Fielding-Nair Int'l: Is "21st. c. Education" an expensive fad?

Is 21st c. education just another expensive fad?

Are we ready to turn our backs on traditional methods of education, here in the BHSD?  Is Fielding-Nair's concept of 21st Century Education a valid, credible option?

Key words:  Team Teaching and Collaborative Learning.

Is this best for our students?  What will they find when they go to college?  Will they be ready to compete on an international stage?

Are we ready to reject the concepts of individual responsibility and accountability?

I am not so sure, and I think we need to be concerned.   I am hoping to hear from students and teachers who have received information about upcoming changes to classroom management and operation, team-teaching and collaboration on the parts of students.

If you are a student or employee of the BHSD, please protect your identity, if you wish.

Fielding-Nair International, a virtual architectural consulting firm, was retained in 2009 to help create the plan to renovate a shed used for milking cows into a 10,000 sq. ft., $3-million ediface at the farm.

In October of 2010, Fielding-Nair was awarded a contract for $863,114 to "facilitate" the design/bond passage of the single high school at the Andover site.  This contract award, using money from the 2004 sinking fund, was the single offensive board action which inspired the full-board recall attempt that was initiated in 2011.

The board voted 6-0 to award the contract to FNI.   David Lubin, who enthusiastically supported this firm's proposal, did not cast a vote.

Fielding-Nair has developed a marketing term, "21st Century Education," and they use this term in presentations to school districts.  Essentially, what they propose is that technological and social changes have caused a necessary change in the education process.  Students should learn collaboratively and teachers should teach in teams.  Schools should be renovated (or re-built) to accommodate such features; and traditional classrooms are just a thing of the past.

Are they? 

Here's what I think:  Certainly, technology has changed all of our lives.  Communication, family life, occupations, retail operations, manufacturing, health care, banking, transportation, record-keeping, entertainment....have all changed, significantly, in the past 20, 30, 40, 50 years.

Our students buy their books on Amazon; not at the book store.  They often read books and materials on a computer screen instead of a hard- or soft-bound book.  That's quite a change. 

What has not changed?  Neuro-anatomy has not changed.  The process by which the human brain uptakes, comprehends, retains and recalls information has not changed.   Teaching methods may be altered, and additional technology may be useful in the classroom, but learning has not really changed. 

Recently, some teachers were informed that they would no longer have their own classrooms, and would no longer be able to decorate their own rooms with posters or materials for their studentst to study and enjoy.  Some were told that the "new" high school will be paperless, and that all materials on paper should be shredded.  Some teachers have been told that they can put educational materials in a large bag and carry it with them, to meet with students, throughout the day.

That may be very cool, and modern, but is it BETTER for our students?

Call me old-fashioned, but one-on-one, or small-group work with a very good teacher can provide the "spark" that ignites that smoldering flame that any average student needs to become a superior student.

A great teacher, who relates well to students and who cares about the future of any student can make a big difference.  A little personal attention can go a long way.

What if that great teacher is forced to work as part of a committee?

What happens to that personal attention?

The fact that the BHSD may have a high-tech "Promethian board" or personal electronic devices in every classroom does not change the fact that some students benefit from small class sizes and that some academic subjects require individual, not collective, effort to learn.

Thousands of people signed recall petitions because they did not want to spend sinking fund money on a virtual consultant, and many of those signers were very concerned about the future of education in the BHSD.  They were very worried about any educational "experiments" that might be tested on our students.

We've done it before, and the results were not good.

Is FNIs "21st c. education just another expensive fad? 


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Neal Charness October 30, 2012 at 10:06 AM
I would urge all, particularly Ms. Greenwell, to reread Mr. Gaba's post yesterday.
Elizabeth 123 October 30, 2012 at 11:20 AM
You sound as if individual learning and accountability will disappear when the students move into the unified high school. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Students learn many different ways and we will still have the "traditional" ways like lectures, small groups with a teacher and one on one learning. The new design will be able to accomodate that, but will now also accomodate additional methods that include collaborative learning as well as others, and teachers that understand the importance of cross discipline learning. When did collaborative learning a bad thing? My best learning experiences in college (didn't get much in high school) were collaborative. As a team we developed management plans for a National Park, watershed mgt. plans for a National Forest, assessed geologic formations. As a professional, worked with engineers to develop creative storm water drainage and severe erosion solutions. I currently work daily with a team of people who make sure everything is covered and nothing is forgotten. Our students need to know how to work with all sorts of professions in the future. If we neglect to incorporate multiple learning methods in our schools then we will limit our children's (yours, mine and our neighbors) future success. We need to be able to let them be creative along with learning the core curriculum so they can be the Steve Jobs, or the best doctors, lawyers, business owners, teachers, farmers or whatever in the future.
Ken Jackson October 30, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Ms. Greenwell, You are on very shaky ground when you talk about finance; you are even shakier ground when you talk about "21st" century curriculum and pedagogy. I find Mr. Moigis and his 7th grade first US school experience in 1957 more compelling here. Your suggestions here are particularly bizarre for parents of students who are thinking of going on to a university education or graduate school. More generally, Elizabeth's first paragraph point to your worrisome habit of thinking only in "either/or" terms. One is either an individual or part of a collective, etc.
Ken Jackson October 30, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Ms. Maidstone! How refreshing! It has been a while! How goes it?
Ann October 30, 2012 at 01:05 PM
U.S. literacy rate is 99%. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_literacy_rate University education has been collaborative for years. Ask anyone who has been in an MBA program. There is nothing new there. The BHHS building design allows options for teachers and students that are currently not available. For example, if part of a class is ahead and working independently, they would currently go sit in on the floor in the hallway to work. In the new building, they would have chairs, tables, and electrical support.
Brandon Kaufman October 30, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Last night Dr. Yong Zhao came and spoke to a crowd of about 100 people regarding educational testing, and the dangers of relying solely on "testing outcomes". (Too bad Mr. Moigis and Ms. Greenwell did not attend; maybe they could have learned something.) Dr. Yong Zhao encourages school districts to offer as many choices and opportunities for students so that their individual potential can be nurtured and cultivated. In his professional opinion (which has much more credibility than Ms. Greenwell and Mr. Moigis), the school facility has a tremendous impact on the district’s ability to offer “choice” to the student. As he explained, some teaching settings require large venues, some require small ones, some require significant technology, and some do not. The important thing is to offer choice, because it is the passionate and self confident student that will become successful, not the one that scored the highest on the test. So Ms. Greenwell and Mr. Moigis; who are you to tell my children what they will be passionate about? The two of you may like to live in the past, but please don’t force our children or the rest of the community to. I am not willing to stand by and let you advocate for limiting opportunities for our children. Neither of you possess the qualities of a good school board member.
Neal Charness October 30, 2012 at 01:22 PM
"Ms. Maidstone" would do well to reread Mr. Gaba's post of yesterday. It seems very well documented if someone reads it with an open mind.
S Sera October 30, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Oh Mrs. Greenwell…There is no doubt in my mind that you would have us return to a period of educational "Dark Ages". You should go back and read the discussion that took place on your blog, “Caller: Are you the fiscally sane school board candidate?. FNI didn't create the concept of “21st Century Education” just to sell their services! If they had then why are Cornell, Technion-Israel, Columbia, and the University of Rochester spending millions of dollars building educational spaces that “foster interaction and collaboration”? YES, the concept of 21st Century Education is a valid and credible option for those of us who exist in the world of today and look to the future not the past. We are not discussing the study of the structures of the nervous system (neuroanatomy), and there are many people who's neuroanatomies are different. Additionally, our brains do change throughout life. There is plenty of research on this topic. Man's knowledge about the ways people learn has grown accordingly and therefore teaching methods have changed. Lastly, what the students of today need to learn (knowledge and skills) is very different from students of previous generations. Many of the jobs of yesterday no longer exist and the jobs of tomorrow have yet to be born. That is what 21st Century Education is for. Do a little reading! You should have attended Dr. Yong Zhao’s presentation last night. You might have learned something.
J Arch October 31, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Those who shy away from innovation get left behind. J. Wagner
MsMaidstone October 31, 2012 at 12:39 AM
So Ann we should value Summers comments on education? The same man who resigned from Harvard due to a " vote of no confidence from the board". The same man who had alleged financial conflicts of interest and the coup de grad, the man who is famous for explaining the u derrepresentarion of women in science because of their "different aptitude at the high end"...... This is the Larry Summers whose advice we should follow per your post?
MsMaidstone October 31, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Those who speak without understanding do themselves an injustice and their audience a travesty.
J Arch October 31, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Ms, I'm happy to compare my qualifications for making my statement against yours for making your statement anytime. J. Wagner
Elizabeth 123 October 31, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Why don't we talk about education instead. 21st education is here. It is reality. It requires multiple teaching methods from lectures, to individual research, to collaborative, to on-line, and many more. None of of them can work on their own and all of them are necessary. Our schools need to be able to facilitate the many different styles of teaching and learning. Whether we like it or not, whether we believe it or not, it is here.
Neal Charness October 31, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Your shot at Summers is your choice but you disregarded the focus of Ann's comment about what's important about education because you were so eager to attack someone. If you haven't yet done so I really encourage you to read/reread Mr. Gaba's blog earlier this week--the energies and (worse than) gobblegook verbal chaos coming from Ms. Greenwell and her adherents is worth knowing about.
Ken Jackson October 31, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Ann, Second your point about collaboration. Actually have a post somewhere on this.
Mac October 31, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Intentional or accidental irony?
Mac October 31, 2012 at 01:48 PM
"An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man"), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an argument made personally against an opponent, instead of against the opponent's argument. Ad hominem reasoning is normally described as a logical fallacy, more precisely an informal fallacy and an irrelevance."
Joan G. Berndt October 31, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Why do folks such as Ms. Greenwell insist on talking about a topic (21st century education) they know so little about? "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Jenny and Vic, how sad that you did not attend Yong Zhao's lecture on Monday night. While we were "in the dark" for most of his important lecture (due to the power outage) we certainly had much light shed on the important topics, (particular the testing craze and the narrowing of curriculum), of today and tomorrow in education. Let's not throw out what is good about new, but rather keep the best of traditional pedagogy and combine it with new styles of learning. Universities today expect students to be familiar with collaborative efforts in project based learning and critical thinking skills to solve problems. Our new high school will provide the best of both the old and the new, giving all students the choices they need to prepare for a successful and fulfilling future.
Amy Cardin October 31, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Ditto Joan. Our new high school facility with its flexible learning spaces will offer many more options for all students. Collaborative learning will not be the exclusive way our education is delivered, but at least we will have the option and the space when needed.


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