Its common knowledge that the United States education system needs some work. But too often people throw technology at the problem without a plan. Dumping a bunch of iPads on a school without a process on how to utilize it is an expensive recipe for disaster.
Thankfully, Arizona is doing the opposite. They are taking advantage of online lectures on sites such as YouTube and Khan Academy to create a "flipped classroom". Learning a concept in class and applying it at home is flipped into learning the concept at home (using the online tools listed above) and turning class time into a large group workshop to apply that concept. Fittingly, the idea began in Colorado and has spread via social networking to schools across the country.
This is a new concept that has many challenges. For example:
The biggest criticism of the flipped classroom is that some students don't have access to high-speed Internet.
To overcome this, some schools leave their computer labs open during lunch hours and after school. Others direct students to public libraries within walking distance.
Flipped classrooms are more likely to be in private schools, where more families can easily afford computers and high-speed Internet, some superintendents said.
As this teaching style gets tested, challenged, and improved, I hope that it can reach kids regardless of what school and socioeconomic background they are. Our schools need to get a little crazy and nontraditional to be able to break out of mediocrity.
Speaking of nontraditional, some enterprising students at Vanderbilt are developing a custom tablet that allows blind people to understand algebraic concepts using touch and vibration. The video is so great that I can't really do it justice - check it out below!