Prenda School: a new take on education

I like new ideas. I also like learning. So it’s totally natural that I would be working on a completely new idea for education. This post is my attempt to put the concept out there and ask for your feedback. I want to know what is good about it, what is bad, and what is downright crazy. Are you ready? Let’s do it!

The model is a small group (8–10) of kids meeting daily, using online tools and group projects, facilitated by an adult they trust. These are the concepts:

  • Start with Passion. “People don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.” At the core of each Prenda class is a caring adult facilitator. This person will be chosen by the kids and their parents, and entrusted to support learning. Think of the facilitator as a coach and mentor; instead of preparing lesson plans, delivering lectures, and grading papers (all done by computer), this person plays the critical role of inspiring kids to care about learning. The facilitator works with individual kids on their learning, connects kids to each other, and supervises projects, trips, and other group activities. They will run school from their home, office, or a public space, and be paid for their work.
  • Personalized and Flexible. Kids are all different, so learning should be as customized as possible. Prenda School tailors learning at two levels: 1) each class has its own schedule and emphasis, determined by the facilitator and the families in the group; and 2) the self-paced format frees up the adult facilitator to provide individual coaching and mentoring for each student.
  • 21st Century Learning. You can’t force someone to learn. Instead, the kids in Prenda School set their own goals and work at their own pace to achieve them. Through a blend of group projects and individual learning, students will learn how to manage their time, solve ambiguous problems, and “figure it out.” With these skills, they will be ready for real life in the 21st century.

Here is the formula I propose for making this work. (We have been refining this over the past 4 years with code clubs):

  • In-person meetings — Learning alongside other kids is so important, not just for the cognitive things but also psychology (peer pressure can make learning fun) and life skills (collaboration, conflict resolution).
  • Online tools — Computers make it possible for individualized learning. Kids can choose their own path and go at their own speed.
  • Projects — When kids get to choose their projects, they take ownership in their learning and barely even notice that they are learning.
  • Facilitator —The adult plays a critical role, but it’s very different than a traditional teacher role. We automate the inefficient and annoying parts, freeing up the adult to focus on the kids and share their love of learning.

Are you interested in this model for education? I would love to get your thoughts. And if you’re open to trying something new, we will be testing out the model here in Arizona with week long camps this summer (2017) and a few nanoschools starting in August 2017.

You can find some more info and sign up at our website to stay updated.

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