Nye and the School of the Future

I just had one of those “ah-ha” moments of connections.  I am reading David Nye’s Technology Matters.  He points out that during the 20th century, corporations added research and development departments to their companies as inventions led to patents which led to profits.  I jotted a note in the margin about how schools don’t do this kind of in-house research, relying instead on those outside the school to figure out the best way to do things.

I put Nye inside and got started on writing a case study about the School of the Future, Microsoft’s partnership with the Philadelphia school district.  In an ABC News article from 2005, Paul Vallas,  chief executive officer of the school district, comments that he hopes the school will “in effect become an R&D center for the district as a whole.”  My own little lightbulb (compact flourescent, of course, as we are fighting global warming) went off.   Schools are beginning to see the need to do their own research.  I wonder if it is because they recognize the role of culture and context in creating successful schools.  If I have come to any kind of “truth” about education, it is that it must be seen as local.  While I don’t necessarily disagree with Diane Ravitz, who thinks we need a national curriculum, we must give schools wide latitude in how they administer that curriculum.  Philadelphia is doing just that, leveraging the power of Microsoft to research their own little corner of the world.

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