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.
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?