Technology affords us the opportunity to develop education tools which can supplement and far exceed traditional pen and paper, book and lecture learning. Rather than trying to regulate the content of the World Wide Web, the government should develop a separate education network, which, over time will have, say, its own peer-reviewed version of Wikipedia and downloadable courses and lessons by subject and age group which will be developed and submitted by educators and rated by other educators and students who use them. Courses which receive a certain rating or above can be completed for credit which would be tracked via social security number. In this way, government quality control is entirely organic and from the bottom up. Further, students transferring from other schools in our highly transient society would be anchored by the network and programs. Students could continue to work on projects at an independent pace.
Again, local classrooms are the starting point. A teacher with a student-specific concern is free to search available lesson programs or write his own to use with the child and submit to the program. Credit for that lesson is established by that teacher's education credentials and the recommendation of one or two other teachers from that school and an administrator. Some of the programs could be self-contained—able to be completed entirely on the computer by the independent student. However, many of them will include three-dimensional activities, projects, or discussions to be completed by the student or in groups and would be observed or evaluated by the teacher who would submit his assessment in the program.
This integrated approach to education technology has been shown effective by Sulsic and Lesjak. In their research, the report Ally's finding that "ways of teaching, as well as testing and assessment methods are much more important than the use of ICT (information and communication technology) in education" (p.43). They continue to report on Dagger and Wade's finding that dropout rates in strictly online education were because of lack of student participation in the learning process, confirming the importance of teaching methods in online curriculum. Their own study focused on delivery and student feedback with the conclusion that "Blended learning which involves different teaching strategies than those in traditional education improves study effectiveness and represents a suitable course deliver for part-time students, mainly due to temporal and spatial adaptability of the study process" (p.44).
The pattern I recognized in their data was that students in required courses consistently had a more negative experience, regardless of delivery and teaching methods than did students who were in elective courses, which validates my assertion that students will be much more motivated to learn when it is a subject of their choosing.
Graduation requirements would include only the most basic national requirements. State and local high schools would determine additional quantities and specificities for credit completion with a high proportion of elective credit. This tool would be available to all citizens including home schooled students and adults of any age, making high school graduation possible for anyone of any age. Early graduations among self-paced, achievement oriented students would allow for a greater number of professionals and college graduates at an earlier age.
The G.E.D would be the fulfillment of national requirements and graduation would be achieved through the high school of the communities to which a student belongs and could be completed by adults from home with the option of meeting with an adult high school education specialist, either in person or through the network.
Fiscally speaking, perhaps courses would be without charge up until the age of 18. Afterward credits would cost as any for credit college course. Students are then motivated to complete graduation before they are 18, and or complete as many courses as possible up to that time. A limit of a certain number of no-fee credit courses above high school graduation requirements might be acceptable for the sake of education expense and government budgetary considerations. Any courses after that would be completed through accredited colleges, who would also be a very important part of the education network and continue its use. Current financial aid, grant, and scholarship funding would be applicable with some necessary adjustments.
Program lessons submitted and approved would be copyrighted. Teachers whose lessons, articles, and studies are downloaded and highly rated by students and other teachers would receive bonuses proportional to use and effectiveness or demand. This will encourage and motivate quality education and self-regulating professionalism.
As noted, post-secondary level courses would continue through colleges and universities who would develop their curriculum in like manner, with the students continuing to pay per credit hour. Again, the goal is to encourage student-teacher initiative, therefore the specifically proscribed courses must be limited to a certain percentage of required credit hours. This will also prevent conflicts with teacher-university self-perpetuation by requiring the use of program materials generated strictly by their own faculty.
These courses should not be limited to academic study but include vocational training developed by vocational professionals in cooperation with the education community. This will allow educational and vocational training to meet the demands of a fast-paced technological world.
A peer reviewed, national education network provides a national standard which can be developed locally with parental community input. The network would be personally utilized by individuals in counsel with education professionals who are empowered to address each student's specific needs and help them meet their educational goals. This integrative approach will allow freedom for teachers to develop new teaching methods and increase their professionalism by monitoring the results and effectiveness of such endeavors among peers. This slow, organic change from the bottom up would open the door to radical and continuous reform with genuine progress, not just a "progressive" label.
Individual students will be motivated to learn which will multiply the effectiveness of educator's efforts. Parents will be empowered to participate in their children's education, creating reinforcement for learning methods and subjects, which will further multiply effectiveness. It will strengthen diversity by allowing local and regional cultures to build on existing strengths while maintaining access to national quality.