Sunday, January 31, 2010

School of One

School of One is a pilot program by the New York City Department of Education to customise education for each student. The result is similar to the flexible learning techniques being used by vocational and higher learning institutions. Each student has a custom daily schedule of one-to-one tutoring, independent study, e-learning and traditional classroom education. Students proceed at their own pace, with testing to help determine not only what level they are at, but what learning style will suit.

Architectural Record, January 2010 ("School of One" Charles Linn) features possible designs for schools to support the School of One. The designs appear very simpler to Australian design for flexible school buildings, with an emphasis on open plan, using changes in direction to replace walls and doors. The article describes a reception area, similar to a business lobby with display screens,. where students would get their plan for the day.

Interestingly for the first School of One, with four teachers and 80 students, the library of a NY school was used. Modular tables and screens were arranged into different configurations. This suggests a more flexible arrangement similar to the learning centre which many vocational and higher education libraries are evolving into.

The School of One idea suffers from some obvious limitations: it downplays the role of groups in learning by emphasising each student as an individual unit. It treats the student as a passive consumer of education to be given their daily program of education, rather than an active decision maker. It assumes a greater level of resources to be able to provide the student with more individual and custom programs. It ignores the role of the Internet and the wider world in learning.

The same issue of Architectural Record also contains an article on the renovation of an old school building for the "Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School" in Washington, D.C. (Architects Hickok Cole, article by Joann Gonchar). This provides a more realistic model for the school of the future, as it is having to adapt the old school infrastructure to a more flexible style of learning.

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