In creating such a system, today’s educators go back to the best of our roots in the earliest teachers who understood that learning occurs in many spaces, from caves to campfires to watering holes. The tools we use and the curriculum we learn shift across time.
However, to accomplish learning in today’s world teachers and their learners must use a continuum of old and new technology tools to design, build, create, make, and engineer learning. Neuroscience research is clear that engagement of the mind does not happen when forced to sit in rows, facing a dominant teaching wall, and rooted in space and time by the “cells and bells” model of the twentieth century. Today we know that this compliance‐driven teaching favored some, left some behind, and drove many out of our schools, regardless of compulsory education. The history is clear. Schools of the twentieth century were designed to fail students. The current need is apparent. Schools of the twenty‐first century must be designed so that all succeed.
What education has done literally to almost all kids now, everywhere across the country, is communicate through its structures that if a learner can’t do the work in class, we’ll give that student twice the amount of English and math in a school day, more by far any other content area, which includes science and social studies – and particularly any sort of art or physical education. That’s called double blocking. Kids in remedial classes find themselves doing twice as many worksheets, listening to twice as many lectures, and taking twice as many tests because a single block of math and/or reading didn’t work. So, once again, educators double down on compliance‐driven schooling. That’s the design of the institution – it’s not conspiratorial. This exists publicly as the strategy of choice if a student is struggling in school. Significant literature and historical research document how and why this was set in motion a long time ago. President Woodrow Wilson (Wilson 1909) and then Ellwood Cubberley (Cubberley 1919) from Stanford both basically said in the early twentieth century that we only need a small group of people to get a liberal education, and a much bigger group to forego the privilege of a liberal education. Unfortunately, for many people today that’s still okay. But it’s not okay with us.
The district mission to create an inclusive community of learners and learning is no longer limited to just what we do in our own schools, but rather has expanded to influence equity and access beyond our schools. This has occurred through purposeful connectivity of our educators and learners with others across our district’s 25 schools as well as to other states and even countries. Our efforts are different and unique here because educators are working to convert a public school system that over years and years wasn’t designed for what we are doing now to empower children. We’re working – against rules and excuses – to convert an institution to a progressive model of education grounded in an “all means all” philosophy when it comes to every child participating in rich, experiential learning.