(Tribune News Service) -- Tommy Chang, Boston’s incoming superintendent of schools, wants to talk about something called the three-screen day — where students are focused on learning content, producing content and sharing content on a computer, tablet and smartphone — nearly all day long.
“I’m not saying this is what Boston Public Schools is moving toward,” said Chang, 39, a top Los Angeles administrator with a background in charter school innovation, recently chosen for the top job in Boston. “I’m saying this is something we should be discussing: How do we create an education system that leverages technology?”
I called Chang on Friday wanting to chat about the three-screen day concept, and I had my arguments at the ready. Chang got back to me almost immediately. But he didn’t just make his case: He cited books, education researchers and a specific institution in Los Angeles, the Incubator School, that embodies his philosophy. And I realized something: The three-screen day idea is meant to be provocative. It’s Chang’s way of getting people talking about innovation in education.
I went in fearing that Chang wanted to shove tablets and smartphones in the hands of kindergarteners, and came out believing that Boston’s incoming school chief wants schools to be more like incubators, and each classroom like a startup, where students are the entrepreneurs of their own education, tinkering and testing as they would in a laboratory.
“The mayor has called on all of us to drive innovation,” Chang said. “And to ask how we reinvent our schools to be vastly different, and how does Boston become a model for what public education looks like.”
Technology has a leading role at the Incubator School that Chang mentioned. But it’s equally about making learning relevant to students’ lives. They develop prototypes and create their own little businesses. And in online testimonials, they talk about finding friends and acceptance.
If you’re a luddite — the type of person who thinks that wooden toys were good enough for Thomas Jefferson, so why not our kids? — then Chang won’t be your favorite superintendent.
But if you think technology must be woven though all aspects of education so that our classrooms are laboratories that nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs, then Chang is your man.
And if you’re wrestling between those two extremes, like most people — if you know Boston Public Schools need to change and you know that innovation must play a central role — then you’ll find Chang’s ideas bold, thought-provoking, and you’ll want to continue the conversation with him.
“Twenty years from now, should learning exist with a kid going to school at 8 a.m. and going to school six periods a day and going home and doing work?” asked Chang. “Is that really what learning should look like? I don’t think so. And I think Boston can lead that conversation.”
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