Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fractured and Flat

Here's another in the category of We-Are-Living-In-A-Different-World-Than-When-Schools-Were-Invented:  Yesterday NPR had a story about a response to the devastation in Haiti known as Crisis Camps. In a nutshell, a dozen or so computer savvy people gather in a coffee shop around their laptops on a Saturday and after a brief orientation and some software training spend the day organized around relief projects based on an area of expertise. Some pour over satellite images of Haiti looking for hospital camps, they pass GPS coordinates to a doctor and nurse sitting a few feet away who put out a "tweet" to see if anyone at those coordinates needs supplies, someone texts back, the text is forwarded to a project manager who locates the nearest supply depot, coordinates transportation, and gets the supplies on their way. There are programmers actually writing new programs to help move information in and out quickly. In the interview on NPR, the speaker was saying they are trying to get teams of people started on projects in London who hand off to people in Cambridge, MA who hand off to a team on the west coast who hand off to a team in Hawaii so that there can be focused, expert, action-oriented attention for 24 hours. Even the fractured earth is part of a flat world.

Because I view the flat world through an educational lens, and because some of the best educational experiences I have observed and read about in the last few years are project-based (moving away from teaching in the "silos" of the academic disciplines), I wonder about the educational implications of Crisis Camps for schools. Imagine high school students in London, Boston, Los Angeles, and Honolulu working together to help a village in Kenya get a well. Imagine a team of students, their teachers, and some community volunteers beginning a malaria vaccination project when the first bell rings Monday morning in Manchester, UK handing it on at lunch to some students in Manchester, NH just starting the day who then pass it on to students in Manchester, CA.  All the while they are learning history, social studies, science, mathematics, project management, and life skills.

Of course I have a biased lens. Put the idea of a school-based version of Crisis Camps in front of you and look in turn at that concept through each of the following 8 Conditions lenses: Belonging, Heroes, Sense of Accomplishment, Fun & Excitement, Curiosity & Creativity, Spirit of Adventure, Leadership & Responsibility, Confidence to Take Action. Only because I don't want to disappoint friends who tell me I frequently belabor the point: Compare such an experience to: "Open your geography text books to page 143."

Educators conditioned in the previous world-view are in the process of making policy that is going to make use of money to make schools make students make "adequate yearly progress" as measured by making marks on a scannable piece of paper.  Why not set polices that will teach them to make a difference instead.

No comments: