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July 04, 2009



I think schools need to move away from the one-size-fits-all learning that has been used for decades and move toward self-paced learning. We now have the technology to make this possible. It doesn't make sense to have some students in a class learning things they already know and others who are too far behind to understand the lesson.

Students from kindergarten on could learn self-paced phonics, reading, writing, math, science, history, geography, civics, etc. using a combination of textbooks, online lectures and computerized assignments and testing. Teachers would be available to assist students who don't understand something they are working on or to grade assignments that cannot be done on a computer (such as essays or research papers). The lectures offered by The Khan Academy prove that online lectures can be very easy to understand and very effective for students of all ages: http://www.youtube.com/user/khanacademy. I plan to sign my daughter up for an online school (k12.com) next year when she starts kindergarten. Tens of thousands of students are already successfully using self-paced online education.

I'm not saying that students should spend their whole schoolday on the computer. Offline classes in art, music and hands-on science could be offered. Discussion classes of literature or current affairs would promote critical thinking. Group project classes could offer assignments that promote teamwork and problem solving.

Instead of throwing money at existing schools, I think the Gates Foundation should stick to helping groups who are starting charter schools. And help them to do things that are really new and innovative. Things that use the amazing technology that is now available to us.

Once a certain method has been proven effective, the Gates Foundation and federal and state governments could then offer assistance to all public schools to move away from the outdated one-size-fits-all educational methods they currently use. It's time to stop holding capable students back and pushing struggling students forward. Let kids learn at their own pace.

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