion that something should change, then it is changed.


    Place all government money spent on public school children in the hands of the schools, and give schools the ability to address anything that impairs learning. Schools can provide food, clothing, etc for students. If necessary, schools can build boarding houses for students whose home lives simply aren't conducive to growing up healthily.


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