Monday, August 1, 2011

Variable Learning Time

Last week I had the privilege of spending a couple of days with the Next Generation Learning Challenge Wave II grantees at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters in Seatle. The 19 grantee organizations are meeting the challenge to bring to scale disruptive innovations that can dramatically improve student learning, with emphasis on Common Core State Standards and 21st century skills. These include the kinds of innovations that Clayton Christensen writes about in Disrupting Class such as virtual, online, and blended learning experiences, plus some innovations that Christensen may not have imagined.

In my last blog post I ranted about states that were reducing the number of required school days in the year. Students need more time learning, not less. I stand by my argument that states should not reduce the school-day requirement...with one exception. I also will argue that states should ELIMINATE the requirement altogether in environments which support mastery learning. Seat time doesn't matter when a student meets learning expectations and unlimited access to learning, I.e. When learning becomes the constant, learning time can be variable. Of course students should be encouraged to learn more than the minimum expectations. Every student should have access to learning opportunities 24 hours a day 365 days a year and development of life-long learning habits that optimize his or her life opportunities.

I was pleased to hear from one of the NGLC grantees, the Louisiana Virtual School that the state has adopted a policy that waives the seat time requirement. Until individual competency can be tracked, making minimum learning the constant school days should not be reduced, but when programs such as the virtual school and learning management is in a traditional school then seat time should not matter.

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