Everything Old is New Again

by Beth Knittle on October 13, 2015

I feel like I am stuck in an episode of the twilight zone doomed to repeat past mistakes. It is as if someone has put my professional life on a loop. I just can’t break out of the cyclical madness of educational programs and trends.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane. There are many terms, phrases and programs that keep reappearing in education. Below are a list of some that have appeared in recent times, though likely they are rehashed from a previous era, this is what I can recall from my grad school days and 20 plus years on the job.


  • Project Based Learning, Teacher as Guide, Guided Inquiry, Interest Driven- William Kilpatrick – 1930’s-40’s
  • Discovery Learning, Spiral Curriculum – Jerome Burner – 1930’s
  • Self-Directed Learning – Maria Montessori – early 1900’s
  • Universal Design for Learning- Ronald Mace -1998
  • Multiple Intelligences – Howard Gardiner – 1999
  • Differentiated Instruction, Understanding by Design – Carol Ann Tomlinson – 1999
  • Personalized Learning*


In this day of data-driven decision making and standardization, schools are looking for the elusive perfect solution to educate a large number of people to a specific standard in the most efficient (ie cost effective) manner.  But learning is not a group process; it takes place within an individual.  Only the individual can develop meaning and understanding for themselves.

Learning is extremely complex. Let’s start with the individual. Each comes to the learning process with different abilities, experiences, attitudes, expectations, goals, desires, varying states of physical and mental health, language skills and previous knowledge to name a few. Not to mention the variations in learning spaces such a classroom, classmates, distractions, teachers, materials, etc. Add the complexity of the content to be learned and there are just too many factors to name let alone control and regulate. With centuries of formalized education experience under our collective belt and the last century’s primarily based on research and study one would think if there was one program out there that was most effective we would have found it. But there isn’t, instead we move from one program or trend to another striving for a one or two point gain in test scores, to demonstrate institutional growth and progress.

The study of how memory and meaning are created in the brain maybe a recent science but I bet the biology of how they are physically and chemically built in the brain has not changed much over time. Evolution is not speedy. What has changed is the way we educate, the ever increasing amount of information we are expected to understand and the ways we deliver and interact with that information.

If we look back to before formalized modern education learning was a very individual and personal endeavor.  If you were rich enough you had private tutors to see to your education, or were apprenticed to learn a craft or trade, or learned beside a parent. But not everyone received an education as we would define it today.  As the need arose for a more highly educated work force there was an increased need to educate more people more efficiently; dame schools, community schools and Sunday schools arose.  These had very local control and a wide variety of standards. As the depth of the curriculum increased and more students needed to be educated, control and standardization increased to where we are today.

With the advent of the digital information age we are cycling back to the time of the tutor, all be it with a modern twist.  Individuals can tailor their curriculum with online content to meet their learning needs.  Classes, certificates and self-paced learning options abound. Except in the case of needing specialized equipment for certain areas of study why do we need schools in their current format? High schools and colleges cannot update their curriculums fast enough to keep up with changing information and career skills. College no longer is an end to learning; in many professions you must continue to learn, and relearn as jobs and industries come and go.  Yet in schools we are refocusing our efforts on traditional whole group instruction where students must learn the same information, in a specific time frame, to demonstration understanding using a common assessment. Those who are quick learners must wait; those who are not as speedy (or interested) are often penalized.  We talk about individualized, personalized or differentiated instruction but we can never really achieve it with our standards and testing regiment. We are just spinning our wheels.

* For a good look at Personalized Learning check out Yong Zhoa’s thoughts.


Getting Ready for the New School Year

by Beth Knittle on July 18, 2015

As soon as one school year ends it is time to get ready for the next.  For me that means that I start getting materials ready for new teacher orientation and set up new professional development for the teachers.  This year we are developing our self-serve PD using Schoology and will be adding badges to mark staff successful completion of the various topics.

In prepping my material I review the old sites we recommend for teachers, as well as, look for new ones.  There are numerous sites that help teachers in developing dynamic and engaging curriculum. In going through them I was reminded about TED Ed and the tool they have to help develop flipped lessons and a list of curated lessons that are ready to use.  If you have not used it or need a refresher may I suggest starting with the website tour.


Remembering The Team Who Taught Me So Much

by Beth Knittle on June 27, 2015

Once upon a time in a land far away I met an incredible group of people. We created, collaborated and learned together. Our time together changed me forever.

From 2007 to 2011 I was part of a very effective and productive team, we met and worked virtually. At first only through text and later voice as technology and tools improved. We worked in a digital platform, created digital products and laid the groundwork to foster a growing community of learners. In essence I had the opportunity to learn and model the teaming that is necessary in today’s modern work force (see previous post). It changed my way of working, thinking and ways of learning forever.

Professionally I have been thinking about how to bring the teaming experiences to K-12 education. I am at ISTE now and it is bringing back memories of the people and experiences of my first ISTE (then NECC) when this incredible team met for the first time when shared our experiences of teaming and creating in a presentation we planned without ever meeting face to face.

I though I would take the opportunity to thank them for helping me to be the educator and learner I am today.

This team was primarily the DEN in SL leadership council that met in Second Life as well at the DEN Guides, and the many educators who came to chat, share ideas and learn together. I am going to list a few names here I know I will leave out somebody it has been a while and I often get real life names and avatar names mixed up, so please forgive.

To my old teammates; Steve Dembo, Fred Delventhal, Nancy Sharoff, Lori Abrahams, Anne Truger, Elaine Plybon thanks for teaching me so much.



Game Design and the High School Curriculum

June 26, 2015

Game Design has come up a lot in these last few years in both my professional and personal lives. My youngest will attend college next year to study game design. My eldest will be a college senior looking forward to a career in the game industry. Both are interested in different areas of the process […]

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Updating the Diploma

April 15, 2015

Updating the curriculum is grounded in preparing students for today’s job market and the elusive future economy.  It is also about providing students an opportunity to explore their passions, develop a love of learning not to mention the skills a learner needs to keep on learning.   When developing curriculum we often ask two questions (1) […]

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Updating the Curriculum

March 22, 2015

Many school curricula have remained pretty much unchanged for decades some could argue centuries. The basic common elements of English, Math, Science and History are constants, it is the other curricular options that seem to come and go over time. When I was in middle school/ high school we had a choice of home economics […]

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Missing in Action

March 22, 2015

I had pledge to myself when I started this blog so many years ago that I would post at least twice a month.  I was not able to keep that commitment and did not make a single post in February.  The crazy New England winter and family matters played a role. It is now March […]

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