Virtual reality offers students with autism safe spaces to practice social skills, prepare for new physical environments and master academic content. by. Calvin

What is wrong with American high schools?

American high schools have the same problems as most educational institutions. It’s been proven the worst way to teach is to stand in front of a class and lecture. What do teachers do in most American high schools? Stand in front of the class and lecture.

But I don’t think this is even completely accurate. I think some students do learn best by being lectured to. For a kid with ADD, however, it’s terrible. The kid with ADD (or ADHD) wants to get up and move. That kid learns best by moving around. So why not teach him in a way he can do it by moving around?

Also, American schools seem to believe that if you don’t excel in every subject (English, math, history, science, P.E.), you are somehow “broken” or “lazy”. What if a kid excels in English but struggles in math? Broken. Lazy. Stupid. What if they excel in math, but struggle in history? Broken. Lazy. Stupid. There is no mechanism to let them shine in the things they excel in, but give them extra support in the subjects they struggle with.

For example, this kind of thinking never happens at American high schools:

“This kid sucks at English, but is an über-genius at math? Okay, let’s let him learn math at an accelerated rate and give him as much support as we can in English. He may never understand all the nuanced messages of To Kill a Mockingbird, but that’s okay. Math is clearly this kid’s calling, and what turns him on. Let’s let him fly in that.” No. If that kid doesn’t get straight-As across the board, s/he is Broken, Lazy or Stupid.

Also, they don’t look (much) at new ways to teach. For example, lots of kids love video games. Why not gamify History, Math and English? And Spanish and Science? That’s how we teach Physical Fitness, after all, by having kids play games to be active (football, soccer, basketball, etc.). My son learned more about WW2 by playing Call of Duty than he ever did in History class.

Of course, this is not easy, since it’s not obvious how to gamify some subjects. But since we haven’t even explored this strategy, we don’t have any ideas. How do you gamify Spanish? How about via VR, placing the student in a Mexican city where they have to navigate with Spanish? Brainstorm it, come up with ideas. Then use the money you’re wasting on textbook appropriation and spend it on developers who can build killer games that kids will actually learn with. And let them play the games from home! Learning accelerated! And give them achievements instead of grades. “I can’t go to bed yet, Mom. I have to solve this equation to get the Pythagorean Achievement!”

And at least use modern technology to teach subjects. For example, instead of a science textbook with static images of, say, mitosis, let them watch an animation or video of mitosis actually occurring on their eTextbook on their school-supplied device (think iPad or Microsoft Surface). Then have a game that tests their knowledge!

Some kids learn great simply by reading. That’s fine; schools can still have that option. Other kids need to do to learn. Some kids need to play to learn. There are far more ways to learn that I’m listing here, but discover those ways and teach them in that manner.

But by all means, don’t label kids “broken” simply because they don’t grok every freaking subject under the sun. Some kids can excel at all. And that’s great. But recognize what other kids excel at and teach them in the way that they learn best.