Educon 2.1: What Does Reform Look Like?

After spending several days at Educon 2.1, I’m confident that though impediments exist, we can establish the education system that our nation requires and that every child deserves.
What does this have to do with computing? Imagine a day when teachers find room in the curriculum to present new learning opportunities, ones that engage and advance computational thinking and computing. Imagine kids using computers like “mud pies” (Papert), as learning material that serves as an extension of their imagination. Reform is a ways off, but as emphasis on science education reemerges, let’s make sure we make the case for including computing.
Let’s look at the term “reform.” Think beyond the No Child Left Behind definition, with its onerous attention on small bits that may or may not add up to a whole and robust education. Imagine reform in its most literal sense – to “re-form,” to take apart and recreate in ways that are responsive to and reflective of a changed world. To rethink the purpose of school and design environments and learning opportunities that help students tackle an increasingly dynamic and complex world. To recast the role of learner so children can get ready to imagine our best innovations and solve our hardest problems.
A new, more progressive administration could make reform more likely. As President Obama said in his inaugural address, “We will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.”
At Educon, teachers, administrators, and experts attempted to define what a modern education should look like. Schools that have figured it out do exist but they are few, and they typically operate outside the strictures of district policy. One example is Science Leadership Academy (SLA), the magnet high school where our conference was held. Part of the School District of Philadelphia, SLA was permitted to design its own project-based curriculum and measure achievement using performance assessments instead of standardized tests. As Principal Chris Lehmann says, it’s unlikely other schools could copy SLA’s program precisely and expect success; but schools could adopt processes that work for SLA. (One example: Many of SLA’s project design methods are based on protocols developed by the National School Reform Faculty.)
With the social web and a collaborative spirit we’re able to share good practices in ways we never could before. A rekindled sense of urgency, terrific technology, and talent are all on our side. Let’s get going!
Read my first blog post in this series, Educon 2.1: Educon 2.1: Eye of the Tiger, as well as my second blog post, EduCon 2.1: Working Computational Thinking into the Equation.

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