(Editor’s Note: Rick Ogston is the founder of Carpe Diem Schools in Yuma, Arizona. Ogston will discuss education innovation at the 2012 Georgia Public Policy Forum on Friday, September 21 at the W Hotel in midtown Atlanta. Click here for additional conference information.)
By Rick Ogston
Carpe Diem was created out of my own frustration. I had what I call an Ichabod Crane moment. Walking through my school I was looking through the windows and walking into the classrooms and I noticed a lot of disengagement, not just students but also teachers. I was a bit challenged by that and I was thinking we’ve got to do something about that. Why are they not engaged? What is going on?
It was at that point that I went back to my desk and I did something very therapeutic. I just banged my head on the desk. Literally, that’s what I do. I noticed as I lifted my head at one point the cell phone on my hip which was a smart phone much larger than the one I have now, this was ten years ago, and the technology that was in my office and I was thinking this (technology) is not really in the classroom.
It was not being leveraged well in the classroom. I began to imagine that we could-reimagine education if we were able to leverage technology. What might happen? We do it in every other area. Why not schools? The education environment has been immune to technology and innovation, unfortunately. I think that is why the students were disengaged. They could go home and they would power up and use all kinds of technology but they came to school powered down.
So for me it’s not about technology. It’s about learning. How do we re-engage to learn? How do we get them to learn again? Why are they interested in technology? It wasn’t because it’s a gadget. It’s because they could personalize it. They could make that iPad, that iPod, whatever they were using, they could make it whatever they wanted it to be. It was an extension of them.
I began to think, how can we do that in school? We’ve talked for many, many, many decades about equality in learning and we’ve spent billions of dollars trying to provide equal access but what we have not done is provide equity. There’s a difference between equality and equity.
I would love to do a little exercise with you and have everyone take off your right shoe and pass it to the person to the right of you. Equality is that everybody has a right shoe but do they have the shoe that’s right for them? Equity is having what’s right for them. Technology in my mind was able to personalize learning to where everybody would have the right shoe and the right size.
You cannot personalize learning without technology, I don’t think, to scale. Personalized learning has happened in classrooms individually for decades, but on scale, it has not. What I wanted to do was to personalize the learning, leverage technology to scale and then, hopefully, re-engage the students. (Carpe Diem video on YouTube)
We have changed the entire ecology of learning. You’ve heard about flipped learning. We have flipped the entire school to where the students are more responsible for day-to-day learning. They learn all the concepts through digital curriculum and then rotate into classrooms every 35 to 40 minutes to receive more personalized, blended, face-to-face instruction. This has re-engaged the students. They feel empowered. They can track their own trajectories. It is exciting to see them empowered to learn. That is Carpe Diem.
(This article is an excerpt from Ogston’s presentation at the Education Commission of the States conference in July in Atlanta.)