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School Focuses on Student-Centered Learning and EdTech for K-8 Students

School Focuses on Student-Centered Learning and Ed-Tech for K-8 Students

The San Francisco Bay Area is host to the AltSchool, a former Google executive's endeavor to change education by focusing on student-centered learning supplemented by seemingly limitless technology. The founders of the school believe that AltSchool is the change to education America needs.

According to Wired.com, AltSchools are "single-room schoolhouses that sit in storefronts on city streets." There are four so far, and eight planned within the next year. In each schoolhouse, notably absent are cafeterias, hallways, report cards, or "bells signaling it's time for the next class."

Instead, there are teachers free to individually custom-teach each student so that "kids should pursue their own interests, at their own pace."

Advanced and readily-available technology helps AltSchools make the different style of teaching possible. The yearly tuition of $20,875, according to the article, enables each student to have his or her own iPad or Chromebook, along with "their own weekly 'playlists,' queues of individual and group activities tailored to the specific strengths and weaknesses of each kid."

As a result, AltSchools are combining personalized education and capitalizing on the boom of education technology to create what it describes as education of the future.

"They’re mini-research and development labs, where both teachers and engineers are diligently developing the formula for a 21st century education, all in hopes of applying that formula not only to other AltSchools, but to private, public, and charter schools across the country," the article said.

Max Ventilla, former Google head of personalization, came up with the idea for AltSchool as he was searching for a preschool for his daughter and found it to be a "miserable experience." He found schools he looked at to be "teaching to the middle instead of to each individual child" and sought a way to remedy this.

"Ventilla believed it was possible to fix these systemic problems if he and his team started from scratch, not only building the technology that runs the school, but building the school itself," the article said.

And so Ventilla built a school that is constantly being built upon and added to as need for improvement is discussed. In other words, AltSchools are constant works in progress that use technology as a means for growth.

The teachers in AltSchools appreciate the level of support available from everyone involved. "Unlike at the average public school, when something’s not working well enough or fast enough for teachers at AltSchool, a 39-person product team is waiting in the wings to not just fix it but to build a product around it to ensure it never happens again," the article said.

When there is a need for something, AltSchool creates it. AltSchool is constantly creating apps that address an educational need, like apps that track attendance.

"The technology AltSchool is working on is not altogether unlike the tools that dozens, if not hundreds, of education technology startups are toiling over across the country. The difference at AltSchool is that all of these tools talk to each other, as do the people who use and build them," according to the article.

One challenge AltSchool will face as it expands out of the Bay Area is the pricey tuition that "qualifies AltSchool as a haven for the affluent in a county where more than half of public school students qualify for Free or reduced price lunches."

Many experts and educators agree that AltSchool is exactly what children across the country need, especially in underprivileged schools and hope that AltSchool will be able to reach them as well in the future. 

Read the full article here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

05/04/2015

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