Grappling with how to make school cool

Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

I'm not sure why, but I know a lot of teachers who are fighting the annual start-of-the-school organizational hiccups and budget fire drills.

One of them found out on her first day that she was going to have the opportunity to plan and teach a "gifted and talented" class related to her specialty, which is elementary school music education. That's the good news. The bad news is that she somehow has to add it to her existing load, which was already booked from bell to bell.

On the flip side, at the fitness center where I'm a member, I was greeted by the following question in a group class on Monday morning: "How many of you hate your teachers yet?" I'm not a parent, so I didn't exactly understand what she meant. But since when did the parent-teacher-student thing become an adversarial relationship?

Clearly, healthcare isn't the only thing that's really broken in this country. The education system remains in a state of disarray, due to way too many factors to enumerate or explain here. The point of this point is to point out that technology and, specifically, Web 2.0 technology could really change this.

I'm not talking about how to use Facebook to get through to students, although certainly a young high-school or college-age student's ability to use the social network for study groups that reach outside their local district is intriguing. I'm talking about more profound efforts to use technology as the hook to get students interested in learning and education.

A recent issue of Wired contains a great essay about this topic, inspired by the writer's attendance at a conference in New York about the future of education, "Making Geeks Cool Could Reform Education." This article from Fast Company also contains information about start-ups that rewriting the concept of what constitutes a meaningful academic curriculum.

Once upon a time, I wanted to write a book about how technology would impact the education system. I mean, when preschoolers are using Wii systems and video games and all sorts of other gadgets, how can we possibly expect them to be excited by a one-dimensional chalkboard. The trouble is the investment, of course, which hasn't been made any easier by the economic crisis.

One really positive sign in my mind is the number of schools and universities that are looking at the smart grid to help manage their biggest piece of overhead: facilities costs for electricity and water. I have to give credit to the districts that are recognizing that if they use IT to help reduce energy consumption costs, maybe that money can be put back into the classroom -- real or virtual.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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