Choose your modality. That's a key idea behind School of One in the NY City school system. I heard about it on a Freakonomics Radio on an episode called "How is a Bad Radio Station Like the Public Schools?" that compared this pilot school program to using the the internet-based Pandora Radio that lets anyone customize the music he or she wants to hear. The NYC pilot program tries to do the same thing for education.
The connection? School of One attempts to provide students with "personalized, effective, and dynamic classroom instruction so that teachers have more time to focus on the quality of their instruction."
How? The program shifts from the classroom model of one teacher and 25-30 students in a classroom. Each student participates in multiple instructional modalities, including a combination of teacher-led instruction, one-on-one tutoring, independent learning, and work with virtual tutors.
Pandora Radio has an algorithm that creates a radio station for you based on the songs that you give a thumbs up, thumbs down or never-play-this-again rating. The school also uses an algorithm. Students take a test every day that analyzes what they have done, where they excel or fail, and what modalities are working best. The classroom instruction is customized to their particular academic needs, interests, and learning preferences.
According to the program brochure, to organize this type of learning, each student receives a unique daily schedule based on his or her academic strengths and needs. As a result, students within the school can receive profoundly different instruction. Each student’s schedule is tailored to ability and to the ways he or she learns best.
The teachers (who really are more "guides on the side" most of the time) get data about student achievement each day and then adapt their live instructional lessons accordingly. By leveraging technology to play a more essential role in planning instruction, teachers have more time to focus on delivering quality instruction and insuring that all students learn.
How did they build School of One? The team worked with each school’s leadership to select four program teachers for the after-school pilot. The team also identified two teacher-residents from local universities and three high school interns with a strong record of mathematics achievement. The group participated in professional development and planning sessions to prepare.
All sixth graders the three sites were invited to participate in the program. Of those, 260 across all three sites submitted permission forms and were selected into the program. Prior to starting the program, students receive an orientation to School of One. They learn how their daily schedule works, as well as how to use their logins and passwords, navigate the software, take daily online quizzes (the playlist update), and transition and work in the learning space.
When students start the program, they are assigned to one of four teams that serve as their home base. These teams compete with each other to earn points based on student attendance, academic performance, and organized team activities.
It's a pilot program and it's outside the normal school day, so good results have to be seen as additional schooling and not a change in the "regular" classroom instruction. Of course, you would assume if it works, this would become the regular school day.