Column #37, posted July 6, 2007
Invitation to Participate in a Groundbreaking New Online Learning Experience
In our attempt to build an alternative to the 1892 curriculum and the idea that education means learning to pass tests about what you have temporarily memorized, we have completed construction of our first full year of what is to eventually become the Virtual International Science and Technology Academy. We are looking to start a small group of students in our first year of this curriculum, Health Sciences. The curriculum takes an entire year and takes up all day every day of that year. Candidates would be those who are too smart for the school system and need something to keep them interested, those who are so tired of school that they were going to drop out anyway, or anyone who has a passion for learning about health sciences. The curriculum was designed to fit in place of 10th grade, but it would work as a replacement for 12th grade as well as serve as an alternative to 8th grade.
The curriculum is delivered entirely on line. It consists of nine projects with regular deliverables. Students work in groups with an on line mentor to solve complex real world problems that come up in the health sciences. No previous knowledge of anything is assumed. Students will be grouped together with students of similar abilities. If some groups go slower than others that is fine.
While the stated subject matter is health sciences, students are learning, on a daily basis, to communicate with each other, to work in teams, to write effectively, to reason about scientific and ethical issues, and to understand how the real workaday world actually operates. There is business math in the curriculum but no algebra or geometry. There is plenty of science and plenty of reasoning about social issues. It is writing intensive.
We are looking for a diverse test population. Any school that wants to run this for a group of 15 or more could do this by sending their students to the library and having us train one of their science teachers to be a mentor in the curriculum. Smaller numbers would simply work on line with other on line students around the world using on line mentors.
The curriculum was built by Engines for Education, which is a non-profit that I run and was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. We plan to build more and have another one ready by next September for those students who choose to continue on in this manner. Test runs during this year with various types of students have shown us that students have to work harder than they are used to and thus any students you choose to send us must at least understand that. It may be quite tiring to work this hard all day, (there are built in breaks) and as one student in Kansas said, it is much easier to just sit back and listen to the teacher and then pass the test.
We are charging for this curriculum based on a student’s or school’s ability to pay. Homeschoolers are welcome. Mentoring, which is provided by mentors who have to eat, costs an additional $1,000 for the year. If you choose to use your own mentors, we will train them for free.
Contact me directly to sign students up for this curriculum.
 This curriculum was designed by a group of well-known professors, doctors, nurses, and scientists.
 These projects are Internal Medicine, Nutrition Advisor, Super Worm, Sports Medic, Designer Genes, Plant, Medical Detective, Cutting Costs without Cutting Care; for an explanation of these projects go to http://www.engines4ed.org/about/healthsci.cfm.
 e-mail me at: roger (at) socraticarts.com