Ira David Socol is living up to his title as he leverages technology to deliver learning in a profoundly innovative setting.
He’s put 120 kids together in a room. They range in age from 5 to 12, but there are no grades here: Older and younger learn side by side, each at his or her own pace. Six teachers work the room, gathering kids of various ages into groups and also working one-on-one.
“My team and I worked very hard on the design of the space, and then on the technology plan, looking for ways to hand these kids technology and let them just be trusted with it,” he said.
Older kids get their own Windows PCs. Younger kids can access a mix of iPads, Android tablets and Windows laptops. “Then we brought in giant Lenovo 27-inch tablets for kids to play on in groups, and big 70-inch interactive panels on adjustable stands for kids to work together in larger groups, where teachers can work with groups of up to 20 kids at a time,” he said.
The rules are simple: Don’t do anything on the computer that you would be embarrassed about if someone else saw it. “Now go create a game in Scratch, and if you don’t know Scratch, go find someone who does,” he said. “We want technology to be a playground that they can use in just the same way they use the physical space.”
The result is an outpouring of creativity. “Kids make movies, they program games, they do website design, they build amazing projects on Minecraft,” Socol said. “If the kid thinks they need to use a computer for something, they grab a computer and use it. It’s just one of the basic tools of their existence. Kids already know how to be consumers of technology. We want them to view these things as creation devices, where they are the masters of what they are doing, where they are in control.” — Adam Stone