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Aurora Institute

What Else Could They Learn? Part II

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Ed Jones

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Rethink Instruction

Part I  asked, “How can we expand the depth, breadth, and process of high school learning?” and answered with STEM-related Credit Flexibility possibilities. Today we look at how CreditFlex can further customize learning for individual students at the same time it broadens the collective learning of the national cohort.

“The United States is not going to compete with the rest of the world in terms of cheap labor or cheap raw materials. If we are going to compete productively with the rest of the world, it’s going to be in terms of creativity and innovation.” – Dana Gioia

”The United States is not going to compete with the rest of the world in terms of cheap labor or cheap raw materials. If we are going to compete productively with the rest of the world, it’s going to be in terms of creativity and innovation.”      – Dana Gioia

It’s been six years since many of us gathered across from the White House for Beyond the Basics: Achieving a Liberal Education for All Children. For all the mixture of concern, no one knew that a deep recession, budget cuts, and more testing were soon to make a bad situation worse.

By using Credit Flex to unbundle digital learning, students soon will increase their high school experience in both breadth and depth. When they add work they’re truly drawn to, they’ll spend more time and learn more deeply. Arts, humanities, and workplace skills can all be a part of this.  Here are some examples:

Acting and Improv
OK, these aren’t the first academic subjects that leap to mind. Consider, though, Alan Alda’s call to scientists to explain things better (Flame Challenge). Every profession and avocation can benefit from improved communication; anyone who will teach, lead a factory or field team, or build a park can use comic, body language, voice, and quick-thinking skills.

Art and Music Exploration
I was 25+ before I could walk into the Smithsonian and have a clue; it made as much sense as differential equations do to a 9th grader. Long before recent budget cuts, American teens were being short-changed on art and music. While most schools have band, choir, and art classes for those who want to commit to those skills, rare are the arts appreciation classes that help teens become well-rounded individuals. Anyone who has seen Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting, or explored knows that these are really about human history, biography, and anthropology—that these stories are part of what make us fully literate.

Economics gets folded into K-12 Social Studies, but often is not presented as the intellectual challenge it should be. Coursera offers several econ classes including Microeconomics Principles. Many others are available elsewhere online. Using an open platform, Ohioans could quickly resolve a few classes appropriate to varying large segments of HS students.

Students shouldn’t have to attend grad school to explore this essential field. lists one course. More than 14,000 students took Harvard’s Justice in the lecture hall; now we all can take it online. What kind of course might emerge if CreditFlex were more widely known and used? If law students partnered with Ed students and developed assignments, assessments, and ratings?

Foreign Languages
While ODE today frowns on using only a web-based course to replace the Foreign Language requirement, a good credit flex plan can include other resources, including speech recognition, to do the job.

National Security
Many people are surprised to learn that there actually is a field of National Security Studies. It’s a broad and rigorous field. (My introduction was National Security: A Framework For Analysis). Georgetown U offers a summer course for high school students. How can teachers, professors, and developers come up with optional learning that opens these mysteries to the rest of us? The guns vs butter question is not trivial.

Work and Life Skills
We’ve touched here a few of the more academic topics students might take via digital credit flex. Of course students might choose many more. Some might be practical skills like cooking, office computer productivity, small business management, oilfield studies, HVAC, electrical concepts, money management, etc.

Today, most of us are still thinking of K12 courses as lecture/work/test, and most digital courses will still be in that format. Yet what we really want is to get to full gameplay.

As Digital learning explodes, like any new movement, it will have its quality challenges. Let’s take on these challenges directly and publicly, and (most importantly) with student engagement. Could we have 10,000 Ohio students on credit flex by the end of 2013? A million nationally by 2014? What do you think? What’s the next step?

Ed Jones is an advocate for customized digital learning and open education resources. He built and explores Credit Flexibility a website that brings resources to students and teachers. He studied management and engineering at UCLA and University of Illinois and has a B.S. in Physics from Carnegie-Mellon