School of One: The Pandora of Learning

The Freakonomics blog over at The New York Times site has a great podcast on the School of One, an after-school program in Lower Manhattan, where students can go to get individualized instruction in math. (Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics, name-drops the program from time to time.)

The School of One, which began as a pilot program last summer, offers essentially a menu of options for learning: Students can choose from a computer program that adapts to their abilities, choosing a "playlist" of appropriate lessons to help them build on previously learned concepts. Alternatively, they can opt for taking instruction in small groups from a live instructor. And, if neither of those options suit their learning styles, kids can also work with a virtual math tutor (who, from the audio in the podcast, sounds a wee bit like your archetypal Dell customer service rep).

The central conceit is this: If standard public school education is like a radio station that never plays what you want to hear, School of One is akin to Pandora, the Internet radio station that uses elements of songs by artists you like to suggest other music that you'll also enjoy.

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