Form follows function–the future of K12 education

Thinking aloud.

A recent poll from Pew says higher ed types “expect more-efficient collaborative environments and new grading schemes [in future universities]; they worry about massive online courses and the shift away from on-campus life.”

I think K12 education ought to be looking closely. K12 education ain’t broke, I said a while ago, but its time is over and it needs to retire. Its very structure–from the point of collecting public monies to the year-end report card–is tied to the goals of achieving broad literacy and that has largely been achieved.

Form thus follows function in K12. And the form we currently have will not deliver the new function we’re imagining for schools. Moreover, the current model is not scalable. We’re already seeing signs that it’s unstable and cracking.

What that new form actually looks like no one knows yet–which makes this a terrifically exciting time in education. But I wonder I’d there isn’t something in this higher ed discussion that can give us a hint. Whatever it is, I think it will have these qualities:

  • Collaborative, with partners outside of traditional education
  • Blended online- and face-time
  • Responsive (non-standardized) realizing that what one community needs from its school is not necessarily what the community next door needs
  • Locally governed and accountable, reflecting the point above
  • Federated, with many many small, locally-focussed schools linked to pool resources and learning

I just don’t see the current structure of K12 schools being able to deliver even this brief list. We can have all the talk we want about Common Core, 21C curriculum and so on, but curricula, standards, outcomes and so on are not the real and immediate problem. Those answer What? we teach and, really, we’ve known what we need to teach for several thousand years, though we may make minor adjustments for historical circumstances. Similarly, we have already good answers to Why? we teach, even if we lose sight of of it from time to time. The how? needs some work.


I wonder if there aren’t some some clues in the Pew report and higher Ed in general.




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