Jim Shelton – Slate Evening on 21st Century Classrooms

At an event in DC last night put on by Slate, Hive, and Coca-Cola, Jim Shelton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education, spoke on the opening panel.  One of the things he said was so striking to me I had to repost it in whole, as best I could reconstruct from my notes. This is my loose transcription, not his exact words, but the point remains just as strong, I hope:

“With or without schools, students are learning all the time.  They may not be learning what we want them to learn, but they are learning all the time and are very good at it.  They are establishing collaborative learning groups of their peers.  They are using a variety of learning formats, technology, and physical spaces.  They are taking on projects to develop their competencies.  They are establishing complex learning communities and hierarchies of expertise based on each individual’s areas of greatest interest.  Especially when it comes to using technology, they are already teaching each other and their teachers, much more than the other way around.

“The students that stick with the system do so because they understand that school is still the only place where they can get the one thing they believe they need, which is a credential.  If they can find a way to get a strong enough credential elsewhere for what they want to do in life, then you might see a lot more students checking out.”

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