RE: [unrev-II] Engines for Educators -- an online book

From: Jack Park (
Date: Fri Nov 09 2001 - 09:16:04 PST

  • Next message: Jack Park: "[unrev-II] Ballooning to 132000 feet"

    I hope to get John Skeffington, the teacher who created the Marysville
    Charter Academy for the Arts (which is destined to get a sibling:
    Marysville Charter Academy for Science and Technology) to comment to this
    forum (don't hold your breath, he's horribly overloaded just "teaching"
    these days). For now, let me interpret some of his comments about how this
    approach is working.

    The school is open to learners in grades 7 through 12, which means that the
    kids often separated from others while they are going through the early
    stages of hormonal blossoming are now in the same school, indeed, often
    same classrooms as those in the more advanced stages of "existential
    angst". That seems to be working (1.5 school years of experience, thus far).

    The school is purely project-centric. It is also supposed to be
    *integrated and thematic*, but is has yet to achieve that promise. In the
    present rendition, the kids are faced with far too many projects, each due
    around the same time period. I was brought in to work with the teachers to
    see how to get the integrated and the thematic included in the game
    plan. My approach: dialog mapping using Jeff Conklin's QuestMap. As it
    turns out, John Skeffington and I both attended Jeff's Dialog Mapping
    Workshop over the summer. John chose to remain a "teacher" rather than a
    facilitator, so I became the facilitator. Jumping to the chase: the
    teachers *discovered* integrated thematic as the right approach and even,
    during the session, began to design the program. I consider this a clear
    case of constructivist learning in action. A bonus event: some teachers
    asked if I would show them how to take dialog mapping into their own
    classrooms. Integrated program will start in the next school term

    Now, the parents and kids. The school is a *charter* school, which means
    it has a license to ignore the teaching standards imposed by the government
    (so long as the kids pass the standardized tests). The charter must be
    renewed. At a renewal meeting, one parent gave testimony that her child
    advanced from a below average student to a far above average student in his
    first semester in the school, and has remained on the honor roll ever
    since. No parent spoke against the school. The kids? That's a different
    story. A few kids dropped out within weeks. Couldn't take the pressure of
    thinking for themselves. A few kids have not remained for reasons of a
    behavioral nature. All other kids have remained, and remained
    enthusiastic; my hunch is that the bell curve, if used for grading (which
    it is not), would be skewed in favor of smarter students.

    Based on a post mortem-style study, remembering that nobody died here, the
    idea is now to extend this kind of learning to preschool through grade 6 as
    well. As I understand it, the notion is that kids coming from the other
    school system into this learning environment are already severely
    handicapped by the fact that they have been "spoon fed" everything they
    need to know and are simply not prepared to work very hard on their own
    behalf. Indeed, the younger kids do better than the older kids at the
    school at this time. It is being very interesting to watch as the kids
    move upward in grade level and then meet with new students as the school


    At 05:20 PM 11/9/2001 +0100, you wrote:
    > > I really don't have any problem with "...revolution didn't center
    > > around technology..." at all.
    >I know you haven't, Jack. My point wasn't a critique of your post but
    >simply an attempt to show a revolution in the making with no focus on
    > > I don't see teaching as anything but learning facilitation.
    >In principle this is exactly what they are trying to do here. They
    >encourage the "teachers" not to give answers to the children but to get
    >them to find the answers themselves. This is way different than teaching.
    > > Members of the local teacher's union strongly disagree with me, which
    > interferes with my
    > > ability to perform some of my consulting activities, but the school my
    > kids
    > > now attend was founded by one of those union members that strongly
    > agrees.
    >Here too it doesn't go without resistance. Many teachers and parents are
    >opposed to this "new" way.
    > > Can you point to any (hopefully English language) documentation on the
    > > revolution you describe?
    >Before I sent the last message I tried to find some documentation on the
    >Web but didn't even find adequate french descriptions. I'll try some more
    >and report back.

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