Thursday, August 16, 2012

Launching RealSchool

RealSchool is all about what Sir Ken Robinson calls "changing education paradigms" (of course that video is below; it's a must-see for any education reformer), but we also model education reform by having students engage in experiential, self-directed learning.

If you're looking to initiate reform in your school or to empower students by having them try inquiry-based learning or other innovative pedagogical modalities, here is a list of videos to inspire you. They are the ones that launched RealSchool!

Top-ten lists usually go in descending order, but we're going to lay out for you our first year of RealSchool and show you, in order, the videos that our students watched to help them understand the educational experiment they were undertaking:

1) The first way to comprehend how badly education needs to be disrupted and how creativity-crushing certain aspects of the current school system are today, you MUST watch the following RSA Animate video narrated by Sir Ken Robinson.

2) The video was great, wasn't it? Sir Ken gave a TED Talk too. Want to watch that? Why not?! We did. It's entitled, "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" We're trying to change the answer to a resounding "No."

3) Students immediately understood what Sir Ken was getting at in his talks, so much so that one student sent us a link to the next two videos, both of which became our go-to films when we wanted to explain that children are naturally curious and will want to learn when they feel motivated and excited about what they're discovering. Interestingly, you will not see students cramming for AP exams, making endless flashcards, or furiously filling in multiple choice questions at any point in these videos.

The first video is Sugata Mitra's TED Talk about the power of self-directed learning:

4) The second video that proves self-directed learning is something any self-respecting education reformer should be including in the classroom features Thomas Suarez, a sixth grader who learned how to make (and sell!) apps on his own. Resist the temptation to turn students into money-makers, but do focus on the power of learning by doing, another concept that powers RealSchool.

5) John Hunter is all over the concept of learning by doing, experiential learning, inquiry-based learning, interactive learning, project-based learning, whole-person learning. Yes, there are a lot of fancy and not-so-fancy names for the pedagogical concept that students want to learn as they did in kindergarten: not by sitting at desks, but by mucking about in the mud, making mistakes (sometimes gargantuan ones) and collaborating with others.

Collaboration is another one of the non-negotiable aspects of RealSchool: students must work together and, in doing so, they learn to appreciate and value the qualities that their classmates possess. RS students also discover that each student's unique talents contribute something valuable to the larger group that then enables the group to execute its projects successfully.

6) Collaboration and peer-based learning are also employed in RealSchool to connect students to the larger world. The community building in which RealSchool engages leads naturally to students' seeing how they can use their skills and talents to benefit the larger world. We posted the following ViewChange video on our Facebook page to emphasize RealSchool's commitment to helping the world:

7) The ViewChange video shows the importance of interdisciplinary studies in education, since innovative solutions to the world's problems are coming from ideas that combine different sectors and skills. The Frisch School, where RealSchool is based, focuses heavily on interdisciplinary studies, and the following video illustrates how exciting integrated studies can be:

8) RS is divided into different teams that then interact and work with each other to complete different projects and events. Sometimes the teams share ideas that fire them up with the larger RS group. Here's an example of a video the Finance team posted on the Facebook page in order to show how important and life-changing proper financial education can be. RS also values the way the school in the video integrated financial education into its curriculum and made learning math relevant to the real world:

9) RS is in awe of the video production class featured in the following short film, and we want to build an academic program as rich and connected to the community as the video production class is:

10) Want a sneak peek at how RealSchool is launching the 2012-13 school year? We're going to show the video "Where Good Ideas Come From." In it, Steven Johnson explores a notion RealSchool believes in deeply: that the smartest person in the room is the room.