Future School Day Should Be Based on the Real World

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Continuing the series on the future school day, here's how Rob Lippincott, PBS Senior Vice President, Education, believes the ideal should be.

Learning is a dynamic, just-in-time, fully interactive set of experiences that add up to life. We are ALL learning at ALL times. Schooling is a societal structure designed to accomplish a frustratingly amorphous set of developmental goals and fulfill a shifting set of social expectations.

Ideally, schools should be resource-rich environments where people from 2-102 (perhaps only required for those from 4-16 or 18) can participate and receive formal recognition for achievement. They should be some combination of the attributes of temples/gymnasia/libraries/laboratories/game parlors and all carefully designed and staffed to encourage, engage, inspire, assess and reward learning. They should not be modeled on penitentiaries built to most efficient accommodate and process a specific class of behavior difficulties.

We need to balance the needs of the workforce (keep immature minds and hands out of jobs until they can be productive; allow parents to work a full day without neglecting their children) and the natural developmental sequence of the human mind and spirit (challenge and support each individual to identify and accomplish proximal development milestones and desired learning outcomes).

To do this we need to do a better job of differentiating the teaching tasks - and design a professional sequence of preparation, induction, development and mastery - and understanding the learning tasks (presenting appropriate challenges, supporting successive attempts to achieve mastery, rewarding accomplishment and linking outcomes with progressively higher skill expectations).

Time (start and end time in any day; days per week/weeks per month/months per year) spent in a school context should be measured by more contemporaneously sensible segments (not the traditional northern European agrarian calendar).


Experience - including work, service, play and exploration - should accompany and supplement "in-class" time. "Seat time" should be reserved for the few kinds of learning that involve sitting down.

Technology should be fully integral to the process - exploiting the advances that have transformed the way we work, play, research, write, explain, test ourselves and share - so that children do not interrupt learning to attend school.

Teachers should include and depend upon a wide "cloud" of expertise which extends the learning moment for every child through technology, imagination and geography (outside the school walls but inside the curriculum) by enlisting assistants, older (and younger) students, parents and family, experts and mentors from the "real world" and the human web which surrounds each learner.