How do we bring an obsolete educational system into the world of the present?
My middle daughter has been diagnosed with selective mutism. It overlaps with about 90% of the symptoms of Aspergers on the autism spectrum. Her special skills include a photographic memory and she is a personal GPS. She can tell you where to go or where you misplaced your keys, or if you visit a doctors room you haven't been to in a year, she'll tell you the picture on the wall has moved a little bit since last visit. She can read like the dickens, but really struggles with math.
We moved to Florida this year as some of you may have already read, and began a new school. New environments are hard on her. She has to have routine. It's hard on the teacher too. I usually warn the teacher... let her do what she wants for the most part if you want to have peace in the classroom. Otherwise she will win. This is the daughter that at 2 years old could sit in a corner for four hours of time-out to hold out for what she wanted. She's 9 now, and could outlast the teacher by days on end if she is provoked.
She had a resource room last year in Oklahoma with only a select few students, all of whom she got along with. This year, in Florida, when we asked about the resource room, they said, oh, the district abolished those this year. So the specials teacher visited her in the regular classroom. It was about one week into the year when the school realized the calamity this can be for the autistic and special needs kids, and at this school anyhow, opened a resource room. My daughter, who gravitates kindly toward older kids, is highly irritated by younger ones. They put her with 5 other kindergartners. That didn't last long. There's a screamer in there, and Angelina can't take it. She has high anxiety, especially because of the threat of the bell ringing, and the screamer in the class, so she wears gun-style headphones... pretty much all the time. This anxiety combined with a forced assignment she doesn't want to do sends the class into lock-down mode ever so often with Angelina tearing up every paper she can, writing on the walls, and she's smart enough to know they can't touch her. So for the second time that day, I come running to a school who hasn't yet learned how to handle my daughter, and the moment I arrive, the familiarity usually falls back into place for her, and she works just fine for me. What she may be expressing is a call to her father through her actions, but it's hard not to give in when the school depends on me to save them.
What I discover when I go there, and begin to help her with her work is something that befuddles me as to why I send my daughter to this school in the first place. And as I help her along, I realize it is only for one reason.... It's because the law requires me to. You see, this place I send her is harmful to my daughter, and it slows her learning down tremendously! This is a genius child in many ways who has anxiety to take tests, yet they spend all their time figuring out how to determine what she has or has not learned through tests that initiate more anxiety, but that's not the real problem. Imagine this girl who spends days on end with her Ipad through the Summer virtually riding every roller coaster in the world on You-tube, and telling me what Disneyland is like in Japan. She can tell me all about the polar bears of Antarctica and runs to me with videos of the penguins frolicking on a hill.
I sat down with her assignment in a workbook drawn in lines on black and white paper to teach her the names of the continents and the oceans....
Knowing my daughter and her online world explorations, as I asked her to tell me how many continents there were, we looked up at each other with disgust at this piece of boring black and white paper. She says "Google Earth Dad!." ... her mind is here...
You see we had been having trouble in math, and as I dug in, my Angelina is one of those kids who if you teach her to do something, she will figure out a better way to do it on her own. Common core tries to teach them a process before teaching them how to do the problem, and most kids like Angelina get lost in what the purpose of the assignment was long before ever getting to the problem.
So what she's gotten from school so far this second year of third grade is complete boredom with her assignments which do not teach her the way she learns. I as a parent know that until there is an Ipad workbook for "Dora does math" that is at least halfway in touch with the entertainment level of what these kids are used to absorbing today, school is about to drop off the abyss of obsolete and unnecessary items to do in life.
Education happens so fast online, and it is believed that a child can learn in a 30 minute interactive app, more knowledge than a whole day of study in school. Many of them are doing this from the time they are 2 years old. The schools need to catch up and rise to the level of the children, and you can't do that with educators who are lost in the past. If the education department spends so much money educating our kids, why can't they make contracts with Nintendo to teach our children a better way?... one that's fun and entertaining. How many of us remember having to learn a tune on the ocarina in order to open a secret passage in Zelda? When prompted with the right type of motivation, you can learn anything, and it doesn't have to be painful. It can all be fun! Here's a blast from the past to help us to dream in the right direction....
I had a talk with teachers last week about her needs. With her IEP, Angelina has about 7 teachers who work with her during the week. I have offered some of the newer ones to come join us for horseback riding lessons to ride with her and become more acquainted. She will listen to someone she respects. When you begin a relationship piling work on her table, she will never respect you. You must begin with relationship, by becoming a friend. Then she might just begin to listen to what you have to say. Teachers are so anxious to help her, but when she won't let them in, it's really hard. We plan on home schooling next year, but a large scholarship is on the line for specials which requires a year in Florida schools. After that, we rather than the school will control her federal funds, and we can do more of what she needs. Every day when I drop her off, I'm worried about how she'll get along, and what other students may suffer on her account... when everything offered on the campus is simply boring to her.
Angelinas' needs amplify to me a problem that exists in education in general becoming obsolete to the technological needs of the children. While teachers brag about the computers the children have access to in school, a desktop computer is as obsolete to many kids as the payphone at the corner store. Those who have touch-pad screen devices in their lives look at those machines as antiquated while some teachers have just learned to use one thinking they're on top of the education. Children who dig into a topic on their ipads tend to learn far faster than what is the schooling status quo. I'll use the following example of how things have progressed, yet you may not know it yet:
I had a music school for 7 years. As an instructor of both private lessons, and group classes, and considering that piano books come in leveled tiers, I knew that a student who took one 30 minute private lesson would accomplish as much as a student who went to four 1-hour group classes. The student who took the private lesson got one-on-one real-time correction of habits that might begin to form. In the class environment, bad habits were formed under the teachers nose, and a student who forms bad habits on the piano may spend years trying to undo them. My son had about a year of traditional guitar private lessons. Now that he has a basic foundation under his belt, he has gone on to teach himself more advanced techniques and to move forward to advancing levels, all through you-tube and computer / phone app education that he finds and seeks out himself.
Ten years ago, he would have been working his way through five years of lessons to get where he is today. He first found the motivation, and plays with friends in a youth band at church. He is motivated to get it right, and runs to the computer or his phone to find the technique for next weeks gig. He self teaches guitar far faster than I could ever dream of teaching him. My insight on the guitar is best left to pointers and tips now. Considering that online he gets tips from the best in the world, and some of my tips are only mediocre at best, I know better than to put my influence in there where it's not necessary. He learns more on the guitar without my professional help than with it, because what he gets online is actually better, and very pointed to his need, at least now that he's over the hump of early beginnings and habits, and has found the motivation to self teach. That is all that any teacher could hope for!
In Oklahoma they offer online school, and more and more States do this as well. The entertainment factor of the apps will determine how fast and how fun it is for the kids. As a boring beginning app, the statistics were such that it took about two hours of focus time per day to accomplish the equivalent work load of a 6 hour school day (not to mention an average of 2 hours riding a bus to and from school). I expect as the apps get more fun and interactive, the learning will happen in less time, or far more can be learned than we currently dream of. A good on-line education system should have the ability to teach our kids 3 times as much as they currently learn, yet be more fun, and offer them more play time, group cooperation time, and exercise in-between.
A modified education system should be at the top of every agenda. It should be one that offers lifes' experiences. Imagine an app where you watch a video of a tornado ripping through a neighborhood such as Sim City. After that, you click on the first house that was destroyed, and are given an option: "Be the builder." The first assignment is demolition. It pops up a list of skills required for demolition. Before the student can proceed, they must click on the school and seek out the education required for demolition, and understand the tools necessary to remove the existing structure.
By the time the student will have rebuilt the home, they will understand the need for geometry and math in so many ways that it's fantastic. So I challenge you... the internet people of the world... to begin to make these types of education processes available to children of all ages and levels. Their grades and scores can be evaluated by the application and how much they learned as a part of reconstruction. Standard tests are no longer required by the technology of today, yet we will have a great grasp on what students do or don't know by the work they are able to complete. Children like my Angelina need the educators to be successful, and it is the builders of educational systems who need to be in touch with the present, and at the forefront of technology.
Nintendo Goes To School division.... we're ready for you!