Tightening Budgets, New Opportunites for Change

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 3:31 pm
PostPost subject: Tightening Budgets, New Opportunites for Change
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A New Economics for Education

School systems all across America are in serious economic straits. Take heart. The wake-up call is ours. Perhaps we can all learn and adapt.

A Chance to Think Differently

We are going to have to try new things in Education. In so doing, we may, to our surprise, actually improve the state of education in our respective regions. It’s like when the lights go out for a long time, and you have to make do, spend time together, learn to do things a different way—and when the lights go back on, you actually miss the closeness and the intimacy that was somehow gained, something more human and engaged than the life of convenience and life taken for granted.

A Chance to Re-Invent School Economics

In Education, schools can save enormous amounts of money by adopting a revolutionary way to ‘communicate in order to educate’ with the young—a way that’s virtually cost-free and brain-smart.

But first let’s look at the current model of education spending. For argument's sake, let's just assume that there's a lot of waste.

· use of expensive, consumable print resources
· annual knee-jerk updating and replenishing
· from companies that share none of the profit

This is an expensive,unsustainable economic model. Municipalities across the country will no longer be able to fund education this way.

So here's an alternative idea that I was invited to introduce at a symposium of brain scientists in Copenhagen, in Denmark, 2004. Brain scientists are not a happy lot. They feel that their research is being ignored by schools and the people who run them. Brain scientists view Play as a very important brain-based resource—about as important to education, learning, teaching, and kids as, say, the sun, the rain, and the soil are to farmers. I am talking about essential basics now—basics, I might add, that are routinely banned from conventional school. Why? Because things are weighted toward the purchase of expensive materials to the exclusion of common sense basics.

Of course, this is not a brand new phenomenon, but in recent years the academic nature of schooling has become more extreme and solidified. Schools behave much like factory farms. No longer being able to afford wasteful behavior isn’t such a bad thing. Schools will be forced to look and learn anew. I am looking for partners, a school, a team, an opportunity to work with a community wanting to learn anew. Here are the steps to forming a partnership.

Here is my proposition.

Consider the Strategy of Play (in principle) to Begin a Dialog

The harnessing of play means turning every lesson in the curriculum into a communication ‘action item’. Doing this essentially means creating experiences in a classroom—not merely lessons. Instead of using expensive print resources, teachers would learn to speak a language that uses symbolic play and interaction. What does that mean? Instead of learning about George Washington or Martin Luther King, Jr. by reading about them in a textbook or listening to the teacher drone on about George at the front of the room, or by watching a video, teachers and students would share in the experience and techniques of bringing such figures "to life" for interviews, press conferences, or town meetings.

For science, teachers would employ communication that engages the brain through play to create experiences that provide glue and meaning in learning. Albert Einstein used thinking like this when, at age 16, he took himself on a mental field trip, imagining what it might be like to ride on a beam of light. In this example, in addition to the cost savings in materials, one must consider the economic harvest of such learning

Play-based communication is ‘smart’ and loaded with brain-friendly nutrients that result in closeness, warmth, and articulation needed for meaningful learning. Does this mean that books are no longer required? No, but it might mean sharing the resources of families and libraries so that the entire school budget is not devoted to the purchase of books and expensive technology. If a fraction of the education budget focused on creative ways for teachers to build a relationship with the young, not only would great savings be achieved in the cost of schooling our children, but many more students would stay in schools that had learned the art of winning their hearts and minds.

Play is a fundamental communication core and behavioral life force. (In other words, to harvest the Fruits of Play is a viable, practical, and immediate option for schools.)

    Student aversion to school: erase
    Student aversion to teachers: erase
    Student aversion to learning: erase
    Bullying and intolerance: erase
    Social cohesion: develop
    Adult warmth: build
    Varied Pathways for alternative learners: build
    New ways to organize classrooms and school schedule: creative solutions
    Make use of school grounds by starting community farms and opening buildings to the community
    Resilience and problem-solving: foster
    Self-regulation and internal compass in the young: develop
    Unlock teachers from old-school roles: develop
    Family participation develop
    Take a few pages from Home Schoolers and individualize the curriculum

These are but a few benefits to be derived from using play as a communication and organizing principle in working with the young. The economic savings would be enormous. By not paying the publisher tax, a school would be able to focus on its creative capacity to generate meaningful instruction and well-trained, enthusiastic, loving teachers.

Partners Should Help Schools Generate Revenue

My invention, Puppetools, has promoted the idea of Play for over three decades, and is establishing a global network of play educators, along with the means for schools to generate a new basis for sustaining programs and generating revenue. Instead of paying out vast amounts of money for printed matter, a school division can benefit financially from its creative application of play-based learning and teaching. If there is interest in dedicating one school to help me help you, I would welcome an opportunity to explore these ideas with you, and work to see them implemented.

The investment is in the growth, development, and talent of human resources (kids, teachers, parents, citizens) who use and employ a new means of productive communication in the classroom to develop custom learning modules, demonstrations, lessons, resources (doing this is an education in itself) This is quite different from the old-school, top-down staff-development model—another expensive item in the budget.

As the use of Play Language grows, participating schools can develop and contribute to the global resources and knowledge-base that promote play-based learning and play-focused networking. This is a model that empowers schools to use a web resource that self-organizes, and which benefits schools directly for contributing to the resource. This is the information age. Isn't it time to jettison the costly and laborious baggage that publishers dump in our schools in the name of education? We don't need any more stuff--no matter how beautifully packaged--that creates dependence in teachers instead of self-reliance; that, as parents know all too well, adds up to sore backs and dead-weight backpacks that kids carry around like mules; stuff that actually defines the rigid nature of old-school teaching and learning.

Isn’t it easy to see how diminishing cash resources might actually free up our thinking and transform our systems of education?

I do not have all the answers, but I do know that the systems we have created are not ‘smart.’ They are incredibly wasteful and rigid. Our economic crisis could be viewed as a blessing and a basis for change. The time is now.

Jeff Peyton
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