I have often talked about the subject of student empowerment and school. I have always wanted to show the world how I think school should be. I am about to start high school, and I don't know how much free time I will have once I start. I decided that I would write this now because I didn't know when I would have another chance. So I present to you:

"Reimagining School: A Student's Vision"



I will present my version of school by dividing it into three core pieces; Environment, Structure, and Students. I believe these three aspects of school are what will define the success of an education system. I have used the flipped classroom as my basis and combined it with some of my own ideas.



Environment

Campus

For my vision of a better school the campus will be very large, and will have to be, because it will house grades K-12. That's right; students of all ages will be on one campus. I'll address more of the reason why in 'Structure', and then this might make more sense. Now I think the school's grounds should have lots of plants and trees. There should also be plenty of places to hang out and relax with friends. This will make schools more inviting and give students to hang out with their friends. I know for older students this will be really appealing. For younger students of course there will be playgrounds. There will be some separation between younger and older students, although the school will allow for more interaction and cooperation between them. Again this will be addressed later. Lastly, there will be some outside classrooms.


Classrooms

While there will be some outside classrooms, most classrooms will still be inside. However, they will allow in plenty of sunlight. Classrooms will have skylights and plenty of windows. Natural light makes people feel more awake and aware than artificial light, and so students can focus better in class and perform better. Also rather than rows of desks there will be tables which will seat 4-6 students. There will be materials available around the room to help students understand concepts better. I will talk more about how classes will be taught in 'Structure'.


Hallways

When I think of hallways I always see huge crowds of people and posters lining the walls. Some schools also have lockers taking up room in the hallways rather than being flush with the wall. This takes away from space. Hallways should be wide and lockers flush with the wall to allow lots of space to move through. Posters should also make students feel emotion and inspired. Many posters simply say, "Believe and you can Achieve!" or "Follow your dreams!". I envision posters giving facts, or rather terrible truths. This may sound a bit depressing at first, but instead they will all end with "Take Action!", and students may attempt to see how they can help find a solution to the problem. These real-world examples I believe are better than vague, general statements.



Structure

Grade Levels

The school I envision doesn't divide students into grades. Initially your first two years will be like first and second grade, learning the basics of subjects. In fact your first two years will be taught mostly the traditional way. They will, however, allow for more hands-on activities to help students learn and not be bored in class. During those first years you will also start learning a language. It is easier to learn a language when you're young which is why I think schools should start as early as possible. After your first year or two you will start getting split up by how good you are in each subject. This will most likely result with students of all ages being mixed together, hence only one campus.


Flipped Classroom and Classes

If you haven't heard of the flipped classroom then I will quickly explain it. Let's start with homework. Now rather than doing a bunch of problems or writing an essay students instead watch a video, listen to a podcast, or read some text to understand the subject that will be explored tomorrow. Students can learn at their own pace and explore a variety of materials until they understand the subject well enough. The next day the students apply their knowledge of the concept, perhaps working through questions or performing an experiment with a group. This is why there are no longer individual desks, but rather a table to seat many students. The teacher acts more as a guide, and the students explore on their own. If they need help the teacher will point them in the right direction. Students in lower levels of a class will receive more guidance as lower-level classes are for people who struggle with a subject.

Now, I'm not sure whether the problems or experiments were just your usual math problems or science experiments. If they were, that's something I'm changing. Instead students would apply their concepts to where they're applied in the real world. This will make students think there is more purpose to what they're learning. Teachers will also encourage students and help them find resources to learn more about a specific subject, whether it is part of the curriculum or not. Also my school will have more interactive and hands-on work. In a world where we are constantly being stimulated with instant access to pretty much everything we get bored more easily.

Lastly, electives will have more levels and will do more work than they currently do. Electives will start at an earlier time to help students find what interests them most. As you go to higher levels of an elective there might be cooperation between different electives. For example, a video production class might team up with creative writing and drama to produce a short film or series. Cooperation between the different electives will allow students to see where their education can take them and how they can expect their job to be.



Technology

Technology would be a big part of my school. Rather than carrying a bunch of binders students would carry laptops or, preferably, tablets. I think tablets would be better since many students have tablets or e-readers so they are used to using them. Apps could be developed in which students can easily see what they are to look at for their homework, check their grades, and communicate with other students and teachers in case they need help.

Games

Recently I was at a CoderDojo, which is an activity hosted by the county designed to teach students of all ages about computer science. I took a video game design course, and during it we watched a TED talk where a woman talked about how video games can be used to teach and influence people. Games like these will be a big part of my school. I know that there are people who are developing these games, because during my JavaScript class at the CoderDojo I got to test a video game designed to teach younger students about math and computer science. People who play video games often also can think and make decisions quicker than others.


Grades and Testing

For my school there will be a lot less testing. The focus of schools has been to take notes, memorize, and pass a test. I think that schools should focus on actually teaching the students and making sure they understand the material. There will still be tests to see if they understand it, but there will be no focus on preparing you for a test. The biggest test will be an exam which you will need to get a B or higher on to pass a class. There will also be no standardized testing until the students are close to finishing school. This testing will be like the SAT or ACT; designed to help colleges determine whether a student has done well enough to enroll in the college.


Make-up Days

I envision schools as having no makeup days unless absolutely necessary. Since make-up days happen after exams and graduation are done there is no point to them. Sure, students could work together on a small project or research something they weren't taught, but what would be the point of that. At this point students will want to leave school and relax, not learn. Unless several days are missed and students need more time to learn the material, school will end after all exams are finished.



Students

Students are the focus of schools. The environment and structure I have envisioned is what I think will help students dread school less and achieve more. Students will be learning more on their own and are even given the opportunity to learn not just what they need to, but what they want to. I think that last part is key. I'm sure we have all been in class one time and thought, I would like to learn more about that. Of course there will still be some students who don't care for school and don't want to go. It's impossible to prevent, even when students are given more options to learn what they want to and have a very social and interactive environment.


Reflecting

I have had a great experience with this wiki. I have been given opportunities to present to the world and share what I want to. I would like other students to have that. Students would receive a blog and/or a wiki. They would reflect on what they learned and how it applies to the real world, and if they are doing research on their own time they could document this experience. If they did document the experience then that could allow for extra credit in the class, making students more eager to explore on their own.




Message from the Author

I hope that you have enjoyed reading a student's perspective on how schools need to change. I am calling this my final piece on this wiki, but perhaps one day I will continue to write more about education. If I do I might do so on my blog instead. Check back on the home page every once in a while for news on whether I will be continuing or not. I have enjoyed the experiences this wiki has given me and I would like to thank Ms. White for giving me these opportunities. I hope you have enjoyed hearing about my experiences, and have perhaps been inspired to do something similar with your students if you're a teacher.


-Nicolas