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a new standard – redefine school

It used to be that content was fixed and process was variable.
Today – with unlimited amounts of info..
content is variable
Standardized tests on content are no longer viable.
process is fixed
The web allows for personalization,
which provides the optimal learning space,
making personal learning networks a viable standard for public education.
We need to remove the old means of assessing a student, a teacher, a school, a district,…
standardized tests.
[note that tests as we know them are generally trashed after the fact… they are noun. 21st cent assessment needs to be verb… or we’re assessing the wrong thing]We need to implement a new means for validation and assessment in the public school setting of whether or not authentic learning is being optimized.

A suggested model for a standard in each classroom, in each school, in each district,…:

Is each student experiencing these three things while at school:
1. access
  1. does the student have appropriate bandwidth and speed?
  2. does the student have a *tool (of choice) for web access?
  3. is the student given **appropriate time in the day to use 1 and 2 above?

*1-1 is a good solution, but not 1 size fits all, students should be given a choice of a laptop or ipod or ipad, depending on what they already do or don’t have, and what their web/tech needs will be

**the library should be the hub of the school, with appropriate staff (including student interns) to assist/train best tech use for given need. each class should allow ample time for students to access the library (or another like place) each day

2. process

is every staff member in the building a part of a purposefully selected and daily embraced personal learning network – under construction – a means to access/log that

3. connectivity

because of teacher’s pln above, are they facilitating the connections for the vital parts of a personal learning network for students  – under construction – a means to access/log that
  1. expert individual tutors
  2. mentors/peers with like passion/interest/goal
  3. necessary info or tech use

Because it is the process that is the standard… #1 and #2 above address all contents and all grade levels

#3 addresses all contents and all grade levels, but the connections will be at varying degrees

ie: kindergarten… discussing face to face personal learning networks… why you group with the kids you group with, who is your expert tutor, what info/help do you get from each.

The same thing needs to happen in higher ed and in careers.
We need to start asking if the way we have always done things, (you get this job if you have this paper of proof), is still our optimal strategy.

*We think a good first step in redefining school is to remove the barrier of standardized tests.

{*A group of 30+ students and I experimenting and researching this last year – ways to redefine school. This new standard within a 4 year model to redefine school have been – and are our ongoing findings/beliefs.}

Please help tweak these thoughts… or find major holes we’re missing…


About monika hardy

experimenting with the intersection of city and school.


17 thoughts on “a new standard – redefine school

  1. Monika, I’m so happy your shared this sketch with us. It clearly positions teachers and students as colearners and urges us to provide students with the kinds of learning experiences that we adults want for ourselves.

    I also love the idea of using a library as a kind of cloud classroom.

    The point about 1:1 involving choice of device is big, too. Choice is a necessary part of learning in materials as well as processes. This past weekend on Twitter, @irasocol and @BeckyFisher73 had a good conversation about choice of technology.

    Could you expand on what you mean by fixed process? I tend to argue the opposite, but do so regarding student choice around fixed content, so you may have moved past my argument into a new conversation, which would be great. Help me understand what you mean – is it a thought process? A project-management process? An inquiry process? A process of principles or of specific steps?

    Could you also point us to, or embed, a video or document describing one student arc through the innovation lab so we can see it here and comment at the Coöp?

    After expert mentors give input and guidance, how does the work get back out of the library into the community? Where could we look for an example of this?

    This is an exciting approach in that it pushes us to partner with students and community members from around the world in assembling expert learning networks for kids. I love it. It’s also exciting to see teachers and students piloting this approach and scaling it up. It’s authentic #edreform.

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | June 1, 2010, 9:13 pm
  2. Monkia,

    I think this a great start. I have some thought about the use of the internet as your primary goal in all grades and all learning. Defining learning as happening within a set process is problematic to me. I do not think either process or content is static or standardize. The idea of personalization is not new and can be seen in models like Summerhill and Sudbury Valley School (models I personally have become experts in). What these models do not take enough account in, is the social nature of learning and meaning construction. We are not hard or soft wired to be personalized learners, we are by nature social and I see that in your in idea of the PlN, but I also would argue that grouping school with the idea that learning can be personalized by just allow the freedom to learn, disregards the amount of learning that happens when groups attempt to answers questions together.

    I would argue that school is too personalized in the way that learning is seen as individual centered and not community centered. Most schools are organized to encourage student to see their learning for themselves and only themselves. Often the only assessment of this learning is done by one teacher or one test. I think you argue this and agree, that we need to open up the assessment. I would argue though it is not merely enough to give students freedom, because this type of freedom just creates license and I would argue in the end limits the amount of true growth and learning that can happen.

    Knowledge as you said is no longer fixed or limited to what a teacher can present or knows. What this means to me is that we no longer should look to knowledge as the primary goal of school. This is what your arguing?

    I also think you need not limit your approach to just removing the standardize test, seriously the test is merely the bottom step, I think in the long history of school, the test will be seen as nothing but a stupid mistake. I think it would more useful to ask the question why do we educate and why do we strive to learn?

    The answers to these question say a lot more about how a school is created than thinking about how to show some body of governance that you have learned.

    These are just my first thought after reading your post, I might of misread your ideas, but I have been lately been thinking a lot about the idea of personalization of learning. I just not sure that is what we need to be striving for…to mean that is easy enough, but not enough.

    Hope these make sense.

    Posted by dloitz | June 1, 2010, 9:17 pm
    • David, I think you’re on to something, but would urge us to look for ways to provide both types of learning – personal and social, or community-based. We need to participate in fostering healthy communities, but we also need time for personal reflection and learning. I often need time on my own to read, write, learn, reflect and become inspired to act as part of communities working for healthy change. I struggle to explain it. Intuitively, I think we need to make it safe for students to be alone – to experience that part of humanity – as well as make it safe for students to participate in communities. Does that make sense?

      I completely agree with you about freedom. I think free play is important to value and enjoy. I think it helps build relationships, but I also think that useful constraints are necessary for learning. Those constraints differ from kid to kid, family to family, and classroom to classroom, but great care needs to be taken in shaping learning environments so they are joyful and not wounding. I’m indebted to my wife’s dissertation work about ludic criticism for my thinking here.

      I think we can construct useful constraints for our own learning – and I think Monika’s students will become adept at this. I don’t think that anything in the Innovation Lab will preclude students from joining larger communities of learning practice. I think their expert mentors will help them find authentic community audiences for learning and work. I think those who find themselves stuck learning for themselves will look for help in breaking out to join their peers applying their learning beyond the library.

      I look forward to continuing this conversation and following the lab’s work.

      Thanks for pushing, David –

      Posted by Chad Sansing | June 1, 2010, 10:22 pm
    • David,

      I wish to respectfully challenge you. How do you feel about your learning at Goddard? Goddard is very much a fixed process place, it’s informal motto is “trust the process!” Goddard also tows the line between individualized learning and community learning. It is challenged by its low-residency model to provide ample opportunity for community learning, but we continually work to create such opportunities such as: the Ning site, Council Circles, Ground-Up…I would say Monika’s model does a better job of ensuring community learning because of the group being together regularly and sharing one’s work, the expert individual mentor, and PLN’s.

      While Monika can describe the processes in the Innovation Lab much better than I, from what I have seen through reviewing the material available on-line, the learning that happens is predominantly social. What ties the PLN’s together is common interest in a particular field or problem. With the requirement that students complete a globally partnered project, this necessitates group problem solving.

      Furthermore, the students, mentors, teachers, are all involved in one massive experiment in community learning. They are collectively trying to re-define school. Regardless if one student is studying physics and another journalism, they are both contributing to and refining meaningful education reform.

      Can you expand on your comment:

      “I would argue though it is not merely enough to give students freedom, because this type of freedom just creates license and I would argue in the end limits the amount of true growth and learning that can happen.”

      What do you mean when you say “this type of freedom?” What is “true growth?” How is this measured?

      Your questions of “why do we educate?” and “why do we learn?” are fantastic. I think universally education occurs to perpetuate culture.

      Why we learn is a mix of internal and external factors. On a fundamental level we learn in order to survive. We learn on the one hand because we are biologically programmed to. The example of learning to walk is a good one, for most healthy children walking occurs by no conscious influence. There is no rational decision that the 9-18 month old makes, “I am now going to begin learning to walk, because it will help me achieve my goals.” It is biologically driven process. One that has been selected through evolutionary processes and contributes to our survival. As we move along in childhood we learn things one the one hand because we can’t help it, such as walking, but also like language development, and fine motor skills. Again these things help us to survive. Fine motor skills will allow us to manipulate the environment in sophisticated ways, allowing us utilize technology from a hoe to an iPad. Language immerses us in our social dimension and at a fundamental level language helps us to survive: from expressing needs and wants, to understanding cues of danger, to being persuasive.

      We also learn because we are fascinated by something, usually outside of ourselves to start. We learn to manipulate the environment in ways that is at the very least pleasing to us for some reason, and sometimes for more purposeful reasons (with an end in mind). And as we move farther in human development more personal interests arise and if the opportunity is available we pursue those interests. We begin to develop goals and desires for ourselves, and this motivates us to learn. We continue to have things that are just pleasing to us perhaps for reasons we can’t describe, and we continue to explore those things. We begin to learn for more and more abstract reasons, for existential reasons.

      In summary, I think we learn for two distinct reasons: survival and passion/joy. The survival aspect is the one that can be contorted by outside influences. How often is our current pedagogy justified by some survivalist rationale? “You’ll need to know this for the test.” “You need to pass this test in order to get into college.” “You need to go to college in order to get a job.”

      Thanks for the invigorating response David! You got me thinking.

      Posted by Adam Burk | June 1, 2010, 11:13 pm
  3. Adam thanks for clarifying…. what you describe is what i was envisioning. Though I still think in the early childhood development stage social community should be the driving force of the curriculum. How you describe community should be locally defined.

    I will push back a little in terms of the Goddard Model. I think Goddard limits itself and the learning that can be done due primary to the lack of true community learning. Goddard is and will allows be an imperfect model if it does not continue to grow. What Goddard does right is revolutionary! “Trust the Process” is right, but what does that mean? We must also question the process or it will die. I would argue that the community learning happen in spite of the process. I believe the true power of Goddard has yet to be realized with the low residency model. I feel strongly about this and will continue to offer support and my time and effort to build the community aspect of Goddard. I wrote a manifesto of sorts that I will email to you… about what I believe Goddard can be… In the end I believe we can greatly expand the learning and growth by trying to be more than just a alternative to traditional forms of education and instead the leaders and on the cutting edge.

    I get the sense this is what Monkia and her students are trying to do. I just been thinking so much about the individualism that we so often speak of. I support and continue to fight for student centered education, but also am beginning to think what do we when we have the personalized education. Do we really want personalized education or education that see the person as a integral and meaningful part of a whole. I am not sure what that looks like exactly but I believe we might want to look to different language to label this idea. I love the term holistic education but maybe a better term would be interconnected learning. Learning that comes is meaningful for each person but works toward the betterment of the whole. My learn is therefore not just for me, my knowledge, my work is not owned by me, but shared or open.

    Okay this is starting to sound like socialist manifesto….but I think I am trying to get at something….. lets keep pushing. It is this push and pull that I am talking about. If my learning was purely for me…. then who needs assessment anyway.

    for now,


    Posted by dloitz | June 1, 2010, 11:48 pm
    • David,

      We can pick apart the Goddard model another time (or now), the point I was trying to make is that it is about a process. What that process is does need to be looked at carefully, revisited, and renewed over time, but the point being is it is about how we learn rather than what we learn meaning fixed content.

      Integral to that process, I believe as you do, needs to be an understanding of the interconnectedness of self with the whole. In my post for the week I try to make that explicit through a model I am beginning to dream up. It integrates Monika’s work with my background in ecological understandings and character development.

      This idea of open-sourced learning and knowledge is an important one and I am glad you cracked it open. I look forward to more conversations.

      Posted by Adam Burk | June 2, 2010, 1:39 am
  4. Thanks guys… exactly what we want and need.. questions – clarification.

    The fixed process – is basically learning how to learn in a purposefully selected, developed and facilitated pln. Creating a lifelong class in a sense…without the geographical boundaries or time constraints (as the essence of the pln is that it is always morphing – via pruning, etc.)
    The goal – within that group – is to learn how to learn. And via George Siemens, community as curriculum.
    The word fixed makes us cringe – because we don’t want cookie cutter students – but by fixing a process that allows for and in fact facilitates individualization, we provide access to all students for differentiation to infinity.
    The standard is individualizing or personalizing a network. So social is huge… it’s just purposefully and carefully selected per passion.
    This grid might give you some insight – it was our skeleton framework for selecting groups – plns per passion.
    This is our collection of research on expert individual tutors and their role in the pln – might help you to see the rigor and accountability a little better.

    There is – by nature – independent/ individual times – as well as expansion beyond a student’s pln.

    The reason we think it’s important to suggest this process is fixed – is that we believe that is the condition we need to provide all students with in order for them to own their learning, to find their flow, and optimize their art.
    Rather than validating content at each school – to see if teachers are doing their job – and students are becoming indispensable – (which we don’t think that does anymore), we think these conditions should be a standard – in order to for students (and teachers) to access their potential.

    I’m not quite sure what you are asking here Chad:
    Could you also point us to, or embed, a video or document describing one student arc through the innovation lab so we can see it here and comment at the Coöp?
    After expert mentors give input and guidance, how does the work get back out of the library into the community? Where could we look for an example of this?

    The Innovation Lab had it’s first meeting last week. It is only one of the choices we see in an offering we’re calling – Your School Design It.
    It is the most invasive to a traditional classroom, but we believe, foundational and sustaining to the Your School Design It model.

    Last year we experimented with ideas.. but within a math class.. kids weren’t creating classes yet.
    So here are example of what we started.. that might make this clearer.. but they are all still in process.
    1. Lucas as a 9th grader has composed 7 songs. He loves orchestra – but he’d rather be composing than playing. This year he got to pursue that during school. He’s currently got requests out for level 4 musicians to skype his latest composition together. That will serve as a great product for him.. where ever he goes in the future and – a great motivation for others.. to seek out their true art.
    2. Austin is certain that he will be working in some type of global outreach. He wants to pursue the economics and sustainability he can bring to 3rd world countries. He’s been working on New School, within Education Beyond Borders, to house his classroom.
    3. Amy wants to be a neuro surgeon, so we applied to get a biomedical fellow to work with her next year. We were accepted and will meet the fellow this Thursday to talk about direction, etc. The program is funded by NSF, and they hadn’t invited Amy to any of the sessions this summer, their plan was for the fellow and teacher to determine the curriculum. We’ve convinced them that Amy needs to be there from the get go.. helping create her own brand of research. We’re so excited they agreed this to be a great idea.

    Link to the document for the Innovation Lab.

    Posted by monika hardy | June 1, 2010, 11:59 pm
    • Those write-ups of student work fit the bill, Monika – I was curious to see how an Innovation Lab learning progression plays out. Clearly, these examples illustrate both deep personal passions and community-based outlets for them. Outstanding.

      Thanks bunches,

      Posted by Chad Sansing | June 2, 2010, 7:10 am
  5. Monkia, I think this is brilliant in terms of high school and higher. I will push still in terms of the idea that the process should be fixed and that it will be the best learning style for all schooling? Coming from a elementary background and so i think we should seek to build social, emotional and learning skills, all of which I would argue are best served with the help of a “more knowledge other”.

    I think the idea of using the language to defend your ideas is understandable, but I think you need to really look deeper into what you are trying to do. Maybe framework or guide is a better term. I also still believe that the idea of personalization and individualism need to be unpacked a little more. Why do you think one should focus so heavy on the self? what do we lose when purely focus all our learning on ourselves? What are the limits of focusing on the one passion or one art form so strongly?

    I am would not argue we need a standard foundation of content or skills, but what happens if we only focus our attention on a limited and narrow range of passions? How can we help students who are one dimensional?

    I am going to explore your work more. I am excited to continue to learn from you and your students.


    Posted by dloitz | June 2, 2010, 12:59 am
    • David,

      If Monika’s model involves students, teachers, global peers, expert individual mentors…how does it not involve a “more knowledgeable other?”

      Always pushing,

      Posted by Adam Burk | June 2, 2010, 1:42 am
      • I agree Adam, those are more knowledge others, but what I see in say Summerhill and SVS models is a lack of relationship between teacher and student…. at all ages. I do not think that is authentic and seem more like a either/or approach. Either the student is given full freedom to choose and “discover” or they are imprison! I think students should be able to choose, but also challenge to not just do want is easy or allow to limit risk.

        I am love free school but I think children do crave and in matter need adults around to model and guide learning. I guess I am also a big believe in Project and problem based learning….I say all this and yet I am guessing this is what Monkia is talking about. So this is just me trying to be critical… I hope I am not coming off as negative. These ideas are so close to me that I have to read them via someone else to really have the distance to question them….

        so thank Adam and Monika…

        Posted by dloitz | June 2, 2010, 2:27 am
    • David, I have read, mulled over, and pushed An Ethic of Excellence locally and online. When I read Monika’s description of her students’ work (composing, educating beyond borders, pursuing a career in neurosurgery) I see an natural extension of the work Berger’s elementary school kids are doing. A school doesn’t remain a community fixed in space and time forever; at some point students must prepare to leave and to pursue individual passions, but they can still do so for the greater good. Does that help forward our thinking any?

      All the best,

      Posted by Chad Sansing | June 2, 2010, 7:14 am
      • Yes. I just been thinking about the over individualism in America and the world and just want to play with some of these thought with you guys…but chad you saw right though me…. 🙂

        We need to chat about Berger, glad you enjoyed it.

        keep questioning!

        Posted by dloitz | June 2, 2010, 12:50 pm
  6. Books I would recommend:

    any and all John Holt books, IE Instead of Education, and What to do on Monday?
    also The deschoolers Ie Paul Goodman and George Dennison.

    And by the way I am asking so many questions because I strongly agree with your model! I am so excited to continue to help build and clarify your ideas!

    Posted by dloitz | June 2, 2010, 1:01 am
  7. And i love your questioning.. i truly crave it..

    I need to track down your books.
    Have you read Linchpin by Godin or The Element by Sir Ken Robinson?

    I just finished The Element. Such a wise counsel on what we can do if we go organic..the best thing you can bring to the table is the best you, then it’s all intrinsic.
    One of the Linchpin definitions of art – something you just have to give away.

    This was especially intriguing to me… at the end of The Element Sir Ken talks about a town in England, Grangeton, that decided to let the kids run the town in order to improve ed.
    That’s similar to our thinking… what if school was real life, and kids solved the national budget or the oil spill crisis, or hunger, etc.. at school. What a smart way to spend our time. We wouldn’t need any more time, or resources… and motivation would be peak… we all want to do something that matters.

    One thing the kids have determined.. every course has an embedded community service… every course gives some gift pack to someone.

    And… they do have a plan for elementary.. and it is more of a knowledge base – but through programming and logic and gaming.
    I’m also interested in a pre-k development via foreign language, then intro most disciplines as foreign language.

    The three things Robinson says we need to do:
    1) eliminate hierarchy of subjects
    2) question separate subjects
    3) personalize the curriculum

    Pappert says it really well… when he asks why we insist on having students learn a certain thing in a certain amount of time. For some.. the personalization will be that simple… that it’s per their pacing.

    Even though I really want to believe it – I don’t know that I see the majority of students in the future doing an Innovation Lab. I see the majority doing some type of blended learning. But I do see the necessity for a foundational and sustaining hatchery of new ideas, etc… and I could see some kids just going Innovation Lab for all their classes – esp for the benefit of no time blocks.

    Posted by monika hardy | June 2, 2010, 1:56 am

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