I have become increasingly convinced that the structure of the American high school is itself the number one barrier to improving student learning. The whole concept of high school needs to be dismantled and reinvented. But what would the new model look like?
Technology almost certainly will play a role, but technology itself is a limited answer unless learning is shifted toward an experience that is far more student centered and student directed.
Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, Massachusetts is experimenting with just such a model. The school-within-a-school approach is called "The Independent Project" and represents a significant break with the traditional high school framework. Individually and collaboratively, students take near total control of their own learning. See details, including interviews with students, teachers, and the school principal, in this video:
The Independent Project is very small scale, of course. Trying to do this on a school-wide basis would necessitate a total rethinking on the part of students, parents, and educators of what school is really all about. Educators are conditioned by the teacher-centered, compliance-driven, one-size-fits-all paradigm under which most of us were taught, and remain deeply suspicious of empowering students. And to their credit, years of traditional school has not equipped most students for the kind of autonomy and responsibility student-centered learning requires. But this doesn't have to remain the fate of our schools or of our students.
The evidence is abundant that our current approach is outmoded and is not just ineffective, but an outright disservice to many students. Teachers and school leaders themselves must lead the charge so that students can have ownership of their own learning and - I believe - vastly improve real student achievement.