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Leslie Wilson: Times and practices have changed: A real-life look back to 1964

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October 05, 2012 04:27 pm


The following post comes from Leslie Wilson, who is the CEO of the One-to-One Institute and co-author of Project Red and A Guidebook for Change

Check this out: Divine High Demerit system! It is the demerit system my high school publicized to my class’s parents circa 1964. Of course, I’d love to get my hands on their current disciplinary overview to compare and contrast how things have changed, but when I read this I was immediately struck at how contrary to current belief, practice and research these expectations are!

This is smack dab, in my face, a fundamental reason why the school transformations we seek are so difficult to bring around.

Many of us had traditional school experiences with key characteristics. Some of those are:

  • the teacher was the center of the education experience from all perspectives
  • students sat in desks (maybe tables) in rows facing the front of the room
  • students were required to have multiple textbooks, along with binders/paper/pens/pencils
  • teachers used chalk and chalkboards
  • media included projectors (8M), VCRs and overhead transparencies
  • visits to the library for class projects and special research were scheduled
  • there was an expectation of ‘quiet/silence’ in classrooms and hallways
  • the school day consisted of lock step class times and schedules
  • teachers and students had minimal personal contact
  • students had a one to two week wait time for test results
  • curriculum/content was ‘covered’ in spite of not knowing students’ progress and skill development;
  • rote memorization and regurgitation was the order of school testing

What a difference several decades makes! From this cat bird’s seat, we recognize that a lot has changed in our schools. Many of those shifts are the result of responding to the changing learner profile and the emergence of contemporary resources, including technology-based tools.

The most dramatic shifts have yet to take hold. We’re in the midst of an evolution in education. Instead of having the teacher at the center of the educational process, we’re moving towards creating self-directed learners – where teachers facilitate and personalize the learning experience.

We’re moving towards effectively using and creating digital content that allows students to move at their own pace, while receiving quick feedback on their progress. No matter the time or place, or how it’s done, learning is becoming a 24/7 experience, and that should be the standard, not the exception. A primary way this is happening and will continue to happen is through personal, portable technology that should be available to every student.

In addition, dramatic partnerships among schools, businesses, higher learning organizations and other community outlets will create reciprocal benefits for all involved, right back down to the students themselves. The silo approach has proven to be untenable if our goal is a robust citizenry and workforce.

Seeing my old demerit system took me back to a time when learning methods weren’t as effective as they could be. The innovative use of technology in the classroom is changing the way we learn and teach, and I’m excited to see what things education looks like in another 20 years!

Leslie Wilson is the CEO of the One-to-One Institute and co-author of Project Red and A Guidebook for Change. She can be reached by email at To learn more about Digital Learning Day, please visit


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