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Wide Open Schools Platform Looks Promising: It COULD be the Framework for Network Schools

April 1, 2020

Forbes contributor Kristen Moon’s article, Homeschooling Amid the Coronavirus Just Got Easier, describes the expanded services offered by Wide Open Schools, a platform that aggregates various education resources that has formed a partnership with Zoom and Comcast in an effort to provide parents of children with a means of providing a sequence of studies that meets the unique needs of their children. The description of the platform indicates that it could provide a backbone for the kind of schools I described in The Networked School article I wrote for Education Week nearly two decades ago.  Here’s what I like about this initiative:

  • It provides a wide array of resources from partners like “...Mind in the Making, Google, Khan Academy, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, PBS, Head Start, and YouTube“.
  • While “…the material is separated by grade and subject” and students are afforded the opportunity to “...follow a daily schedule, which lays out lessons for the morning, mid-day, afternoon, and evening“, Wide Open Schools also makes it possible for students to “...access individual categories like science, life skills, social studies, math, arts, music, DIY and emotional well-being“. The consequence of this format: it is possible for self-directed learners to dig deeply into content that interests them while providing many different ways for less interested students to master those topics that are essential for them to understand.
  • It is an open source system… which means that as the partners who provide content expand the resources Wide Open will grow organically and expand the different ways students can learn and master the materials.
  • It secured expanded services from Zoom and Comcast to help expand the opportunities for ALL children to gain access to the resources cited above. My thought: if Zoom and Comcast can do this in an emergency they can do it any time— and given the detrimental impact of our existing unequal system of learning opportunities an emergency has existing for a long time.

Given the creation of this wide array of easily accessible and cheap content now available to students in every place the Comcast reaches there is only one thing missing in order to turn our current system of schooling inside out: connectivity and widespread availability of laptops. If we are about to spend another trillion dollars on infrastructure, both of these problems could be solved.

The only thing I don’t like about this alliance of content and service providers: it took a pandemic to make it possible. Let’s NOT go back to “normal” once this school year is over. Let’s explore a new and better way to provide equal educational opportunities to all children.

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