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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

New schools end up like old schools

Philadelphia’s high-tech School of the Future, which opened in 2006, cost $62 million.

High-tech schools of the future end up looking a lot like schools of the past, writes Larry Cuban in Regression to the Mean, Part 1 and Part 2.

His examples are a public middle school in New York City, called the Downtown School in a study, and School of the Future, a public high school in Philadelphia.

The first had funding from technology entrepreneurs, the second from Microsoft.

Disruptive Fixation: School Reform and the Pitfalls of Techno-Idealism  describes the New York City school, where idealistic founders dreamed “students would create gaming software, work on high-tech projects in teams, and learn in spaces similar to start-up companies.”

This would be a school where coding and digital media production practices  across the curriculum became routine, where pedagogy was redesigned to be game-like, and where the school would “cultivate student agency, creativity [and] improvisational problem-solving capacities” (p.98). In short, a media technology, student-centered school of the future.

Nine years after it opened, the school resembles a traditional school for most of the year.

Philadelphia spent $62 million to build the School of the Future for 750 students, he writes. Each “learner” had a software-laden laptop; there were no printed textbooks.

 A shining new media center, science labs galore, and especially equipped classrooms supported interdisciplinary projects and team-driven projects driven by students’ interests. , , , Frequent changes in principals, unstable funding from district – the state had taken over the Philadelphia schools – mediocre academic achievement, and troubles with technologies – devices became obsolete within a few years – made the initial years most difficult in reaching the goals so admirably laid out in the prospectus for the school.

Twelve years after it opened, the School of Future resembles “traditional schools elsewhere in its district in its goals, policies, and practices (see herehere, and here),” Cuban writes. “Textbooks have returned as have paper and pencil.”

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