Smart school producing ‘smart people’

Ben Overmyer

Ben Overmyer

Imagine a high school where there are no books. No blackboards. Where all students carry laptops instead of backpacks and have appointments with teachers instead of classes. This is the high school that Microsoft designed and built in West Philadelphia.

The 750-student school isn’t your average school. Sitting on eight acres and completely environmentally-friendly, the building itself is incredibly high-tech. Each classroom has a smart board like those in some of the classrooms at SDSU. Students carry “smart cards” which track their attendance, calorie consumption and let them open their digital lockers.

The cafeteria is a food court with restaurant seating instead of the usual high school mass-feeding corral.

It’s not just the technology that’s different, either. All lessons are customized to the student. Besides the fact that those laptops track individual progress and pace, the lessons are designed to teach students in a whole new way.

Instead of learning geography, students might have a teacher-led discussion about the possibility of avian flu in Philadelphia – and in the process learn geography, a bit of biology and even some history.

Lessons are designed to teach organization, negotiation, planning and other real-world skills; Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates says the point is to produce “smart people,” not just high school graduates.

And really, this is what education should be. Not just memorization through old, outdated technology and methods, but teaching through real-world, practical application of skills and knowledge.

Microsoft is doing a good thing here, and we should be taking note. It’s time for this ‘school of the future’ to become the future.