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The Future of Education

Through an anomaly in the space-time continuum, I fell into the future last week. It was an odd sensation … traveling through time. But at least I made it back. I spent the time I had there at a local school and thought I would share what I saw …

Grades are gone.

Kids aren't in grade 1 or grade 3 … which was described to me as a "rudimentary" way to "cattle" students. The admins were gentle about it, explaining to me that when school was paper based, there just wasn't the facility to customize the classroom to the student. They explained that even though it was horribly inefficient, they understood why it needed to exist. They did point out that it ran a decade too long, affecting millions … but I changed the subject before it got ugly.

Instead, kids in school have individual achievement levels, which are different for every subject. They have 0-1800 points in each subject. Each student works at their own pace through these milestones and moving forward when they get near perfect scores. A student might have 1500 in one subject and 400 in another. Because everything is online and integrated, there aren't really "grades" like A, B, C, and D … kids are just accumulating points.

When kids max out in a subject, they can spend more time on other subjects; if they are on pace (they are expected to accumulate 100 points a year), they can create independent studies. Many students work very hard to move through the point structure so they can have more free time … which is structured but still up to them. Added resources are applied to students more than 100 points behind their pace. You end up with 20% of the students passing through the system with very little help beyond the structure, 60% getting some help, and 20% getting a much larger amount of attention to move through the system.

Lectures are gone

Lectures the way we know them don't really exist. Most of school is divided into 4 processes: Movies, Games, Projects and Discussion. Movies and Games largely exist on the tablets every student has (these look like iPads but they roll up into a baton-like structure). Projects are done with other students … there are very few opportunities to work on projects alone as it's not seen as an effective character development process in today's job world (where the only people working in a vacuum are doing low-paying work). Discussions are lead by subject experts.

These "Subject Experts" are what used to be called teachers. They are a breed among themselves. They are part brainiac in their field, part Tony Robbins. Their job is to make their subject exciting to learn.

Usually, they begin training for their position very early in life, adding heavy levels of presentation and interpersonal skills to their study load. They work as assistants after reaching 1800 levels in all subjects and focus on a particular subject to master. They train, practice and are allowed to present for basic student events for about decade before they are actually allowed to "solo" an educational subject. It's an incredible amount of work but it also pays well -- salaries for these experts average in what is, in today's money, about $300,000 a year, with the top experts making over a $1M a year. This is largely based on their demand globally. Students are essentially given what is the equivalent to a voucher for discussions and are able to choose their lecturers for each seminar they choose to attend.

There are less of them, as you might guess. Typically about 50,000-100,000 of them at any one time -- much less than the 4M that were working at the peak of the process in the US. While this sounds crazy, we have to remember that most of the objective training is happening interactively within the training tools. There are also over 2,000,000 assistants vying for the Expert positions, providing ongoing support for the students and smaller talks. These assistants are paid, but it's a hard life while they prove themselves.

The discussions are really global events: students attend from all over the world. Some are in theatres together, some are at home, some are in smaller event locations. Students at these events are of all ages. They attend based on their achievement levels, not their age. So you may have 1000 students from 15 countries, aged from 10 to 18. Questions are posted and voted on by the group to percolate to the top and be discussed by the expert (or experts -- there are often people from given industries participating in these events). The events are productions, usually with intense graphics and TV-level production values.


Top content experts are often the designers and hosts for the online training tools that all students use for their ongoing training. These movies provide core knowledge that is part of the interactive guides that students use to move through their subject matter. These movies are Star Wars-level FX films that explain the subject matter. Some of them are period pieces, some are animated adventures. I'm told as Hollywood stumbled and the education system began to build, many producers moved to this content for survival.


These movies are closely connected to games that the students play -- while they might be something that looks like a geeky version of "Civilizations" or a first person-shooter from the Civil War, or a Physics game that requires students to understand gravity, momentum, etc. The games are not an extra -- they are required and the student scores are connected to their overall achievement scores. These games don't look like the square interactive "Educational" games today. In fact, they have nearly replaced the mindless games of today. I'm told as the government started spending billions on game development, EA and others could A) see that there was money to be made and B) could see there wouldn't be much time to play other games … leading to the new "development gaming" movement.


Projects are really global affairs. As students reach a required project in a subject (based on their point path), they go online to find others around the world in the same situation. These teams are usually 4-6 people and dig into creating interactive reports that are a mix of video, animation, and text. In addition to deepening subject understanding, the projects are designed to build global relationships and communication. Students are not permitted to do more than 3 projects with the same people in their career. They do rate each other, which builds a bit of a "global team marketplace." Project teams need to have an "Average" score … meaning, high-scoring individuals are encouraged to bring in one or two individuals with lower scores to help them progress. Students are first teamed with "Assistant" mentors, then industry mentors and then industry experts (who are partially in it to recruit students out of school, as their companies pay top dollar for the ability to participate in the "advance" programs, and finding qualified talent has become an incredibly competitive market).

Subjects are slightly adjusted.

Languages (most kids learn English, Chinese, French or Spanish, and an elective language which can be things like Japanese, Russian, Arabic or Sign Language). Students are required to be fluent in 4 languages by age 16. Most begin at 4 or 5. A large portion of this training looks like "Rosetta Stone"… then students get into more conversational classes (vocabulary drills are all on the tablets). By age 12, many students are simply taking classes in other languages.

Math - Pretty much the same but with an emphasis on problem solving. There are many fewer equations and more integrated problems. Of course, the students are much more advanced as the more interactive teaching processes have been extremely effective in this area.

Literature - An odd thing to call it given I never saw a book or anything that resembled it. Still, students listen to the classics and discuss the philosophical implications.

Sciences - Kids start in Physics almost at day one. They learn about basic engineering principles in the 300 levels (what could be kind of considered 3rd grade, but it's really what was taught in high school before).

Global Society (what used to be called Civil Studies and History) - Understanding how cultures around the world evolved to their current state. Understanding one's own state is important, but usually only addressed in the global context.

Personal Development - Now considered one of the most important skills in a highly competitive global jobs market, kids are educated from nearly day one on effective person skills. These skills are not moral or religious, just simply good operating behaviour … and what it takes to be effective.

Creative Arts - From Drawing to Music to Performing Arts … these skills are seen as intrinsic to creating a "Creative" individual that can think their way through the complex issues of the day. In the West, there aren't many "doing-only" jobs that haven't shipped overseas or replaced by technology. As a result, being creative has become much more important.

Physical Arts (what used to be PE) - Ah, the days of Kickball are gone. This is a fairly gruelling daily regime that includes nutrition education and customized exercise processes. Martial Arts, Gymnastics and other dexterity building classes are the norm. Over 25% of the student body globally is a Black Belt. This has more to do with training the mind and self-esteem than person protection.

I asked how this happened in the US … I was told it didn't. In fact, the US was one of the last countries to adopt the still-controversial system. The stakeholders at the time resisted the change and called it too radical to be even tested. The result has been a steep investment to catch up with other countries and much higher unemployment in the US... as many of the information age jobs left the US over the 15 years they resisted the changes.

The revolution actually began in the emerging world, specifically in Africa. New fibre running into East and Southern Africa empowered African nations, with too many kids and not enough teachers, to augment their staff with new videos and interactive learning. The students of these early systems not only learned much faster, but become the most facile at building the content (as they were very familiar with it). I was told as much as 60% of all the content in the global infrastructure is created in Sub-Saharan Africa (Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Tanzania).

Anyway, when I arrived back in this time, I wrote this all down as fast as I could to remember it. I hope you find it useful.

Was it really just a dream? I don't know. But if it is was a dream, it was a really good one.

Plus it if you like it… and Comment!!
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We do need an educational system that is not built for making the best factory workers as those days are long gone.
Certainly a bright vision and one with hope, something I don't get from watching the status quo. I think this should be shared until it reaches someone with the time and motivation to dedicate their life to making this a reality.
A Great vision for education. The problem is changing the bureacracy that is the US education system. It's damn near impossible. If you look at a US elementary classroom today and compare to a photo of a classroom in the 1800s - they are nearly the same.
Charter schools and home schooling have more leeway - maybe that is the place to start.
Being unrealistic is the first step to innovation. :)
I can start this at home with my kids! I don't need to wait for the school system to hop on. Especially the part about being fluent in 4 languages. Thanx Alex!
Is this what you are starting with your projects in Africa?
I like what you've laid out Alex however I have my doubts we'll get there in the near future. I feel the current climate promotes the message that every student is equal. Take Valentines Day for example, I'll bet that every student must make a Valentine for everyone in their class so no one has their feelings hurt. Even with sports, I hear more and more stories about every student receiving a trophy.

In the current climate I feel like it would be political suicide for someone to suggest that not all children are created equal.
I wish I could have experienced an education system like this. I feel like I would have actually wanted to apply myself in my high school years instead of being bored, generally stopping to care, and then never continuing my education because I didn't like the system.

+Mike Collins I wish I didn't agree with what you said. The problem with a system embracing the uniqueness of individuals is that it will immediately be seen as a slight and an affront to those who do not perform as well immediately. If only they would see that a system like this is designed to permit students to excel by focusing their time during their education career on the subjects they struggle the most with.
Secondarily, this is how Adult education and training works well now (without the grades). Pixel Corps allows its members to work on projects and engage other professionals in dialog on these projects. Add (or or YouTube) and you can learn what you need to know or want to know from experts in a video tutorial then work on the exercises provided. You set the pace and learning goals while expanding on the expert's knowledge of the subject. This model is beginning to emerge in the real word with Apple's offering of iTextbooks and epubs.

It is also emerging in some of the ex-pat schools from Europe, especially French and English schools. They emphasis group tasks, projects, and themes encompassing the entire unit of the school term. They still have segregated grades and defined subjects but the integrate every subject into the 6-weeks or quarter's area of study. Very innovative compared to the US' factory school approach.

The infrastructure and technology may need an couple of iterations but version 1.0 of this model could be implemented today. Wouldn't you rather have your kids (mine are 6 & 1) come home with "homework" that was interactive and interesting to them not just rote, fill-in-the-blank, repetitive junk?

How many of you would be able to help your kids with their homework past the 1st or 2nd grade? Wouldn't it be great if you could use the same technology to track their progress AND polish up your skills for the next grade or 100 points of a subject with the same technology? How valuable would that be for you as a parent? As a mentor to your children? As an employee or entrepreneur? How would this change our entire world?

Just think about that and compare it to your recollection of school or you kids current school? Perhaps if more parents paid attention to this as a goal, then we could start making steps towards actual education of students which instills a joy of learning and the mechanisms for learning through out their lifetimes!
Like Cody, I would have liked school so much more had it been structured in this fashion. I'd be so much more capable, now, and I'd have graduated from school knowing my strengths and being better prepared to find a way to use said strengths. However, there are two things I would like to see incorporated in the plan. They may already be there, but since I didn't see them spelled out, I thought I'd do the spelling myself.

Thing 1) (not the Dr. Seuss one) I would like the Subject Experts to be expert in related subjects, as know, like Temperance Brennan in Bones (the TV show). She is well-versed not only in forensic anthropology, but also physiology, martial arts, and a whole host of other things that always wind up giving her the answers she needs to do her job. Anyhow, having multiple related fields of expertise allows for continued job placement if some subject became obsolete (looking at you, phrenology) Also, knowing stuff related to your favorite stuff helps you to better understand your favorite stuff, see.

Thing 2) (also not Seuss-related) I would like to see more hands-on fields in this curriculum. I realize that this type of information might be placed in the Physical or Creative arts, but I don't see an emphasis anywhere. I definitely think, though, there should still be a place for Home Economics (learning to run a household, to cook, to garden, to can your own food, to balance your budget, etc), Shop (learning to build things, fix things, make useful things for every day life), and Other Shop (small engine repair, time machine repair, nuclear reactor repair) are still going to be skills that both appeal to students who think less in the creative realm and more in the doing realm AND are necessary in many households and communities.

Oh, I guess I'd also like it if students could get a little glow around them and maybe a sound effect each time they leveled-up. That's probably asking a bit much, though.
Excellent as always! I was trying to implement some of this in Hawaii, primarily interested in fusing science and art via a visual encyclopedia made up of custom movies created by vfx specialists...
TL;DR - but I'll bet it was a great read! :D
This has been tried and done before, in the 1990's in my city we had the Act Academy of McKinney TX. Each student received a laptop (Mac or PC) and classes were supposed to be self-taught with Games and Movies.
After the first year of operation the designer of the program resigned. Of all the people I knew who went to ACT academy only one has been successful. In his case his parents one an engineer and one a nurse they laid out for him goals that he was punished and rewarded for achieving those mutual goals. They monitored his progress meticulously. He flourished in this environment of free learning.
All the others I know that did not have the parent involvement. That is the only difference as an outsider I could see. They wasted the time. At their (Senior Year or 4th Year) they found themselves to be unprepared for a GED. The system had pushed them through and they had not learned what was expected.
Many of them had huge problems with SAT and ACT scores and getting into college.
I think it would be great but I have seen friends many of them left behind by a system like this.
What I really want to know from the future is how did they change the attitude towards learning? Our current system may be far from ideal, but the major problem we have is not what information schools can give students but rather how much information students want to take in. As long as a slacker lifestyle is idealized in the media and by society, most kids will not aspire to learn. Are parents of the future sacrificing their free time to become students themselves to set the example that learning is a normal and healthy life long pursuit? Have weekend wine tasting parties where the topic of discussion is the last episode of Jersy Shore been replaced by something a bit more creative or intellectual?

A willingness to learn is the most powerful tool that can be wielded by a student to learn. After that, technique and technology is just digital gravy.
I don't think a system like what is described was possible in the 90s... and is only barely possible today. Beyond the political will, there are still many technical obstacles that are doable... but not in existence yet. My opinion is that all kids start wanting to learn... and that drive is often beaten out them within the first few years of school.
I don't know that the slacker lifestyle portrayed in media has a direct correlation to actual student learning patterns, +James Valenti. I mean, who among us grew up to be a young republican because Michael J. Fox portrayed one on TV?
I think students are bored, in general. Since many schools base their curriculum on standardized testing because the test results determine the type of funding schools can obtain (I know that's a ridiculous simplification, but does anyone really want to read the entire long diatribe? No, because we're slackers), focus is often placed upon making sure students can answer questions on tests. If a student isn't the type to learn how to answer questions on tests, the student is going to get bored. And bored students don't aspire to learn because there's nothing to learn. It's one of those vicious cycles we all love and adore.
That's part of the appeal of this Futuristic Learning Environment of the Future (insert Futuristic Music of the Future here) for me - it enables students to explore the areas in which they excel. Not every student is going to max out on learning points in each area of knowledge - and that's fine. Some will have very low points in several areas and high points in others. Some will be equal across the board. But, ideally, if it really worked as described, if there were no politics&red tape to get in the way, each student would have the opportunity to achieve to the best of her or his ability in each field instead of having to rote-learn prescribed areas of knowledge . Most kids start out curious and are fairly ambitious. They get bored the longer they're in an educational system that doesn't suit their learning styles. I think a program like this would allow them to find the stimulus they need to learn, with or without parental support.
The more I read of your posts, the more I realize you are smarter then I sir.

I enjoy the insight you often bring and I completely agree and hope for your future of education. Having two small children, one of which who is about to start school. I realized I was going to have to do the majority of work in educating them. A environment of the type you suggest, would be very cool to see.
Nice rollercoaster there. You get me excited with an audacious (in a good way) vision . . . and then crash me back to reality with the political problems we have here in getting things done.

I do think, though, that there needs to be some structural options available, as well. The program you outline introduces a lot of uncertainty into the process. While many children will thrive, many others need some sort of structure (I know that I certainly did).

Maybe this structure takes the form of education coordinators - the home room teachers of this new structure. Each coordinator would be responsible for 20-40 kids; they would act as the primary point of contact in the school for parents and help students and parents determine study pace and help get extra help when needed. The coordinator would also shepherd their children through the entire process, so continuity isn't broken,

Could parents do this? Sure, but parents have a hard enough time keeping track of their kids' educational progress and helping them get more help now; with even less structure in the school, it'll be that much more difficult.
While your vision could be an excellent opportunity for some students I believe you underestimate the value of individual work.
The ability to sit down and focus completely on one task is an excellent attribute and is not only required for worse jobs. Take for example the work of a scientific researcher in theoretical Physics or mathematics. This is highly individual work which although comparatively low paying (which I believe is the wrong criteria with which to measure the value of someone's work) has a huge value for society. Take specifically the amazing story of Andrew Wiles. The value to society done by these solitary professions is immeasurable and yet under your system the skills to develop this kind of concentrated reasoning would never be developed due to the focus on

As well as this your plans for Mathematics education miss out one of the key reasons for an understanding of mathematics. The idea of having much fewer equations, while appealing to the masses, will never develop people who can become the engineers, scientists and physicists of the future. (And how are you intending to teach high school physics to 3rd graders without the equations?) The equations should not be shoved aside because they seem unpleasant. They should be taught earlier and the structure and beauty in their composition understood at an earlier age to allow methods of thinking which are not possible without a background in equations to become a fluent and natural way of thinking about the world. The immense value of a scientific perspective to allow young people to make decisions for themselves based upon evidence would be completely overlooked without an intuitive understanding of mathematics.

Your system has a huge value for certain kinds of children, specifically those looking to develop their artistic and creative sides. Nevertheless it requires a rethink in order to allow critical thinking and reasoning to be developed in this environment too.

Great to see that someone is rethinking things though, keep it up!
Holy Crap! I had the same dream. Almost 40 years ago, when I was a kid, and stuck in the medieval hell that everyone around me called 'School.' What's worse, they all accepted that this horror of a way to make kids spend their days was normal, appropriate, admirable.
This is one of the best things I've ever read. Thanks very much Alex!
thanks! the dream started for me in High School...I spent most of my time in School thinking about how I would change it.
Okay. Half is the teaching tools but half is the student. After my son finished school completely disenchanted with learning I felt the need to teach his younger sisters the importance of being able to work and learn even when the environment is less than ideal, when teachers don't turn up, when other kids don't want to learn, etc.
Internet learning is not without distractions, so even with the great ideas presented, half will be down to the student and the challenge to parents will be the same then as now. Yet even today, those who want to learn and have internet access have never had so many resources to learn from.
I'm not talking about "Internet Learning" but interactive learning... where the school is the distraction.
I see, thus keeping the attention. Enjoying learning and having it tailored to your individual needs is certainly an appealing approach.
I was with you till you took away my video games. Gotta give me at least once vice!!
Fascinating. Need to let this sink in for a bit.
These are some superkids that are going to come out of the system. Teacher unions will love this. :-)
+William Brown: you make some excellent points. Not everything needs or should be collaborative; in fact, the ability to go off and do something on your own is an important part of learning for many.

Regarding equations; maybe the problem isn't equations, it's the lack of a clear relation between the equations and practical application. I think the real beauty (if you want to use that term, I'll play along :) ) in equations is how they can be used to describe and work out real world problems

This is an excellent start to a really cool discussion; thanks +Alex Lindsay for putting this out there.
What an insightful look into the way education should be. Great work.
It's certainly a very fascinating concept. I like much of what I'm reading, but confess to a strange discomfort by the idea.
You've certainly thought about this a lot. I agree with most of your points but I don't think it will happen. Sadly.
+Alex Lindsay Well it won't happen here (in the UK) either at least not in the publicly funded school system which the vast majority of people use.
I don't see everything like you but generally it's very appealing. I would add economy as classes. This is where many fail today, resulting in a generation of "entitlement" rather than achievement.
+Alex Lindsay I agree that the natural willingness to learn is being beat out of children within the first few years of school. But, a boring curriculum is only able to do this because of a deficiency of positive roll models that are needed to re-enforce and grow that natural desire to learn and achieve. Making schools better is a good idea but it only goes so far.

If you ask most accomplished people how they got that way, they will say it had to do more with somebody inspiring them and making them believe that they could achieve their dreams and to overcome adversity more so than simply having an easy time with say math in the 6th grade.

In the future, those inspirational role models will turn out to be just some average Joe or Jane who puts up You-Tube videos of science experiments that they do in their back yard, lessons on how to program, draw or play an instrument. Or maybe even a netcast like TWiT where they see that this highly successful guy named Alex Lindsay is just a regular person that grew up in the steel buckle of the rust belt. And if he can do it, than they can too.
Some very good thoughts here. BUT....

The problem I see with this is that when the learning process is a group activity, everyone tends to gain the same perspective on the subject. This is NOT a good way of accessing people's inherent differences and abilities. It stifles creativity. It lends itself to "groupthink". There is a HUGE difference between collaboration of individuals who are already experts in a field--with their own unique experiences in that field, and the process of communal learning. Conflating these two things is a very dangerous mistake to make, especially within fields that push the boundaries of human comprehension, like modern theories in pure mathematics and particle physics.

That said, I do think the point structure you mentioned is a much better model for individual variability, and it reflects the apprentice/mentor/vocational model which has been very good at producing highly skilled people for the last 100,000 years. I think your ideas are a great step towards a means for pushing the already-successful apprenticeship model into today's world. Any apprentice would have access to any mentor. THIS is the real gem that I think you've uncovered. It's already taking place in fora all over the web. If I want to learn to build a car from the ground up, I can go to any number of websites and learn how, from people who have actually done it before.

The educational architecture you envision is not far off. It may just come in a different, and less formal, shape than you imagine it.
+Rohith Thumati I guess my perspective on the beauty in equations is very different from most peoples. I did a mathematics degree and for me there is a beauty in equations that is independent of the application to which they are put. When mathematicians talk about beauty it is about the conciseness and clarity with which A novel and intriguing concept has been expressed. The applications are an afterthought. I can see that this is a very minority viewpoint though. For most people the utility is more important.
As a Spanish teacher, I have often considered different technological ideas to help my students learn the language. I find that lack of resources has been the biggest impediment to actually implementing any ideas I have. How do you see this type of schooling actually getting funded? Do the students still go to the school building or do they just login from home?
I do like the idea that every student must speak 4 languages before they "graduate." My students have the attitude, "We live in America so we speak American and anyone who comes here should speak American too." It drives me crazy.
There are some people who are working to your utopian view of education. They think "coach" instead of "teacher". They think "learning" instead of "teaching". They think that the current assembly line form of education is failing students and society, and they know that there must be a better way and are working to make that happen.

I know because I have spent the last 15 years doing just that. Instead of asking why what we are doing doesn't work, my partner and I have been developing and testing methods that do. A system that believes that a mind at 11 and one at 12 (the age for students entering 5th grade in the US) can both accept the same materials at the same time and walk away with the same results is inherently flawed. Knowledge development is NOT something that can be developed in an assembly line model. It is not like the Mode-T car. It has to be tailored to the individual, adaptive in process. But more than that, there have to be tools that allow coaches to diagnose, assess and then gather like learning individuals together for small session in which the students are also the teachers. Wher more advanced students along the line take their knowledge and "re-write" it from one side of the brain (learning) to the other (teaching) so that the lessons stick and so that they can truly understand the material.

The answer is not CBT or LMS. The answer can be found in toolsets that make the coaches better at coaching, that can pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in the student and adapt the instructional models to fit with the current students learned contour map for that subject. The answer is not to take coaches out, but to make coaching more effective on the individual student level.

[disclaimer: My partner and I have a patent on Computer Adaptive Diagnosticss for Education, and we have built products on and around the patent and the methodology]
stop re-inventing a wheel - great education systems do exist today, just not in US....
+William Brown I certainly don't know whether my view re: equations is a majority view, or whether yours is a minority view. Both (and I'm sure many more viewpoints) are equally valid. :)

Goes to show: different people learn in different ways. You can enjoy and grasp equations on their own, while I need some sort of real world setting. An education system that recognizes this fact would go a long way towards producing better educated students.
+Gregorio M Guess I see 60-80% of the education (in this system) as individual... but with segments that allow people to socialize. A very large part of the experience is solo and the system is specifically designed to allow students to go at their own pace... in each subject.
+Alex Lindsay Thanks for starting this conversation!

I see a few issues that need to be dealt with.

1. Different people think differently, which is why some people can learn by reading, some by watching, and some by doing.
2. Time/information density. I can read, and disseminate knowledge, at an order of magnitude faster than I can listen/watch a lecture/play a video game.
3. To be teaching "3rd graders" hugh school physics, they need a fundamentally broader foundation in math than they may be able to deal with.(The brain is about 90% done by age 8, but up until then, the current way of teaching has no good way of teaching the concepts needed. We have very little evidence that they can handle the concepts involved, aside from child geniuses that have largely taught themselves.)
4. If everyone is required to learn 4 languages, we have really created a fifth language, consisting of everything from the other four. For example, how soon would we hear "tones" in English words, or new words formed from the combination of two words from two languages? This may not be a bad thing, unless we recreate the English language problem, the fact that it is considered the most complex language in the world. Why don't we have language experts creating a new language consisting of the best features of every language? After all, we already do that with programming languages.

P.S. Thanks for thinking outside the box!
+William Armstrong 1 - This system hits the student in many directions - Video, Text, Games, Conversation, and Projects., 2 - Yup... with interactive training... you don't need to rely on video. It's a component that can illustrate if the text doesn't make sense., 3 - You don't need Math to understand much of physics - I set a physics record or two in HS... without any math at all... just principles. 4 - I think languages are too complex to create from scratch as a general tool. They are part of their environment. I do think it deepens the brain center there...
This vision of education is very old... I was a student teacher in the late '70s and slight variations and a less US-centric view of it all were discussed during those days. What's different is that since the advent of tablets (read iPad) it is all possible... now!
In the mid '80s I wrote an electronic pictorial cookbook for disabled teens (in Hypercard) which was limited by it's lack of portability and cost. In the early '90s I built performance tracking software which again was limited by portability and by lack of connectivity. Again... this is no longer a barrier.
IEP's (Individualised Educational Programs) have similarly existed all those years. When working with disabled students the variations on needs and abilities are much broader than in 'normal' ed... so it was a no-brainer.
What hasn't changed and will continue to slow the debate... is the inadequacy of the bureaucrats and politicians who govern and fund our education systems. They want to box and categorise and genericise education of our youth so they all conform to a minimum uniform standard and do not have the capacity to implement such a vision.
My children have been educated in the public system where the 'stage' system is in place... and there are basically 6 stages ... 2 grades are the equivalent of one stage. Each year, the kids are grouped with a grade either side of their own allowing a little more flexibility to deal with individuals. It is particularly good when they progress to high school as it is seen as a natural progression as the kids meet up again with kids who shared their class 2 years earlier.
Whilst the vision is old... it is well overdue becoming a reality! What scares me though is the potential for those who don't see the vision to take advantage of the technology and make our schools even more dependent on mastery learning and 'teaching to the test' rather than developing a holistic and experiential approach to educating our youth.
I wrote a well thought out comment, and then deleted it.

These are good ideas, but first start by disbanding teachers unions, removing tenure, and enforce merit based promotions. Yes, I work within the system.
+Alex Lindsay 1. If you can do it without knowing math it's not really physics - it's just a fancy explanation. The key to doing good physics is making accurate and specific predictions, to do that you need math.
2. Esperanto - a created language, not widely successful but very much extant.
+William Armstrong I'm not sure I understand what you mean by creating a 5th language. I work with a number of people who learned 4+ languages in school (mainly Dutch, French, Scandinavian, and German folk) and they're able to switch at will between different languages. They're strongest in their native language, of course, but it's not like they are communicating in a new language when they talk to each other. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you?
+William Brown I actually had a discussion with Michio Kaku about this some time ago... That's where the idea of starting early with physics (before math) came from.
+Brian Plemmons I think I can do it in 20. I've been working on building the foundation for 20 already 
The way the English language, at least in the U.S., has been to acquire words from the different immigrants that have come to live in the U.S.
Notice +Alex Lindsay didn't say how far in the future? I think if everyone knew four languages, slang words would come from all four languages, and become a completely new language. After all, English is a combination of the many invaders of the british isles. Given a few centuries, this could be entirely true.
+Alex Lindsay True, languages re complex, but surely we can try? I mean, in the different languages we have today, couldn't we take the best ideas? As I said, we already do this with programming languages, and I think we can try to make a better one, with a larger density of information, and perhaps something that is more interactive. What happens if the characters of such a system were active/interactive. Just a thought.
+James Taurasi I don't think you need to disband the unions or remove tenure. I do think you need to prove the model somewhere and let it grow... if it's successful. Success can be an effective tool when it's leveraged properly :)
+William Armstrong I'm not sure I agree with the concept of a "better" language. One of the really cool things about languages is that people who use different languages often literally think and process information differently. I couldn't give you a direct citation, but I studied this in one of my communications classes in college a long time ago. I think if we converge on a singular language, we'll lose the ability to express and understand certain concepts as a species. It is of course theoretically possible that a single language could retain all of the richness and diversity of its contributing languages, and I'm certainly not dissuading any attempt at doing so. I'm not arrogant enough to think that I'm right about everything. Just most things :)

And if English is going to be the basis for that "better" language...whooboy. We speak the most broken, complex, pidgin language invented yet. :D
+Alex Lindsay, perhaps. Have you seen Waiting for Superman? It is streaming on Netflix, and although there is a lot of Hollywood and it has the obvious agenda against teacher unions, it is a great documentary.
+Alex Lindsay don't misunderstand me. I believe that a lot of valuable science can be taught without math. Indeed perhaps the most important part of science, the scientific method, can be taught from first principles without a lick of math. Despite this I really don't think that what you'd be teaching would be even half as valuable as an understanding of the science based upon the math along with a sense of the underlying similarity of many physical situations from different areas of physics. (e.g. The generality of an inverse square law). Your system is fine up to a point, I just don't think it provides a realistic solution to teaching the hard sciences at a higher level. ( btw sorry I don't have any names to drop (joke!!) )
No, its not a dream Alex. It has however the potential of becoming a nightmare! Not only are our workers performing at less than their potential and becoming less productive daily, their children will be eclipsed by the children of former 3rd world nations. What will become of the west in the future? Relegated to 2nd (or 3rd) class status by the peoples of Africa, China ,India + Brazil. We sell out souls (resources) to whoever will make us the cheapest stuff possible and shoot ourselves in the foot in the process. Sure all the good stuff is designed here (for now) but good design can be taught and it looks like it will be taught to the students of Africa et all.
It will happen elsewhere because the power structure here won't allow the necessary changes
Building the foundation for 20 years? This was like reading a forgotten page from Foundation.
+Rohith Thumati You would be correct, if I were to start such a project, english would not be the language I would start from. I would actually start with some simple concepts and build from there.

1. Directly stolen from the very basics of language, but individual characters would have meaning. The hebrew language, Greek, and Chinese language all have characters that mean something. The Hebrew language in particular is like a jigsaw puzzle, in some ways, as words are built from the meaning they originally had.
2. For some reason, we use one color for text, but we could encode individual characters with color, say between six to 10 different colors, that would add meaning to the characters, to express feeling or to put some type of spin on the word. We would limit the color palette to colors that the majority of the population can read, as there are many that are color blind, which affects people differently.

Just some quick thoughts. Imagine using a computer to fully translate all of the world's information into a "meta" language that contained all the different meanings that are not expressed in one particular language. It could be revolutionary.
I agree with all the other comments, and like many I've had similar if not the same dream. However, I'm not convinced that it can't happen in the US. Parents are already bailing there kids out of traditional schools in favor of "home schooling" in what I would guess are record numbers. Many that I know have started their own pockets of your vision. There are 10s, if not 100s of thousands of parents willing to do ANYTHING, and PAY anything to give their kids an education that includes actual LEARNING. Multitudes of small groups will one day grow into merges of these groups into larger groups looking for economies of scale. Collectively they will be able to pay for what you call subject experts at very little cost to each individual student. Maybe even drop it to zero if you allow for corporate sponsorship. I mean seriously, once you've got 10,000+ kids dialed into a particular "course" you've got yourself a market, right? Your dream is the end game. But the baby steps and the necessary transition are happening now with the exodus from traditional schools. The students are ready and willing, and the parents are ready and willing. All that is left is for someone to create the first piece and offer it. I am convinced the future will be modular anyways and so no reason why it can't be built piece by piece WHILE its running. I could go on, but will end with a simple question, how can I help?
+Brent Schlenker You obviously don't know much about home schooling. Most home schooling today resembles +Alex Lindsay's vision very strongly. Most of the "teaching" is done via the experts in whatever field, usually over the Internet or video recorded but with visiting teachers and professionals as well, and several individual students are often required by the curriculum (which is selected by the parents from a competitive field of options of what turns out successful students, with metrics including successfully passing of standardized tests, higher-education acceptance rates, etc.) to form "study groups" to tackle large projects.

The idea of a home schooled child being forceably trained to be an anti-social shut-in with no real education beyond a carefully sanitized fundamentalist religious doctrine is a thing of the past and nothing more than a myth anymore.
+Christy McFarland, +Brent Schlenker said "However, I'm not convinced that it can't happen in the US." applying the double negative rule would mean that he does believe it can happen in the US. He goes on to say "Many that I know have started their own pockets of your vision" How does he "obviously" not know anything about home schooling where "home schooling today resembles Alex Lindsey's vision very strongly"? Also, I don't see where he talks about "home schooled child[ren] forceably being trained to be an anti-social shut-in"

What you are trying to call him out on? You seem to be quite offended by something he said. I think he actually agrees with you. :-)
Absolutely brilliant. :) Utopian...!! But it just feels right.
My two older kids are home schooled ... And brilliant
+Mike Collins We need to get away from the "everyone is equal" BS, and remember that everyone is created equal. That's it. After that, it's nature + nurture, and right now, we as a country are (generally) nurturing our children to do only the minimal amount necessary to "succeed in the eyes of the state." Unfortunately, teacher unions, which one would hope would step up as advocates for the children they teach, propagate this by discouraging teachers from doing any more than is necessary to attain tenure, and/or "pass" standardized tests.
+Alex Lindsay I appreciate your report on your trip to the future. I am curious about two things from this school: Is education compulsory? and Is education a right for all people of all ability to learn and communicate? This is just a challenge, I just wonder what it was like for you.
+Jeff Herrin I'm not sure if it's compulsory... but everyone goes. I loved learning but hated school. +Steve Hall We just need to give everyone and opportunity access to tools that they can use to improve themselves... at whatever level makes sense.
What if we worked backwards? Adult education > College > K12. There are fewer entrenched parties in adult education
+James Valenti thanks for having my back :) I'm not sure what set off +Christy McFarland either. I agree whole-heartedly in the current state of the home-schooling industry. I simply wanted to point out my own observation of how I've witnessed changes occur in my lifetime. And that the home-schooling industry in its current state is already pretty close to what Alex experienced in his travels to the future. Currently it's just very localized in the many many home-school communities. As the technology matures, and other activities that require a physical location adapt to the model it will naturally morph into what Alex has seen. I'm okay with that happening and NOT actively lobbying our current system for change. I say let the current system die.

In other forums I've often stated that teachers will be the next millionaires and billionaires. People laugh. But there is no reason why a smart subject matter expert with some tech savvy and an understanding of how kids learn can't market their skills to home-schoolers. (Oops! Damn double negative) And make a darn good living doing what they love.
Love the post, but with regard to "The stakeholders at the time resisted the change and called it too radical to be even tested," I think it's more likely that the American public, if given the choice between a tax cut and fixing the education system, would choose the tax cut. So that any ambitious plan, no matter what it may be, would never be funded.
+neil weisenfeld you're assuming that the gov has the desire to change the massive waste of money that is the current education system. And that the American public is too stupid to choose a good edu system over tax cuts. The American people are choosing the path of least resistance and leaving the system in favor of alternatives. School sucks. No amount of money added to the current system is going to change that. 
I'm in. Let's build it here, there, wherever there are willing people. There will always be people telling you why The System won't let you or whatnot, but let's just build it and let people join in or not. Most can and should be online. That's where we start. Look at the other online schools that are functioning right now and you want to puke. Just boredom brought to digital. We need programmers, artists, and teachers working together to build this. I say we start with something small and scale it up.
+Brent Schlenker what fraction of the American public do you think can afford to "leave the system" and would find doing so "the path of least resistance?" My question about the current system would be whether it's a "massive waste of money," as you say, because the money is being wasted, or whether the existing money is being well spent, but the system is not funded to a level where it can be effective. I honestly have no idea what the answer is, but I'm guessing that it's some of both.

The statement that "no amount of money added to the current system is going to change that" is fine, but I didn't suggest adding money and keeping the current system. I suggested an "ambitious plan," as was proposed in Alex's post. And the idea that governments have "desires" is frankly silly. It removes any personal responsibility for the state of the country from the voters and anthropomorphizes the government into some monster that moved in while no one was looking.

Finally, you're incorrect that what I wrote assumes "stupidity" on the part of anyone. There are many possible intelligent rationales for the choice that people might make, such as greed or a lack of concern for the rest of society, to name a couple. All I said was that I believe that the American public would choose tax cuts over funding an ambitious program.
Alex, your dream provides our children with a full education. Mind and body. I share your dream. Now, how can we make it a reality?
This is very similar to an idea I had about two years ago while working with my students. Working within the public school system I was unable to get them motivated, but then I was developing it in an SOL Prep class in my spare time all on my own. I tried again with some homeschool products last spring, but got stuck in thinking in RPG Skill Tree terms and got lost, so things stopped again. Now I think I'm going to take another serious stab at making my homeschool curriculum work, with 0-1200 points in categories instead of skill trees... hmm....
Thanks for the discussion-provoking vision!
Thank you for sharing your dream. The call in the UK for "big society" (volunteer groups in non political speak) and the economic problems, means I could see this model being adopted fairly rapidly once it was seen to work somewhere -else, perhaps Rwanda first UK shortly after. 
I would have loved this when I was in school. There is a story about me that my parents tell of my first day of kindergarten. I came home and wanted to drop out because I was so bored. Fortunately my mom talked with my kindergarten teacher and I started working on math and language in kindergarten. After that I went to a parochial day school that let the students work at their own pace in the subjects they wished. By 7th grade I was starting algebra, doing comparative studies on classical literature and having a ball. Then came my first day of public school after my family moved and a was so uninspired in math, English and much of the science. Though I was able to talk a few of my math teachers to let me work at my own pace. When I finished the whole year of geometry in the first semester, I did get you work on programming the computer after lecture. I truly believe that kids want to excel. But when an educational system emphasizes things like when this bell rings do this and when that bell rings do that we are programming manufacturing robots and now innovative thinking. 
Very well done. Inspiring.

B+, Mr. Lindsay; I have to take some points off because of grammar:

"Languages (most kids learn English, Chinese, French or Spanish, and an elective language which can things like Japanese, Russian, Arabic or Sign Language)."

Your modern software failed to flag the missing verb, be. Clearly future systems would not allow a student to make such mistakes. However, even good software is no excuse for not checking one's work...

I also have to take a few points off for "In the West, there aren't many "doing-only" jobs that haven't shipped overseas or replaced by technology..." – this seems to conflict with later statements that the revolution didn't happen in the U.S. but in developing nations that were more open to change; that model I agree with, but positing that and then still writing a future history in which the West's service needs are off-loaded to poorer nations with (presumably) more lax labor standards just doesn't sit well. This, above anything else you're written here, seems a bit utopian...
+Stephen Montagna Not only am I'm not good at grammar, I don't really respect the rules even when I know them. The missing "Be" was just a typo... thanks for catching it.

I don't think the work will go overseas because more lax labor laws... It will go overseas because the cost of living is lower, quality of life (at given income rates) is much higher, and countries will specialize in areas that make sense for them... and they will get a head start but will still need to decades to mature as a market.
"I want to go to there" -Liz Lemon
+Doug Trickey I do think the students make a difference too. By making the system more flexible, you can also sort students more flexibly... Moving students who need more help to facilities that can help them. You don't need to have teachers at every location for every subject. In many ways, I think you end up spending far more resources on the kids who need more help... And mostly get out of way of the kids who don't.
+Alex Lindsay The Government is stuck on so many things that are old and broken. There's a lot of agencies, school included that needs to be reformed. There are so many new cost efficient tools and approaches available now that we wouldn't need to bum money from China to make our next fiscal year budget. We can save right here at home.

It's just sad that politicians don't want to make those changes because it affects their buddies (contractors) who are using those systems.
An example of the technical infrastructure that would be required for this type of a dream to be realized can be seen at - and it's FREE (but accepts donations).
+Doug Trickey Holding students back whole grades is demeaning and inefficient. Simply having a point structure in every subject would yield a very heterogenous mix of students. It would be so normal to be with a wide range of individuals... Who are doing well in other areas... The stigma would be less likely.
As a teacher, I would love to work in a learning environment such as this one. My ideal job is right here - hire me! I do wonder, Alex, whether your dream includes supports for the families that send those students to us each day. I work at a high school where it is common for students to arrive unfed because their parents lost their jobs; in others, little to no guidance is offered at home, so kids are on probation for making bad choices; some families are homeless; other students go home to an area on a local reservation without electricity. While I believe that your vision would provide the kind of environment that is highly motivating for students, there is an awful lot of baggage that still needs to be addressed by the "teachers" - no matter where they go to school.
+Patricia Roach the system is actually largely designed around needs in Africa... Where students will have access as kiosks but not take the units home. The goal is to allow high performing students to move at their own pace (and often less supervision) and apply more resources to students in need. I think you actually want the high performing students to spend some of their time providing help to students catching up... It's an important social training, increases the support, and deepens the knowledge of the students teaching others.
I adore quite a bit about this vision! However, to succeed it must be educator-driven, not politician-driven, which IMHO is what has blocked true educational progress (too much emphasis on standardized testing imposed from non-educators).
What a great dream and a wonderful conversation. Thanks for getting it started, Alex.
Hi Alex!
Very nice piece of writing.
I've seen quite a change in teaching and learning models over the last 18 years or so. Phrases like 'building life-long learners' is 'in'. Everything in our school up until grade 10 is project based, with an emphasis on ways of learning and problem solving, as opposed to content. Students are encouraged to figure out ways of solving mathematical problems at an early age. All kids identify their 'learning preferences' visual, auditory, etc., and are encouraged to think about themselves as true global citizens and what that means: we have around 50 nationalities in the school, and all have to be involved with service projects. All kids learn three languages up until grade 10 with a mandatory second language for their two year diploma course at grades 11-12. PE teaches nutrition and holistic health. We still have students fixed in age grades, but older students are increasing mentoring younger students as it helps each of them to learn better. The arts have a very high profile.
I have no idea what the future will be like, but you might have 'seen' a glimpse of something. Certainly leaning can't be what it was like when I was at school. Students need to learn how to learn and transferable skills.
I work at the International School in Lausanne Switzerland, and it seems that most of these kind of schools are all moving in this direction.
Thanks for sharing.
Some of the design was actually from some visits to a few International Schools in Africa (which are ... AMAZING...)
Much of what Alex wrote about is accomplished in home schooling.
Both my oldest kids are homeschooled :)
I have been a classroom teacher for 14 years. The first 11 teaching choir, music, and Japanese. Subjects that the students chose to take. So I know in many ways I had it easy. But I still had to teach children at different skill levels at the same time. The current method of sorting learners by age, rather than proficiency and interest is driven by both current technology and by societies willingness to spend money on education. While the technology is here to do things in new and exciting ways, we still have a society that does not want to change and is resistant to spending any new money to create smaller, more flexible classes. Thanks for your article.
+Tom Sparks I will argue that my proposal actually costs less to run than the current system. I'm not proposing that the government spends more. I am proposing that it radically re-thinks how it spends the money it has. I also don't think the US government would take the risk to do what I'm proposing. I think one would need to prove it elsewhere first.
+Alex Lindsay I agree with you, but the public and the legislature are not so open minded, both conservative and progressives. Radical change is hard. People do not like to give up the known, even when it doesn't work. There is a lot of truth to the adage, "better the devil known" when talking about changing pubic perception.
+Tom Sparks Agreed. Which is why one would need to test the system overseas in a high-connected country that is still planning it's education system... like Rwanda... Did I tell you that our school in Rwanda goes live in March? It's a media school... which is what you would need first.
+Alex Lindsay That is very cool. I am now a technology educator, at a special needs school. I implemented one of the very first iPad labs for special needs kids. I will be curious to hear how your school does.
+Pablo Varela Batanero I'm hoping it's not too uptopian. I think it's simply a practical approach using the most current technology at hand.
+Alex Lindsay how would the school year be defined? Would we finally see the year-round school that people talk about? Or the same August to May school year?
A truly revolutionary view of a global educational system. Incredible implications for kids, parents and, of course, those of us who have been teachers.
As an aside, I never liked the word "teacher" or "teach" for that matter. It implies that something (magical) is being done by an individual that will affect a group (of students).
In Alex's dream, students have the responsibility of becoming efficient learners and call for help as needed.
+Cale Johnson I actually think the time off is important for kids. 80% of what I learned (that really formed my current trajectory) was done over the summers and weekends as a kid. I actually gamed the school system and missed 18 days a year of school (maximum allowed in Pennsylvania) giving me another month off, essentially. We should not mistake movement for progress... Or quantity for quality. Spend $40b a year on media development and A) kids will want to go to school. B) they will learn much much faster. No matter how good the teacher is, they cannot compete with the content density of well produced video. They should be creating context, community and conversation... Not running through drills or lecturing. Kids will learn the basics to pass the current tests much much faster... Allowing more free time to find themselves... Which is, in the end, far more important and more of an indicator of long term success and fulfillment than stuffing their head with facts.
This is a wonderful utopian picture of education, and would work exactly as described for about 20% of the student population.

I worked very hard to implement many of these practices into my middle school classroom. I teach Computer Application at the middle school level and observed that the best students were bored because we were constantly waiting for slow students to catch up. (No students left behind right?) I created an elaborate game board on the wall of the classroom where students had avatars that would progress through the game as they passed projects (accumulated points in Alex's description) and could earn badges for passing quizzes along the way, have to demonstrate skills to pass Stop Signs etc. Much time went into building and managing the wall, but if it motivates students with a little competition and gamification then it's worth it.

Students would work through the six projects (for a semester long class) Including basic typing, Document Design, Google Sketchup, Digital storytelling with iMovie, AudioBook production with Garageband, and then an Interactive Digital Portfolio with Hyperstudio5. Other than typing it's all interactive, very engaging stuff - right Alex? - You've put out a 'Call to Action' many times in your education based rants over the years asking for exactly this kind of media integration in the classroom. When students completed the projects they would receive an A in the course and become TA's (again very similar to Alex's description) and be tasked with assisting the others behind them. Theoretically this was a great idea. As the year went on there would be more and more experienced assistants able to give more and more help to those who needed it, by the end of the year we should have more helpers than students needing help. Can you imagine a classroom where every struggling student had a one to one helper? Cool! -- right?

At the end of the year I had about 10 of my 200 students who were TAs, about 20 more in each of the project 3,4, and 5 squares in the game board, about 50 still working on project 2, and the remainder still in Box 1 having never completed their initial research Magazine Page project, or having never passed the required typing quizzes to pass on to Box 2... and one very frustrated teacher. The principal then called me in to find out why I had so many students failing.

In my ten years of experience working to figure out what works with middle school students it is becoming apparent to me that motivation is the key to success in education. Alex had a bad experience with education as a student because he was motivated to learn in his own way, but felt restricted by teachers with old methods and other students. But he was motivated. If we can motivate students to learn, it doesn't even matter how good their teacher is ... but the reverse is true as well. If students are not motivated to learn, again it will not matter how good their teacher is.

In Alex's story he mentioned that the reforms that he saw did not come from the US... this is very likely. The US is not motivated to work hard to make progress... the US is motivated to protect what they already have. Protect US jobs, protect the RIAA or the movie industry, bailout and protect the auto industry and the banking. Once we become complacent and get protective then progress and innovation slow drastically. We will experience a generation or two of americans that are fat and satisfied with their lifestyle and are complacent with the way things are. But the pendulum will swing, and I think that we're on the back half of this cycle. But the innovation from those that are hungry and eager to improve... and that does not describe the US at this point in time. It was not that way in the past, which is what drove the US to work hard and allowed us this period of comfort. Asia is hungry and eager. Africa is hungry and eager.

Alex's model doesn't take account for those students who simply have no desire to learn, who simply don't care.

Teachers often take the heat for poor performance in students. Teacher are more often very hard working individuals that are extremely limited by the system we work in. Education policies in this country (and the State of California) are made primarily by people who's experience of education is that they also went to school, but have never spent a day in the classroom as a teacher.

For this reason Private schools and Charter Schools have a huge role to play in our country's education reform because they are less limited in the way they achieve state standards. They still have to comply with standard performance outcomes, but are not restricted in how they do so. I would encourage Alex to start a charter school with this kind of structure at it's core and I will come work for you for only half of what you said teachers should be paid. And together we can push education reform forward.

Still charter schools are not the total answer to the education crisis because they don't meet the needs of all students. The film "Waiting for Superman" showed dramatic and emotional stories of students trying to get out of 'bad' public schools and into higher performing private and charter schools in their area. The big difference that the film never addressed was the key idea that all those students wanted to be there. Students and parents choose to attend those schools, and they work harder and longer to be able to do it.... of course they're higher performing... their motivated. They chose. The United States is among the minority of countries in the world that have compulsory education for all students. It's not surprising then that he average test score in the US would be lower than they average test score in a country where education server the privileged and motivated. The same is true with private and charter school within our country. "Higher performing" charter schools are a self fulfilling prophecy. Standardized test scores are figured on average. What happend when a high performing student moves from a good public school to a good charter school? The average score of the charter school goes up and the average of the public school goes down. Automatically, without any change in teacher or student performance. This is happening every day as more and more parent choice schools open the local public schools become the "default" school for those that don't choose and are not motivated. This is just part of the differences. Charter schools and private schools will never have to deal with the amount of absent students and student turnover the public schools do. They will never have to work with the number of special education and English language learners that public schools do. As we saw in the film charter and private schools cap enrollment at a certain level to ensure a quality of education that overcrowded public schools cannot control. Close all the charter and private school and public school test scores would drastically improve across the board instantly. California is among the easiest states in which to establish a charter or private school. Are we surprised that it also ranks among the lowest in public school performance?

To wrap this up Alex's thoughts on education are spot on, and nearly impossible to implement. However thousands of teachers around the country are working very hard to make it better in the ways they can. Let's be supportive and aware of the laws and restrictions and funding choices that our state and local governments are making that may be keeping us from making this vision of education a reality.

Thanks Alex for your insight and giving me a venue to express some things I've been wanting to publish for a while.
Is this an original writing by Alex? Author is......
+Timothy McKean I'm not sure what my teachers thought of me when I was in school. I think it probably ranged from unmotivated to obsessive to dangerous (I knew far more about chemistry and electricity than the lab experiments assumed).

We've been doing projects in the Pixel Corps for a decade and I've learned much from them... and much from Plant's vs Zombies... It's really important to make sure the first projects are easy and fun... you almost want to sneak up on the participant... Figuring this part out really is an Art and a Science... and I'm still grappling with it.

Again, I don't expect this to start in the US. I don't think the stakeholders would allow it. I do think it will happen... because I'm already implementing the first steps in Rwanda... this spring. The iMacs and iPads arrived last week.
I agree with the 'time off' idea. Kids need down time and some time when they feel they are in complete control of their learning (i.e. playing). As to a content dense video outcompeting a teacher, that is a tough one. No machine or pre-recorded device could ever engage in the subtle art of knowing just the right moment for the right intervention that nudges the student towards learning. I suppose you could argue that students will always find a way to learn what they need; it is my experience and probably yours, but in my case it was because I had a lousy education for the most part. The right kind of human interaction can help students explore areas of themselves they never even dreamed existed, but only a skilled human educator could 'diagnose' what those might be.
+Roger Nobs I definitely agree. I do think we need to get let the computer do the dehumanizing task of repetitive processing and allow the humans to have creative conversations about the subject... 
After running two kids through our system with one just finishing high school, I can see the need for this concept. I have been in education for 30+ years myself. My wife is subbing in several schools in our area. Student motivation is at an all time low. Many parents are not paying attention and often back the irresponsibility of their children. Charter schools with this concept would be a place to start. It is the only current way to get around the system. The US system has two goals: to educate students (which it does poorly on the whole, and to warehouse students so that parents can go to work. Too may kids are in the warehouse mode - unchallenged or left behind. The current form of education had a chance when there was a level of discipline in homes and schools. There is very little left. WHen students have some control of their advancement and their curriculum then there could be a change in their motivation. Someone in the US needs to try this out in a charter school.
I think we'll need to test it elsewhere... maybe... the post here got some inquires from folks in the system... we'll see. :) And yes, Charter Schools would be the first step.
It is the Future but there needs to be another distribution system than Online. Because upgrading millions of textbooks online at the school will be a nightmare IMHO...
Harder than replacing books? Really?
I've just attended a course on Accelerated Language Instruction that used new methods of learning. In part it referenced this with the words of Sir Ken Robinson on Changing Paradigms of Education with animation from the RSA.
RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms
I am just now reading this. I really like this idea but is anyone doing thi in the U S?. I would really like to do something like this with my classes. Where would I need to research this topic. 
iPad mini is the big player if when a retina version is out the current one is keep for under 300$
This is going back to the one room school house gradeless approach.  The ideal way to teach students is to have them take the lead.  Let students use their natural curiosity with their world guide them.  You meet students where they are and teach along side them and help them learn process skills and master concepts within themes that are meaningful and motivating to them.  The more we integrate rubrics, web 2.0 tools, inquiry and projects based learning into the classroom the more learning becomes personal and the students take ownership of their own understanding.  William Glasser's Choice Theory is good place to start.  Montessori school is along these lines of students lead learning.  Check out my blog to get more ideas.
This is a very interesting concept.  I do agree that it would almost be impossible to change the structure of the US education system as they see students as a "product" that needs to be put through the assembly line just like all the rest.  As educational technology becomes more used in classrooms and more parents are bucking the system, I could see homeschooling communities taking on something like this.  
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