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School From Scratch (#OSSEMOOC)

Design and build a school from scratch. This was the challenge presented by educators belonging to a group called OSSEMOOC (Ontario School and System Leaders EdTech MOOC). The inspiration for this challenge stems from a book talk revolving around George Couros's recent publication, "The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity".  

"We rarely create something different until we experience something different." - George Couros

Before we break out the Lego boxes or log into our Minecraft accounts, we need to consider the experiences offered to learners associated with "our" school. This will require input and conversations among community members. Once the vision, mission, and cultural expectations are established, the fun of research, planning, and designing the learning places can begin. Here are several themes I would bring to the "school from scratch" discussions.
  • First, the school will be established as space for self-determined learning. In fact, the word learning will be part of the school's name, for example ________________ Learning Academy (insert community name). Job one will be to ignite and support a love of learning for all school members.
  • Second, the learning academy will include three areas of focus included in the mission; personal growth & wellness, community service and support, and global connection and contribution.
  • Third, the learning academy will be a model for "green" living; renewable, clean energy sources (solar and wind), effective waste removal and recycling, gardens and foliage for school consumption and community use (farmer's markets and food pantries), and a fresh water conservation / reclamation program.

Inspired by the work of people like Tony Wagner, Alan November, and Chris Lehman, the learning at __________ Learning Academy will have authenticity as the foundation for learning experiences. The inquiry, problem-based / project-based learning will provide the foundation for learner agency, as well as, community service and support. Learners of all ages will have minds-on, and hands-on, empowerment to create the learning spaces and learning experiences of this school. For instance, students will provide the research, design, and installation for a self-sustaining, clean energy system. Surplus energy, as with other resources, will be shared with the community. Other recommendations would include...
  • Ubiquitous high-speed Internet connectivity throughout the school and community
  • Subsidized BYOD program guaranteeing every learner has a mobile learning device
  • Essential skills-based competencies embedded in authentic learning projects. There are problems to be solved. The way to become a better problem solver is to solve problems.
  • Year-round learning schedule; six weeks on - two weeks off, flexible hours Monday through Thursday (9:00 am - 9:00 pm) to meet face-to-face with academic advisors and project mentors. Fridays will be used for virtual learning experiences, and volunteer work in the community. Travel, volunteer activities, and service-related experiences, such as Habitat for Humanity, will be encouraged and supported during breaks from school.
  • The school will provide areas and resources for nutritious dining, exercise, and meditation. Total personal wellness will help support a culture of healthy, responsible decision making. These facilities are available to community members during extended hours of operation.
  • The school will provide areas and materials for tinkering, making, and creative expression such as; art, music, and performance.
  • Relationship building and school climate will be a primary concern for all school stakeholders. Students, parents, adult learners, and community members will spend time discussing challenges, solving problems, and celebrating successes. The line between student and instructor will blur because all stakeholders will have opportunities to teach, and share their learning experiences transparently.
There are also several aspects of traditional school that will not be a part of the learning academy's day-to-day practices or operations.
  • Timely, personalized feedback without points or letter grades will be standard practice.
  • Extended learning opportunities will be encouraged, but homework will not be assigned.
  • Learning spaces will be open and flexible; there will be no rows of desks, no bells, and no artificial containers, or assessments, for learning.
  • There will be no age-based grades, curricular departments, nor courses. Learners will have opportunities to plan and create individualized learning experiences based on interests, and self-assessed competency levels. 
  • Learners will develop and share digital portfolios documenting learning processes and products. All learners will be encouraged to contribute something that perpetuates learning or wellness for school colleagues, community members, or global connections.
There are so many details to be worked out by the participatory learners of this theoretical learning academy. Is this vision for a school from scratch too idealistic? Since there are already schools incorporating many of these concepts, I would say no. (41 Most Innovative K-12 Schools in America, The 13 Most Innovative Schools in the World)

It's your turn to ignite innovation. What are the ideals that form the foundation of your school from scratch? How does your school from scratch contrast with what we currently offer our learners and communities? How do we turn innovative ideas into innovative realities?

Related Reading and Resources

129 Great Examples of Community Service Projects - Christine Sarikas, Prepscholar

If I Could Build a School - Donna Fry, OSSEMOOC Blog


Aaron Davis said…
Great post Bob. So many ideas, so many possibilities. My only concern with such an exercise (something I too have attempted before as well is that it denies the most important ingredient, dialogue. I wonder whether we close more doors that open them when we give live to our ideals?
Robert Schuetz said…
Hello Aaron,
Like others, I share my thoughts in the hopes they make an impact or inspire others to share their thoughts. What good comes from holding our ideals close to our vests? My post and your comment are invitations to dialogue. I will be listening, reflecting, defending, or changing. The writing/sharing processes push my thinking and learning.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts,

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