Thing 13: K12 Online Conference

Building a Web 2.0 Culture

Presenter: Paul Curtis

I chose to view a presentation from 2009 presenting the philosophy behind the New Technology High School movement, which at present has 40 schools throughout the USA.  These high schools are organized around the 21st century concepts of learning through collaboration using Web 2.0 tools. The presenter, Paul Curtis, explains in a video that the New Technology high schools can be characterized by their emphasis on the democratization of information, the power of collaboration, and personalization. In his presentation, Curtis emphasizes the schools’ focus on trust, respect, and responsibility. In this learning environment, students are empowered to take ownership and responsibility for their learning and through this, they develop the motivation to be part of a global community and learn how to interact in positive and respectful ways. In this learning community, students have a role in setting rules, participate in project-based learning, and are able to direct their own learning. This approach, says Curtis, is very different to traditional education which places the teacher as the single authority or source of knowledge, is organized around individual work, and strives for “homogenization.” By way of contrast, New Technology schools teach respect through modeling, empower students to direct their own learning, and transfer responsibility for decision making to the students.

This pedagogic model is vastly different to typical public school education, which is constrained by the need to “transmit” prescribed amounts of information and  the pressure to perform well in standardized tests. In view of these constraints I wonder whether it will be possible to implement the school culture Curtis describes in public schools and whether this new approach will only be possible in private schools. One challenge would be coming up with a system of “goals” and “assessment” for this new curriculum which doesn’t include standardized tests, which seem so ingrained in the American school system.

An online conference is invaluable in making new ideas and discussions available globally to everyone who has access to the Internet. The conference contained presentations on a multitude of topics and so could be very useful for the exchange of ideas. However, I think the organization of the material is not helpful as it is difficult to search for specific content areas. In order to find a topic of interest to my work, I had to go through each presentation in turn until I found information that was useful to me. I hope that the organizers of this site work on cataloging and providing an index so that readers can access information most relevant to their individual needs.

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