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What can we do to create 21st Century schools? Just look to Central California

Submitted by on Friday, 2 April 2010 One Comment

Forget all the discussion about where we’re going to live when Dad gets out of the Army. As far as I’m concerned, it’s settled. We are moving to Madera County.

Yes, that Madera County, the one smack in the middle of California’s Central Valley. Think ag country – 123,000 people and not a single city of considerable size. It’s a location that never was on my radar as anything other than the location of a women’s prison.

That all changed when I read a story about Minarets High School. I almost didn’t read the story, because the headline about students exchanging text books for laptops didn’t grab me. That notion is so 2009.

Except at Minarets, the notion has turned functional. The students are living off their laptops, where they can go to video chats with teachers if they get stuck. They use mountain bikes for PE, and, oh my GOD, the school’s Web site is built as a wiki to which any member can contribute.

This is not a private school. This is not a charter school that needed exceptions to normal California education law to make this happen, so take that Arne Duncan. This is a good old-fashioned public school that just happens to be the perfect example of what it will take to teach today’s youth.

Strike that: This school goes beyond teaching to aim for true education that focuses onĀ  skills these students will need when they graduate. The staff realizes that lecturing will not necessarily lead to learning – the Web site has a section outlining the difference.

The teachers use tools such as Power Point, Google Earth, photo sharing. Even – GASP! – cell phones. That’s the ultimate nod to “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

And you can’t beat ‘em, no matter how hard you try to ban social networking and YouTube at school. Youth today gravitate toward it because they’re growing up with it. Why not acknowledge that and meet them where they live instead of having IT and administrators running around and throwing up road blocks?

Yes, it’s easier to create a modern school when you’re starting fresh with a building that was actually built this century and set up accordingly. But the power of Minarets isn’t in the building. It’s in a mentality that says, “yes, we really are doing this for the children.”

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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One Comment »

  • Leslie K said:

    Wow – let’s hear it for Madera!

    Just so you know….I have been advised to stay off The Hive because LOM started getting weirder and weirder and weirder….so I have, and it is difficult to read some of the dumb stuff that is allowed to go unchallenged but I know he is getting frustrated over not having me to attack. Oh well. I guess, since my life is so dull, this must pass for excitement.

    I go see Ryan graduate in two weeks….YAY!!!!