In 1997 Kent L. Norman, Ph.D., wrote at the University of Maryland, College Park:
“Beyond the glitz of technology, it is the hope of educators that what will be truly different in the electronic classroom will be the solution to a number of age old problems in education: lack of motivation on the part of the students, lack of resources and materials on the part of the schools, lack of specialized abilities and expertise on the part of the teachers, lack of individualized instruction, and over worked teachers burdened by record keeping. The electronic environment has the potential to enrich educational materials by turning dry text into salient animation, vague concepts into visualizations, and rigid curriculum and bound books into dynamically accessible resources. With the increased power of computers and networks and at the same time falling prices, the electronic media will make available vast educational resources that will be cost competitive with printed materials. The human limitations of teachers and constraints on their time may be alleviated through the extensive use of individualized instruction using intelligent tutors, computer-assisted instruction, and classroom management software.” (link: http://lap.umd.edu/soc/ch1/ch1.html)
Like many educators, I have found myself using more and more of the new and interactive media for teaching, availing myself of many of their advantages, not badly described in the quoted paragraph above. At the same time, I and other teachers, think we perceive in the young generation in schools a reduced ability to visualize and critically think, as well as a low attenton span for anything that doesn’t come with animation and sound effects. I have long argued that reasonably intelligent and motivated youngsters could easily educate themselves using the Internet, TV, and maybe books, magazines, and science kits. There is however an additional component in learning, one that allows students not to need everything to come to them spoon fed, predigested, premasticated, and entertainment-enhanced. This is the component which combines genuine curiosity, a stretching out of the mind, and interfacing with other people to grapple together for a better understanding. For this component, which creates self-sufficiency, confidence, and the ability to communicate and work with others, people need to meet and engage in discourse. As the ancient Greek agora evolved into the academy, we have more reason than ever to allow our schools to evolve into such meeting places which complement the ever growing world of digital tools and distance learning as places for cooperation and the free exchange of ideas.
I think Jefferson Sudbury School can be exactly that.