Education 21 May 2018

Our goal is not to fix education, but to rebuild it from the start.  A Paradigm Shift. 

We do not want to bring technology into the classroom.  We want the classroom to join the 21st Century.  Our program, Education 21, emerges from three simple and logical changes.  Each is a unique solution, and an unexpected challenge to well entrenched dogma. 

The Three Changes.
Standardized Testing and Authentic Assessment
In the US the push for education has stressed better scores on tests, not better education.  From an International perspective, the United States students have scored just average.  Does that mean we are “losing our lead”?  During the last decade of the last 20th Century, the US won about 30 Nobel Prizes, and 60 in the first decade of this Century.

In place of “teach, memorize, test”, we use Project Based Learning and Authentic Assessment.

In Project Based Learning the student must know where to find specific information.  How well can the student integrate information and complete a task.  Authentic Assessment evaluates the project as Inadequate, Adequate, or Superior. 

Replace arithmetic with estimation. 
In the 19th Century arithmetic was indeed the “gateway” to the sciences and higher mathematics.  Since the advent of calculators, that is no longer the case.  Arithmetic is a linear rote process with a single answer.  Estimation is unbounded and more conceptual.  It is a practical skill in cases where close is good enough.  We want to explore the limits of estimation, and its use as the fundamental calculator.  The spreadsheet is the STEM platform it. It combines data analysis, text, graphics, and invisible arithmetic.

Reading.
Reading is a skill that suffers from a self-inflicted wound.  The purpose of reading is to develop a connection between text and meaning.  Education has decided that because English is a semi-phonetic language, reading should be taught by phonics.

That is an epic blunder for two reasons:

  • It is effective for only 80% of readers.  The rest are called dyslexic.
  • It postpones reading by at least 3 years, while the child learns phonetic decoding.

How different speech!  Children learn to speak and understand the spoken word as part of maturation.  Why not reading.   Show the printed word at the same time as the spoken word, and the child will understand both.  Early Reading is a form of speed reading.

Our structure is as unique as its missions. 
We exist only in the Cloud but facilitate social good organizations on the Ground.  Cloud and Ground, blended.  It was a model that appealed to many countries and sites and in December we used a nonprofit version of Office 365 which became our communication system across the many disparate areas.

Expectations. 
Reading and writing will develop together with listening and speaking. 
Estimation will replace arithmetic and prove to be a valuable skill in game from playing to science.
The money saved from the decrease in learning disability, and savings from eliminating testing will be used more productively

Education 21 does not have a plan, but a strategy based on the three components outlined in Part 1.  This strategy emerged from research on dyslexia in 1983 and has expanded to school systems using Education 21 in the primary grades.  It is a long term and ongoing project.

The latest Education 21 initiative began in May of 2017 at a meeting in Kampala.  A demonstration project of 10 nursery school and the results were encouraging.  The project continues and the school near Kampla primary grades and professional development.  Most Early Reading sites are in Kenya.  It started with four Day Care Centers in the slums of Nairobi and four other schools.  Today, we have more than 50 confirmed sites, and the number is increasing as are the countries participating.

We have developed the tools and techniques of Early Reading.  There are videos showing diverse approaches and techniques the teachers.  If the children are learning, we are doing well.   Three goals are stated.  Our hypothesis is that we will reach those goals.

One goal is to expand writing skills.  We will start with the same word cards as reading and ask the children to “tell a story” with them.   Once the children have access to a keyboard, we will show them how to make words, using letters.  Reading will not be taught as a subject. But lessons on specific topic areas with its vocabulary will sharpen reading and writing skills and add to their store of knowledge.  We are exploring teaching reading in a native language at the same time as English.  How many languages can a person learn?  It has proven to be effective for adult literacy.

A second goal is to introduce estimation as the primary means of human computation.  We will start with basic estimation, guess the number tables with feedback.  Estimation, however, is not be limited to 1 or 2 digits, but what is that limit?  We will explore how accurately we can estimate and how well would it integrate with word problems.  Estimation is self-taught.  Guess an answer and get feedback.  It is more like a game, and we plan to create estimation contests.    Spreadsheets are beyond this preliminary proposal, but they are planned for the next stage.

The third goal is to use project-based learning to teach and authentic assessment to evaluate what the student has learned.  One approach is to use existing lesson plans and use the goals or objectives as projects. The teacher gives a lesson that includes files with infrmation and the students need to complete the project.  The teacher then evaluates the projects.

The project grew from nothing to a network of 40 sites in 10 months.  This was done using pro bono workers, and minimal budget.  With 18 months and funding, we will have developed a draft curriculum for primary education.  We will have videotapes of our teaching approach along with the projects completed for every child.  Our students will take the same exams given in their local area to be compared to traditional education.