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Why Alternative Education Needs to Go Mainstream

Dropouts in alternative programs get a personalized learning experience. Maybe if they had that in the first place they wouldn't leave school.

Research shows that alternative education—small learning communities, individualized, personalized instruction, a low student-teacher ratio, and support for pregnant or parenting students—works to get dropouts back on track. But ironically, notes creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson, current education reform efforts like the federal No Child Left Behind Act are "rooted in standardization" even though we know that a quality education should "be about personalization."

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Firewall, What Firewall? The Top Four Tech Hacks For Teachers

Districts block plenty of sites that are handy in the classroom. Here's how to get around those restrictions.


If you're a teacher, you've probably read about all the great ways Google+ can be used in the classroom, or how to use Twitter to engage shy students, and if you're a teacher working at a school that bans all those sites, you might feel a little frustrated. Some schools even ban educationally useful sites like National Geographic—after all, no district wants to get sued by an irate parent because their child saw nude pictures taken in a remote village halfway across the globe. But even if your school district bans sites that are educational, there are ways around those firewalls. Whether you're a techie or a novice, we've found four hacks that will get you online in a jiffy.

1) Buy your own VPN: A virtual private network runs on the internet but keeps all of your transmissions secure and away from prying eyes, like that of your district's IT administrator. My friend James teaches in Qatar, where sites that "could potentially show the Middle East in a bad light" or "go against Islam (any site that might have a woman in a bikini or something)" are blocked. To get around this, he says educators simply band together to buy a VPN. You can get a good VPN router on Craigslist or eBay for about $200. Just install it on a home computer, and then you and your colleagues can login remotely from your school site and access the resources you need for your students.

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Are Schools on the Verge of a Mobile-Phone Revolution?

Over 75 percent of teens own cell phones, making them the perfect tool for learning—if teachers are on board with using them.

These days its pretty impossible to find a teen without a cell phone—over 75 percent of them own one—which means that schools should be seriously looking at how to harness the technology in the classroom. In fact, given the possibilities for learning through games, simulations, virtual environments and interfaces, we could be on the verge of a mobile education revolution. But, while isolated schools or school districts have experimental pilot projects, many educators are still pretty wary of mobile-based learning, and some even ban mobile phones from being on campus.

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Desks in the Hallway: A Texas School Takes Learning Out of the Classroom

Hallway learning stations prove that learning can happen at any time and in any place.


In any traditional school, the hallways are empty during class periods. Indeed, if you find any students wandering around without a hall pass, they're in trouble. So I was pretty intrigued to read about the innovation happening in the hallways of Dubiski Career High School in Grand Prairie, Texas. The school is bringing learning out of the classroom and putting desks and whiteboards into the space usually reserved for passing periods.

The two-year-old vocational school set up hallway-based learning stations across the three-story campus "to allow for presentations, formal lectures, and other similar learning experiences to occur." The school made the move to convey "that learning occurs in many different places and in many different ways." This doesn't mean there aren't still traditional classrooms at the school, but the hallway opens up a new realm of possibility. Literally.

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Why Is It So Hard To Put Imagination Back Into Schools? Imagination Summit Discusses Creativity In Schools

A national "Imagination Summit" wants to help schools figure out how to bring creativity and innovation to the classroom. Is it really that difficult?


When you were a kid, you didn't need anybody to tell you how to use your imagination. You made up imaginary friends and spent your time designing LEGO rocket ships that traveled the galaxy without any prompting. And then you started school, and you probably had a teacher tell you to stop daydreaming—stop imagining—in class. You also learned that far from being allowed to think up multiple creative solutions, there was only one right answer to a test question, and if you bubbled it in correctly on a Scantron form, you'd get an A.

Fortunately, because imagination, creativity and innovation are increasingly prized in the workplace, future generations might be spared this dumbing-down process. There's a growing consensus that our public schools need to put those three traits at the center of learning. In an effort to help, over the past two years, the Lincoln Center Institute, a part of New York City's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, has hosted regional conversations about imagination and creativity. This month they're hosting a national Imagination Summit, which will bring together representatives from all 50 states as well as "elected officials, legislators, education experts, business leaders, artists, and scientists." Their goal is to create "an action plan for policy makers, educators, and community activists to put imagination at the forefront of our school curricula."

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City Year: What I've Learned So Far

City Year corps members based in Los Angeles and New York write about their experiences.

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