Thursday, April 29, 2010

iTunes Senior High?

Deep breath - sigh.

I cannot wait for college. Days of two or three classes in moderately fascinating subjects, all starting well after 10am, with enough free time to sit down and read a book or even just breathe, will be a reality for me and my classmates in just about a year.

That vision (well, that and Glee) is one of the only things that's kept me going the past few months of junior year and through the long slog to next week's AP tests (wish me luck!).

In making the traditional pilgrimage to four-year educational institutions over Spring Break, I got to sit in a few college classes, which were at least edifying if not electrifying. Particularly in lecture classes, I noticed that there were not that many people there. And among those who were, the frenetic notetaking (or alternatively, silent stupor) that frequently pervades many of my classes was just not present. People listened; or they jotted down some thoughts; or they checked their Facebook on their computer; or they just weren't there.

These students have the benefit of something we in high school do not (besides frat parties and fifteen a cappella groups): iTunes U.

iTunes U is a free service from Apple that lets universities upload videos of classes. Obviously, it may have the effect of slightly decreasing student attendance, particularly at some of the dryer lectures, but it's also a fantastic resource and an easy way to make up work if you're sick.

And I, for one, think high schools should do the same thing.

Okay, so I'm not advocating that no one go to class and instead stay in bed and watch the forlorn teacher write a lot of stuff on the board and ask sadly, "Are there any questions?"

This would primarily be a resource for missed sick days. But in my book, there's nothing wrong with making high school a bit more like college, and this would certainly cut down on student stress.

If, you know, it's a nice day, and I know that all we're going to be doing in physics is taking notes (and yeah, maybe I stayed up a little late last night watching The Daily Show and making brownies) but I also wasn't feeling my best, I would like to have the option of staying home and later watching what my class did that day so I don't have to email my teacher, schedule a time to talk with him or her the next day about what I missed, and ask one of my friends if I can borrow her notebook to get the notes before she needs it to study for her AP Bio test.

This way I can hear exactly what my teacher said, take my own notes, and come back with a much better idea of the work I missed. Videotaping classes is also the only way students can catch up with class discussions and would make labs a lot easier to make up.

It's simple - once we outfit the classrooms with videocameras and the teacher with a small mike. (Hey, what's Measure A for, right?)

I wouldn't object if the administration kept the current rules for excusing absences and even the new Saturday School policy to keep students from abusing the privilege of full class periods on demand on their iPods.

We're all going to be in college pretty soon. Shouldn't we be getting used to taking more responsibility for our own education? Learning how to manage our own time? If the point of high school is truly to prepare us for college, there is a realistic value to letting students learn how to deal with freedom earlier than later.

So yes, this is my pet project for education reform. (Doesn't everyone have one?)

Is it likely to happen? No.

But hey! We are getting two new high-tech classrooms built. We are changing to a four-day block schedule.

Next year's a new year. Anything could happen.