CRF Blog

Wired: The Tech Elite’s Quest to Reinvent School in Its Own Image

by Bill Hayes

In The Tech Elite’s Quest to Reinvent School in Its Own Image for Wired magazine, Jason Tanz looks at the founder of the Kahn Academy, Salman Kahn, and his attempt to create a new school, the Lab School.

One of the tenets of the Lab School is that kids should play an active role in designing their own education. This means that a lot of the school day is spent discussing the school itself. While I was there, kids put in hours designing new storage space to stow their backpacks, devising a new meal system, and figuring out how to incorporate the new classmates that would be arriving in the fall, when the school doubles in size to 60 and welcomes more middle-school-aged students. They often sounded more like tech entrepreneurs than elementary students, talking about things like “rapid prototyping” and “design thinking.” On more than one occasion, I heard them begging to spend more time on math and reading.

The beginning of the summer term was also a chance to take a sober look at the year to date. Over the year, Friedman had sat with students and recorded how much time they were spending on various activities. After looking at the data, the Lab School team realized that students weren’t focusing enough on social studies. They also felt that they needed to do a better job grouping students by levels of independence, not just academic level, so Friedman had devised a new set of criteria to measure things like time management, self-knowledge, and focus. They were also revisiting the reading software their students were using and were about to start a trial in which different groups of students were put on three different programs to see which one was most effective.

By this point, the kids were probably used to being experimented on. The Lab School has thrown its doors open to outsiders, letting them test out their new ideas or products on a captive group of students. [more]