Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rebirth of the One-Room Schoolhouse

You know you're onto something hot when you look over your shoulder and see Donald Trump smiling with the same idea. I could not have been happier. Ah, but wait, I'm getting ahead of my story.

A hundred years ago school was serious stuff. Everything had to be memorized. Students wrote on stone slates with slate pencils. In one-room schoolhouses they were seated by grade; boys on one side, girls on the other. Discipline was strict and punishments prompt. All students walked home or in rare cases, rode horses.

Today, children go to school by bus to modern buildings. Every class has a different teacher who is stationary in their own classroom. Discipline is slack and new laws make punishment nearly void. The only serious concern students have is their threads and popularity. The dropout rate is blamed on indifference or pregnancy, not the old reason of "needed on the farm".

Three years ago, a pilot program implemented by a school district in Salem, Oregon created a new vehicle for learning in their community. This online high school served an eclectic group of teenagers from dropouts to brainiacs, and of course the popular "home-schoolers". All students accessed courses on the Internet, submitted their homework assignments via email and communicated with their teachers by phone as needed.

This is one example of providing alternative learning options for kids today and is a great safety net for at-risk students. Allowed to work at their own pace, they are closely supervised to make sure they attend their cyber classes on a regular basis. Real benefits include attending classes at any time of the day, seven days a week.

This is an excellent opportunity for teen parents or medically challenged students when traditional learning options haven't worked. When these kids finish high school and begin planning their continued education a new idea is coming into fruition: Webucation!

Most new terms beginning with Web- have been short-lived but Webucation is showing signs of survival. Distance Learning is an idea seen to have great potential and has the close attention of nearly all educational institutions. Everyone is clamoring to be in the right place at the right time.

It would seem that the one-room schoolhouse has been reborn. These days it is the dining room, upstairs guest-room, or the converted garage. Some of the students are teen parents but there are an increasing number of stay-at-home moms and jobless dads. Add to this the thousands of nine-to-fivers who feel their jobs are shaky at best.

If you saw this trend coming, as did Donald Trump publishing Trump University online, you would definitely be in the right place at the right time. Public education needs a lot of help and this may well be in the form of web-based education. I can think of fifty reasons why this would be advantageous for primary and high school grades, but in this case it still has miles to go.

Career courses are exploding as this trend matures and becomes the next billion-dollar industry. Villanova, Tulane, Notre Dame are only a few offering degrees online boasting: "accelerated, affordable, accredited, anytime training, anywhere knowledge". Streaming video lectures - just watch and listen to Professors on CDs and review as many times as desired. Learning doesn't get any easier than this.

Fortunes were made selling shovels to the gold rush miners. Obviously you don't have to have quality material that would make an online course worth publishing... sell the shovels, or in this case sell the courses. Hard to sell? Not at all! On-the-job experience doesn't go half the distance of a degree or certificate. Demand for skilled professionals has never been greater than it is today.

The idea of Webucation appeals to busy adults. It is perfect because unlike conventional courses with set time schedules they will be buying courses the other way round; adjusting them to fit their spare time. And all from the comfort of home. With a degree or certificate in hand they will be a much sought-after skilled professional and their earning potential increased tenfold.

Here's a bonus: sell these educational courses and take advantage of that by getting certified yourself. While you certainly can make a fortune selling the "shovels" it doesn't hurt to arm yourself with new wisdom on how to use this new wealth. A degree in Financial Planning, Tax Preparation or Real Estate will make you the person to see in a crowded room.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Student Leadership Program Should Create Future Knowledge Workers and Deliver Positive ROI

Leadership is a popular topic both in the business and education worlds. The main reason for this popularity is that effective leadership is a primary factor for the success of any organization. By implementing leadership at the middle school and high school grades, the belief is that this earlier intervention will ultimately help not only the students, but the local communities, small businesses and larger corporate citizens.

What constitutes an effective middle school or high school system wide leadership program that delivers a positive return on your investment? These 10 pointers may help you better answer that question.

1. All staff must be developed at leaders to ensure consistency of behaviors through modeling. From bus drivers to superintendents, these individuals become role models for many young people. If their behavior is not consistent with any curriculum, then the likelihood of sustained success is doubtful. Using a student leadership program that evolved from a proven adult leadership process is probably a better way to proceed.

2. The desired end results for this leadership program should be clearly articulated before adoption of any curriculum. Simple benchmarks could be improved grades, improved high school retention and less discipline referrals. All benchmarks need to be measurable because as the old adage goes "if you can measure it, you can't manage it." This is the beginning to determine a positive or negative return on your investment for the leadership program or any change initiative.

3. The curriculum should focus on the affective learning domain especially interpersonal skills. Additionally, the cognitive and psychomotor domains should include: communication, conflict resolution, goal setting and goal achievement, higher order thinking skills, team building and time management.

4. Alignment between the leadership curriculum and the other academic disciplines is also necessary to the success of such a program. There needs to be numerous opportunities to apply newly learned concepts outside of the leadership classroom.

5. A goal setting and goal achievement Action Plan is probably the most critical piece to the success of this program. This Action Plan for success should allow for all students to self-evaluate themselves and provide a mechanism to prioritize and organize current and future goals.

6. A mentoring or alumni program should follow the student leadership development program. At this juncture is when the youth can fully participate in community projects as well as mentor younger students.

7. Parents need to be informed and if possible included within this leadership program. With many parents lacking the necessary skills and tools to help their children, by proactively working with parents helps both the young people and the school.

8. Local small business owners to larger corporate citizens need to be also involved. These companies can help by participating as keynote speakers as well as work to fund scholarships to help offset the cost of the leadership program and employing the graduates.

9. The curriculum should be highly interactive, highly adaptable and flexible and modeled after the best corporate training and development programs. Also, this curriculum should be researched based and should reinforce sound educational research including emotional intelligence, cognitive retention, etc.

10. Any student leadership program should also include pre and post assessments both cognitive and attitudinal. Additionally, a mechanism should be included to track these students for longitudinal data collection. These assessments show both the short-term return on investments as well as the long-term investments.

Finally, this leadership program should be for the majority of your student body and not just the high performing students. The success of our country is due to the as much if not more so to the every day efforts of the average citizen.

If constructing a viable and sustainable student world-class leadership program is in your current or future plans, then these pointers should catapult you ahead of the class because you now know that you have created self-leaders who are capable of being the knowledge workers needed in the 21st century workforce.