Education Update: 3/25/2015

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Education Update is a weekly blog post highlighting recent developments in the world of education. The linked articles and summaries are not endorsements, rather frame points of view to begin conversations about the state of education, trends, and how we as designers can play an active role in shaping schools.

21st-Century Libraries: The Learning Commons

Edutopia explores the evolving idea of what a library looks like, as schools transition from print-based collections to a digitized and interactive learning environment. Schools across the country are developing “bookless” libraries, commonly referred to as the learning commons, which operates much like a coffee house where students are encouraged to work together and share ideas. The new learning commons model is about bringing people and ideas together in a setting that provides dynamic opportunities for engagement and studying. It is this togetherness and development of a “third place” that may help keep libraries relevant in the digital age.

How one California superintendent changed troubled schools

Christopher Steinhauser, the superintendent for the Long Beach Unified School District, has been able to help transform an urban and under-performing district during his 13 year tenure.  In an article from the Hechinger Report, Steinhauser describes his philosophy, which has helped bring teacher retention up to 94% and increased graduation rates and test scores across the city. Armed with a small central office, the District’s goal is to implement change one item at a time and get every principal, teacher, and student on-board. “I have thousands of people who apply every year who are highly qualified who want to teach in our school system because they see the support, they see the professional development, they see the ongoing learning that everyone has. Once you have a community that’s built that continuity, you can really achieve anything,” said Steinhauser.

How PBL Creates Engaged Citizens

Oregon Episcopal School (OES) teacher Mike Gwaltney is using problem-based learning in his government class that lets students dig into real-world problems, reports Edutopia. Gwaltney’s students become advocates for difficult topics such as the death penalty and selective service. After a shooting outside a Portland high school, students decided to take on gun laws. Gwaltney helped the students research, which led to the discovery that municipalities can and have in the past restricted the sale of arms. He was able to arrange students to speak before Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and the City Council to discuss their findings and be advocates for change. Students stayed with the topic even after the course ended. “Now they’re planning to testify before the state legislature… it’s out of my hands! This proves to me that they truly understand what it means to be a citizen.”



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