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Philadelphia's High School of the Future
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Author Topic: Philadelphia's High School of the Future  (Read 1825 times)
Topic: Philadelphia's High School of the Future  (Read 1825 times)
« August 18, 2007, 10:20:44 AM »

Philadelphia's High School of the Future is a collaboration between Microsoft and the city's public-school district and is claimed to "represent a wholesale tearing apart of that traditional curriculum.". According to an article on FastCompany.com:


In the face of it, Philadelphia's High School of the Future, a collaboration between Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and the city's public-school district, seems like the kind of out-in-left-field experiment guaranteed to inspire dissent. Yet the school opened last September to almost universal acclaim. Breathless press reports read like an old Jetsons script: Interactive whiteboards! Combination-free lockers! A laptop for every student! An NPR feature titled "In Philly 'Future' School, Books Are So 20th Century" went all gooey over the school's universal Wi-Fi and student-ID smartcards, glossing over just how these bells and whistles were supposed to revolutionize education.

But the news reports captured only part of the project and, in many ways, the least-important part. The School of the Future is not just a high-tech overlay on the traditional curriculum--it represents a wholesale tearing apart of that traditional curriculum. The three Rs are gone; science, English, math, writing, and the rest are being taught not as separate "disciplines," but as a set of interdependent tools for understanding real-world problems. And while the School of the Future may occupy a relatively radical position on the spectrum, corporate involvement in the education system is becoming commonplace, a role that has stirred plenty of controversy.

Microsoft's director of Microsoft's U.S. Partners in Learning program, Mary Cullinae comments:


the old mode of instruction--what she derides as the "stand and deliver" method--simply has to evolve. "We push all the kids into this big funnel," she says, "and then we're surprised when it doesn't work." Cullinane has been trying for years to drive educational strategy forward. Back in 1997, when she was the technology administrator of Union Catholic Regional High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey (and nearly a decade before the phrase "One laptop per child" even entered the vernacular), she saw to it that every student in her school was armed with a wireless-equipped notebook computer. Three years later, she joined Microsoft, where she now acts as point person for the School of the Future project. With Microsoft behind her, Cullinane's quest seems considerably more plausible. But it is also relentlessly pragmatic: "Microsoft's interest in education is very much a vested interest," she says. "More and more companies are getting worried that they're not going to be able to find enough good employees in the future, and we're one of them."

And, naturally, Bill Gates has a viewpoint:


Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman, has admitted to being "terrified for our workforce of tomorrow." And company brass had dreamed for years of building a kind of technology-saturated edutopia at their home base in Redmond, Washington. It made sense enough: The company's campus already boasted a Home of the Future and an Office of the Future; a Classroom of the Future would be a natural brand extension. The thought was that it would further Gates's ambition to use technology as a catalyst for educational reform, and that the classroom would emerge as an archetype for educators and districts across the country.

It's considered that the integration of technology will foster improved, personalised, learning:


It's no secret that the U.S. public-school system is in splinters. A surprisingly young institution--American children were mostly taught at home or in private schools until the mid-1800s, when reformers such as Horace Mann lobbied for free public education--it now often looks like an experiment gone wrong. Scarcely two-thirds of government-educated students graduate from high school, and in poor inner-city districts, such as in Cleveland, Memphis, and Milwaukee, graduation rates have fallen below 50%.

Mann argued that public schooling would eradicate poverty and crime, and build a nation of informed citizens. But factory owners--eager for a steady supply of taxpayer-educated worker bees--quickly jumped on the idea for their own purposes, leading to curricula organized according to what modern-day educators call the "factory model." Students were trained to absorb and regurgitate information, fill out worksheets, and meet baseline competency levels in writing and math--skills that would serve them well as future foremen or assembly-line employees. According to Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond, author of The Right to Learn, this "batch processing" model of education--characterized by large class sizes and little interactivity--has persisted despite its glaring obsolescence.

Initial results are encouraging demonstrating a new approach to facilitated learning:


Inspired by such results, Salcito, Cullinane, and the Philadelphia Board of Education swept aside the old "silo learning" model and replaced it with one in which subjects are subsumed into open-ended topics: "How are our identities constructed?" or "Should the U.S. be concerned about bird flu?" Traditional disciplines are applied in the course of exploring these broader questions, exercising students' writing, calculating, and analytical skills concurrently, as well as the career-oriented skills on Microsoft's "education competency wheel," including organizing and planning, motivating others, dealing with ambiguity, and working in a team setting. In Kathy Lee's "learning sessions," for instance (School of the Future denizens steer clear of talking about "classes"), students like Quetta Fairy are investigating the growing pains associated with Philadelphia's urban renewal. Every aspect of this real-world transition lends itself to an instructional opportunity. Eminent-domain laws that allow the city to raze buildings and homes are grounds for an in-depth online investigation into how legislative systems operate--and for discussions about how to create an open forum for residents of affected neighborhoods. The question of how new buildings should be designed serves as a springboard for polishing kids' trigonometry skills. In another lesson, kids did Internet research to pinpoint areas in the city that they felt were not receiving their share of social services. And a study of slavery prompted laptop-driven examinations of the students' own family trees. "I asked my mom for the last names of our relatives, and I researched my entire family back into slave times," says Tyler Wilson, one of Lee's students. "It was really cool."

Read the whole article on FastCompany.com at:

Philadelphia's High School of the Future Blog

Philadelphia's High School of the Future district county website

Mary Cullinane's Homepage

« Last Edit: August 18, 2007, 11:00:52 AM by Graham »
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