Student “drop outs” have devastating consequences but “teacher drop outs” are equally problematic. Time magazine reports America’s public schools now have 3.2 million teachers and 2.8 million will retire over the next seven years. Finding replacements is complicated by the fact that 30% of all new public school teachers quit during their first three years on the job (50% in the first five years). Low pay is part of the explanation but more important is the disillusionment from a system that simply does not work. Failure guarantees low job satisfaction and little positive reinforcement. Motivational programming is the solution because the mechanical process of teaching is totally different when children are enthusiastic and committed to learn. Teacher drop out ratios will change dramatically if teachers are given the tools to succeed. Recently, there has been growing support for holding teachers accountable for student performance. People like Michelle Rhee in Washington have gotten considerable publicity for improving school performance by firing mediocre teachers. Not surprisingly, this strategy has met with outrage from the teachers union. Improving teacher quality is critical but the way to do this is by giving them a curriculum that works. Pouring money into teachers’ salaries without overhauling what and how they teach will only prolong our failure syndrome. Support from the teacher’s union is an essential part of educational reform. This support can be ensured by making them an integral part of designing course material that is fun and stimulating for both teachers and students.
The challenge of potty training can be stressful for everyone (parents and children) but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Over the past 20 years, the professional staff at the Leapfrog Learning Center has helped hundreds of children make a stress free transition into being potty trained. Leapfrog has a variety of resources (books, tapes, and magazine articles) which we make available to parents who are struggling. We particularly recommend “Toilet Learning,” a book by Allison Mack. Our experience has proved that patience, tenacity and a coordinated plan (home and school) always work in the end.
Most children start the process between 18 and 36 months of age but all children have different ways to tell parents when they are ready. Parents who start the process prematurely can cause problems so it is important that parents know the signs of readiness (physical and psychological). Children are physically ready when … parents can tell a child is urinating/pooping by his facial expressions (or words) … if a child can go for more than two hours between urinating … if a child poops at roughly the same time every day. Children are psychologically ready when … they can follow simple instructions … feel uncomfortable in dirty diapers … can recognize a full bladder or the need to poop … or start asking to go to the bathroom. Experts say parents should never start potty training when times are already stressful (like during a move or the arrival of a new baby) and parents should never punish children for accidents. If potty training makes your child act stressed, you are pushing too hard and need to back off for awhile.
The “Mayo Clinic” says if a child is not potty trained by 3 1/2 then he is “resisting” and you need change your strategy accordingly. Many things can make children reluctant to cooperate. Maybe they are afraid of the potty or frightened by the flushing process … perhaps they once had a painful experience (stool too hard) … sometimes they are confused by inconsistent rules from different care givers … maybe they crave the negative attention that comes with “accidents” … perhaps they resent being forced to sit on the potty for long periods of time … or, maybe, they are just naturally stubborn. Very rarely, there may be an underlying physical disorder.
Some strategies for resistant children include … having them participate in the cleanup process … switching to “big boy” underwear even if they are still having accidents … refusing to give a child diapers or pull-ups if they ask for them just to avoid the potty … finally, this is one problem where bribery is acceptable. Bribes might include special books that children choose but can only have read to them while they sit on the potty … a chart where they get stickers for potty successes … special toys which they can only play with while they are on the potty … extra bed time stories … a reward visit to a favorite park, etc. How far you go with bribes depends only on how creative you can be.
If your child goes to a good preschool, ask your child’s teacher for advice and strive to replicate the strategies they use in school. Consistency is important and will help your child make this important transition. Finally, as with all your child rearing questions, spend some time researching answers on the internet and read everything you can find.
The transition into a new preschool can be a major trauma (for both children and mothers) especially if this is the first real experience with separation. There are lots of things that you can do to make the process easier.
Children are stressed by new situations when they don’t know what to expect. You can help by talking about the school routine and stressing all the fun projects your child will get to do. Talk about your own experience in preschool and all the new friends you made. If your child starts in September, you should call your new preschool in the Summer and ask for names and phone numbers of other new families in your child’s class so that you can arrange “play dates” before school starts (familiar faces will make transition much easier). Get some bedtime stories that deal with starting a new school (“the Kissing Hand,” “Wow school,” “Oh My Baby Little One,” “What to Expect at Preschool,” and “I Don’t Want to go to School”) and read them together. Do some role playing activities together that mimic the school routine (put some “soft toy” animals in a circle and pretend to do circle time … take the soft toys to the kitchen table and have snack, etc). Talk about what you will do (boring stuff) while your child is in preschool and what you will do togethre after you pick him/her up.
The other (often unspoken) factor that makes kids apprehensive about preschool is the fear of abandonment. When your child sees you leave, he may (secretly) worry that he will never see you again. When you leave your child home with a babysitter, he knows you are coming back because he is in the house where you live. Leaving him in a strange environment (school) is different. If your child is particularly nervous, you may need do separation in gentle stages. What you are trying to do is establish a pattern … Mom leaves but she comes back … Mom leaves but she comes back. In the first week of school plan to stay but leave for brief periods so your child gets used to your absence. Gradually make your absences longer and longer. As your child starts to get to know the teacher and other children, they should start to feel more comfortable and secure. At some point, it may be necessary to leave your child crying. Usually these tears are manipulative and stop as soon as you are out the door. A good preschool will encourage you to call back periodically during the morning to give you status reports on how your child is doing.
At Leapfrog our top priority is to ensure that kids not start with a trauma. We run orientation programs just before the new school year. New children are invited for two or three separate one hour visits. There is no separation anxiety because Mom stays. These visits give children a chance to get to know the teacher before school starts and see some of the fun activities they will do in school. We strive to work in close partnership with parents to make the transition into Leapfrog as stress free as possible.
The Leapfrog learning Center in Shrewsbury is the best preschool for allergic children because our professional staff has special training and knows what to do in case of an emergency.
Choosing the right preschool can be hard enough without the added worry of a child with allergies. What can you do to ensure that your child will be safe when you are not there to protect them? The first step is to make sure that the preschool management is sensitive to your needs and is willing to be flexible in allowing you to keep a vigilant eye over the classroom and school snacks to make sure that there is nothing that can cause problems. Management should also be willing to support your efforts to brief teachers about your child’s special needs and allow you to send a letter to the other families in your child’s class t to alert them of your child’s allergy problems.
At the leapfrog Learning Center in Shrewsbury, all our teachers have had professional training from a certified nurse in how to use an “epi” pen. All our teachers are also certified in pediatric CPR and pediatric first aid. We have been in operation for almost 20 years and have always had some children with allergy problems (who came with nebulizers or an “epi” pen) but we have never had an allergy emergency. Our 6/1 teacher ratio ensures that every child is always carefully supervised and never far from the watchful eye of a teacher. No preschool is better equipped to deal with allergic children.
Every preschool depends on cooperation from their parents to make their allergy policies effective. If your child is allergic, you should make sure you keep track of “epi” pen stale dates and you should take the time to get to know the other parents in your child’s class to ensure they don’t send their child with “special treats” that might cause problems. If your child is not allowed to have the snacks provided by your preschool, you should provide your own snacks and non-allergenic treats when another child has a birthday. Keeping allergic children safe is a joint effort that requires sensitivity and committment from management, teachers, and other parents. If you discover your child has allergies, take a deep breath and know that there are preschools that are prepared to help.
The solution to our education crisis lies in a better understanding of the human nature dynamics that have shaped our past. We are what we are. Much human behavior is still determined by a self-centered perspective, greed, and selfishness. America’s high standard of living has created a younger generation with a strong sense of entitlement and confused their understanding of the link between hard work and prosperity. Most have little sense of social consciousness and make their decisions guided only by the amoral perspective that they must always do “what is best for them.” The Wall Street mentality of “instant gratification” is only one manifestation of our cultural morass.
But the realities of human nature do not mean that we are forever doomed to extrapolating these characteristics into the future. Human nature explains how we got here but it also contains the seeds to our enlightenment. Changing our evolutionary paradigm requires only that we acknowledge the reality of these dynamics and harness them to educate our children into a new cultural perspective. This esoteric goal is made practical, concrete, and specific by “the solution to education crisis” (a detailed blueprint for a complete overhaul of our educational process) which is summarized in earlier posts to this blog.
Public schools undermine the core values of America because the quality of education in poor neighborhoods is dramatically inferior to that provided to middle class or affluent neighborhoods. Instead of reducing the gap between rich and poor, public education exacerbates the problem by giving an unfair advantage to affluent children.
The essence of the American dream is the quality of life that is implicit in the promise of equal opportunity. That promise has been broken by an educational process that fails one third of our population (high school drop outs) and perpetuates a growing gap between rich and poor. As technology catapults our culture into the future, skilled jobs require increasingly sophisticated training while unskilled jobs are increasingly dominated by Hispanics and outsourcing to China and India. The Leapfrog Project proposes a detailed blueprint for a new educational paradigm that will revolutionize our educational process and give all our children the skills to succeed in the global economy. Preposterously ambitious and yet this is only the tip of the iceberg. The really revolutionary part of this new initiative is that it also promises to teach our children the social interaction skills needed to be happy and the maturity needed for responsible behavior. Dream for a moment what life in America would be like if everyone had the skills to be happy.
Learning Habitats … School / Classroom Design:
Funding Perspective: The fact that the bulk of educational funding comes from property taxes guarantees a perpetual quality gap between schools in rich and poor neighborhoods. In places like Washington DC, the contrast is disgraceful. If “equality” is really a national priority, then future funding must come from State or Federal sources. The charter school system represents an alternative, but sub-contracting the bulk of public education to the private sector will have major political implications for the future role of the Board of Education and the teachers union. The poor will never have equal opportunity until we change the way America pays for education.
This segment of the Leapfrog Project suggests an optimal learning environment which assumes no funding constraints. The capital investment for the “brick and mortar” infrastructure and high tech equipment may seem expensive but, if the end result is a 100% graduation rate, then it would be far more cost effective than traditional public schools that fail one third of our students. In the context of the three trillion dollar economic recovery package, the needs of this proposal seem cheap. “If you think a good education is expensive, think about the cost of ignorance.”
The Leapfrog Project strives to use architectural designs to reinforce the feelings we want associated with schools … excitement, wonder, and anticipation (particularly with younger children). In short, we want school environments to convey a sense of adventure and discovery, where children are stimulated to play close attention to everything because they don’t want to miss anything. An important element of these designs will be their flexibility, enabling teachers to change classroom atmosphere (simple theatrical drop sheets or screens could rotate classroom décor between motifs like the jungle, space, submarine seascapes, dinosaurs, etc.). This is particularly important with younger children, where imagination will be central to many activities. Ideally, school / classroom habitats will be dramatically different from the conventional “outside world” and make a clear design statement that school is a child centered environment (features like child size doors, round windows, lofts and tunnels?). In older grades, the Quantum Initiative classroom will be a design quest for total immersion, where teachers with remote control devices will be able to control customized audio / visual resources in habitats designed to maximize their impact (absolute, precise control of sound, light, and video). The core objective of the quantum design process is an interactive, child-centered habitat that reinforces the learning experience.
Perhaps more important than architectural designs, are the teaching resources within the classrooms. “Manipulatives” taken to the next level, these props and gadgets are intended to make participation in the learning process fascinating / dramatic / spectacular … in effect, irresistible. Older children will have increasingly sophisticated equipment (virtual reality helmets, hologram projectors, Smartboards, “simulated”robots (devices that feign artificial intelligence), wireless input devices to record individual student responses, simulators that can mimic motion, auditoriums with Imax screens, etc. The key to success of the audio/video components will be the quality of the underlying programming /software and the ease of access for the teachers to call up selected segments when appropriate. The ultimate objective is to give teachers all the resources needed to keep students engaged and interested.
The Leapfrog Project proposes printed textbooks be replaced with dedicated “key drives” with interactive software that customizes course material presentations around the skill level and perspective of each individual student. These multi-media, electronic texts will be designed for use on laptop computers with voice recognition software and hard rubber casings designed to absorb heavy impact. These laptops would be lightweight and virtually unbreakable.
These key card courses will start with verbal diagnostics (no keyboard input will be required as “text books” will talk to students who respond verbally) to verify cultural perspective, learning style, maturity level, knowledge base, etc. Preliminary diagnostics will also determine entertainment preferences in order to customize presentation formats for maximum impact. Diagnostics to evaluate student skill levels will be based on techniques currently used in corporate psychological testing but made much more elaborate and expanded to include a variety of subjects. Diagnostic results would be recorded on the textbook key drives and updated as students progress through the material. Course presentation format will vary considerably determined by the subject matter, but all electronic texts would be highly inter-active. “Text book” material would be highly integrated with course presentations in the classroom, often providing in depth background perspective to reinforce teacher activities/ comments and provide the context for classroom discussions.
The presentation format of electronic texts will vary considerable depending on subject matter. History and many social studies courses would be like “computer movies” where real actors re-enact certain pivotal events (a battle, political decision, a discovery, etc) and students can interact with key characters by asking questions to learn their perspective on why they do or think certain things (note the “Disney World” attraction where a computer generated character seems to respond to comments from the audience). Such interactions might be driven by starting students off with questions about something that is “buried” in the story (where finding the solution requires students interact with various characters). Other courses like science and math will rely more on animations to illustrate theories or principles, followed by periodic explanations by a teacher (actor) after which students can ask questions (again, teachers will “hear” and answer accordingly). Following these chapter presentations, students will be tested and the electronic texts will repeat sequences that are not understood (each time from a slightly different perspective to trigger comprehension). When children return to the classroom, they will scan their keycards into a reader that will give statistical pointers to the teacher so she can prioritize classroom reviews accordingly.
Teaching Methodology … How teachers interact with students:
Technology has enabled a revolution in education through the use of computers to design interactive presentation formats that change the fundamental dynamics of how teachers interact with students in the classroom. Classroom learning can be transformed into an interactive, multi-media experience controlled by a teacher with a remote control device who choreographs computers, customized video/audio, and large screen projection systems (displaying material as it becomes relevant to class discussion). DVD technology can organize course material (video and animation) for access on demand by teachers. I envision dynamic presentations which rotate between student/teacher dialogues and projections of programming that reinforces teaching targets. Teachers will be taught how to subtly “surf” student comments and guide discussion in predetermined points illustrated by the videoware. When done properly, students will feel they control the evolution of discussion through their comments and questions (think “scripted curriculum” carried to the next level). Classroom discussions can seem open ended because the videoware will have many threads that lead to certain predetermined “lines of thought.” The goal is to simulate a feeling of discovery where the quality of learning (comprehension and retention) will be superior because students will have a vested interest because they think they control the process. In reality evolution of discussions will be subtly controlled by the teacher. This will require special training and an intimate knowledge of what and how material is available on the videoware. The role of teachers will rotate between a conduit to resources (by calling up video that illustrates what students are talking/asking about) and “discussion manager” who selects which student “comment threads” to follow.
Student “drop outs” have devastating consequences but “teacher drop outs” are equally problematic. Time magazine reports America’s public schools now have 3.2 million teachers and 2.8 million will retire over the next seven years. Finding replacements is complicated by the fact that 30% of all new public school teachers quit during their first three years on the job (50% in the first five years). Low pay is part of the explanation but more important is the disillusionment from a system that simply does not work. Failure guarantees low job satisfaction and little positive reinforcement. Motivational programming is the solution because the mechanical process of teaching is totally different when children are enthusiastic and committed to learn. Teacher drop out ratios will change dramatically if teachers are given the tools to succeed. Recently, there has been growing support for holding teachers accountable for student performance. People like Michelle Rhee in Washington have gotten considerable publicity for improving school performance by firing mediocre teachers. Not surprisingly, this strategy has met with outrage from the teachers union. Improving teacher quality is critical but the way to do this is by giving them a curriculum that works. Pouring money into teachers’ salaries without fixing the resource infrastructure will just prolong our failure syndrome. Support from the teacher’s union is an essential part of educational reform. This support can be ensured by making them an integral part of designing a motivational curriculum.
“Which of the variables that motivate human behavior can be harnessed to drive learning? …. All of them.”
How well students learn depends on the context of how information is presented to them. This journey started with something I learned from Sesame Street. “If you can make the learning process fun, then everyone can be a high achiever.” This simple dynamic is observed daily by every mother in America and, yet it is still ignored by the educational establishment. Eventually, I realized that there are powerful generic engines that drive all human behavior and that a proclivity for fun is only one of them. The significance of this observation came to me as an epiphany while I was walking to an elevator in New York City.
I was leaving a friend’s apartment when two children (ages about five and six) raced past me in the hall. Each wanted to be the first to press the elevator “call button.” I was struck by the realization that this dynamic was “cross-cultural.” Children everywhere will run because they want to be first to press the button. They know pressing the button first means they control the elevator … and that makes them feel important. Then I realized that this was only one of many human nature engines that drive behavior and all these forces could be integrated into the learning process.
Suddenly, I knew that motivating learning is merely a process of linking “human nature dynamics” to activities that reinforce teaching targets. If we can harness play behavior to drive learning, then students become enthusiastic participants in the process and teaching targets are learned quickly. This is true of all age groups. Most of these “human nature” engines evolve with age so learning activities must be synchronized with the maturity and sophistication level of the student. “Play” is clearly a powerful motivation but it is part of a sub-context for a wide variety of more subtle drives that can make activities relevant and interesting. The elevator example is driven by a desire to feel important and, simplistically, can be exploited if children are required to answer a question before pushing the button. Young children all start school driven by an insatiable curiosity which is part of their pre-programmed imperative to figure out who they are, how the world works, and how they fit into it. Losing this momentum in older grades represents one of the great squandered opportunities of traditional education. “Motivational formatting” is an effort the package teaching targets around these natural priorities (like curiosity, play preferences, or the need to feel important) and extend the duration of the natural enthusiasm with which all children start the school process.
The heart of a motivational curriculum is a child centered perspective. The fact that children have immature priorities (and would rather play than study), is age appropriate. Instead of subverting these priorities by insisting children study “school work,” we should harness them. Motivational formatting strives to accomplish this by making the learning process fun, interactive, and relevant. If learning activities can be made more fun than traditional play, then educational concepts can be reinforced outside school as learning activities become integrated with entertainment (the Holy Grail of the concept). The design challenge of linking “learning” to “fun” will be different for different grades because the concept of “fun” becomes more sophisticated as students age. The mechanics of the design process must start with an elaborate psychological profile (for each age level) to identify student preferences for music, games, fantasies, toys, television shows, movies, food, candy, etc. The easiest way to track this evolution is by analyzing “play” behavior and entertainment preferences … so these elements can be integrated into the teaching process. The objective will be to weave learning targets around these parameters to exploit generic preferences and ensure high levels of enthusiasm.
The mechanical process of program design will be based on reverse engineering which will start with a precise summary of target skill levels required at the end of each grade level. Skills will be broken down into monthly segments. Design teams will further break the learning process into discrete sequential increments presented so that new information is always in context and consistent with the student’s existing knowledge base. Motivational presentation formats will be created by a collaboration of multi-disciplinary teams involving educators, cognitive scientist, psychologists, graphic designers, computer programmers, animators, video technicians, and a wide variety of expertise from the entertainment industry. Working classrooms will be integrated into the design process so that proto-type programming can be field tested to confirm which elements work best and what modifications are needed to customize the process for different ethnic groups.
We already have many experts in motivational programming. They work in areas like advertising and the film industry. The creative resources of Madison Avenue and Hollywood are experts at how to capture people’s attention and motivate behavior. The same dynamics can be harnessed to motivate learning. Imagine the results if the resources used to create films like Shrek, Toy Story, or Star Wars were harnessed to make films that teach academics. Imagine these results being magnified by games, music, television spin offs, and “smart” textbooks,” all coordinated to reinforce the same teaching targets.
Curriculum Content – What subjects should we teach?
Technology is catapulting our culture into the future while globalization is radically changing the context of our economic and political infrastructure. What are the qualities America needs to lead a world where the sum total of human knowledge doubles every 4.3 years? Clearly, America’s future prosperity depends on a labor force with increasingly sophisticated skills. Failure is guaranteed for those without basic literacy. Bill Gates said it best when he highlighted that the problem with our educational system is “the system.”
Overhauling our educational process must start with a clear understanding of our goals. If our objective is to teach children the skills to be happy, self-sufficient, and responsible adults, then the educational process must not only give them the academic skills needed for literacy but the practical skills needed for success, the social/emotional skills needed to be happy, and the maturity and sense of social consciousness needed for responsible behavior. Expanding our goals beyond traditional academics does not mean compromising literacy but it does mean major structural changes to the methodology of how we teach.
The first priority of this initiative will be to teach academics and demonstrate that motivational programming results in universal success with accelerating learning and high achievement levels. Initially, Leapfrog will target 12th grade proficiency by grade 10 (a modest ambition when you note I have an 18 year track record proving the first year can be skipped by age five). All subjects will be taught through the prism of practical applications and relevance. In the case of “English,” the details of what we teach will be driven by social interaction skills and dovetail with all the technical communication mediums required for success in the workplace. “Math” will be taught with a new perspective on logic and probability/statistics and will be explicitly linked to practical life decisions about everything (particularly economic and personal finance questions). “Science” will be taught with a “new frontier” mentality (always with a link real life applications) with the explicit goals of inspiring excitement around cutting edge technologies, multiplying the number science majors at universities, and spawning a stream of new high tech industries. Finally, “social studies” will take on a greatly enhanced priority reflecting the new realities of the global village. Technology has made the world’s social, political, and economic infrastructures co-dependent and fundamentally changed the way people around the world interact with each other. The dynamics of the new global matrix mandate that we teach our children an international perspective and an understanding and respect for foreign cultures. Like it or not, globalization has linked all people inextricably together.
Academic skills roughly determine employability but the skills of personal enrichment determine one’s ability to be happy. The key to teaching these skills lies in the details of personality development.
It all starts in preschool. The core of personality revolves around self-confidence and this is primarily a function of the socialization skills that determine how you are perceived by those around you. As young children search for identity, they tend to define themselves as others see them. That self-image is gradually internalized and becomes who you are. Giving children good inter-personal skills translates into positive feedback from peers, reinforcing a positive self-image and a positive attitude towards socialization. Personal enrichment will, therefore, start with an emphasis on communication and the ability to understand and express emotions and feelings (first in yourself, then in others). This will be accomplished through a variety of games, activities, and drama exercises which teach children how to listen for emotional content “underneath” words and how to interpret body language, voice tones, and facial cues. Conflict resolutions skills will be a continuing priority at all grade levels with increasing degrees of sophistication as children get older (the core of this effort will revolve around Myrna Shure’s “I Can Problem Solve” program). Courses related to persuasion, compromise, and negotiation will also become increasingly prominent as children get older. Drama activities will be used to teach empathy as children use reverse role play to better understand opposing perspectives. Teamwork will be another core objective with many activities requiring students to work jointly with their peers to accomplish shared objectives. These activities will be designed to demonstrate team dynamics (first through cooperative games then building on techniques currently used in executive training).
After building the foundations for high functioning behavior, personal enrichment will focus on more complex components of personality dealing with values, compassion, emotional maturity and social responsibility.
Perhaps the biggest flaw of traditional education is the lack of moral convictions in a “me first” generation which is driven by a sense of entitlement and does not understand the link between hard work and rewards. Leapfrog will start by teaching a strong moral code based on the maxim “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Can schools promote qualities like compassion, empathy, generosity, and social responsibility? Of course they can! Pre-schools do it every day, demonstrating that virtues like “sharing” and “empathy” can be taught (and internalized as part of personality) if the process starts early and is reinforced as children grow older.
Imagine a curriculum that includes courses like “How to get what you want,” How to make and keep good friends,” “How to make a lot of money,” and “how to get the best price for everything.” In the past, relevancy has been the reason most dropouts leave school. The Leapfrog project will make relevancy the reason everyone stays until graduation.
The foundation of “self-confidence” is having the skills for success. These life lessons will focus on the practical challenges people care about the most. These courses will be synchronized with maturity level and related perspectives. There will be an evolving priority on personality development and socialization which will gradually be blended with the skills required to succeed academically and, finally, with the skills needed to succeed in the workplace and in adult personal relationships. Initial focus will be on personal characteristics like listening, expressing feelings, organization, making friends … eventually evolving to more complex skills like creativity, memorization, concentration, teamwork, etc. In primary and middle school, courses will include “how to solve problems,” “how to get good grades,” and “how to study for tests.” As children get older, themes will focus on subjects like “how to choose a boyfriend/girlfriend,” “how to understand what people want,” “how to listen,” “win/win negotiations,” and “the art of compromise.” In high school these course will include themes like “money (how to make it, save it, and spend it),” “how to choose an occupation/major,” “how to get colleges to choose you,” “how to get the job you want (find it, write resume, interview),” “how to make decisions,” “how to get promoted,” “how to prioritize your life,” etc. Skills related to the workplace will designed through a collaboration with employers and older students will cycle through a wide variety of internships to help them learn about the precise details of various occupations.
My philosophy has evolved exclusively from pragmatic observations of the reality in the classroom. At the heart of this initiative is the belief that every child has the potential for outstanding academic achievement. The key to unlocking this potential is to integrate the dynamics of human nature into the teaching process. More specifically, optimal learning requires a child centered perspective which customizes teaching around the student’s sophistication level and cultural perspective. Eventually I realized that philosophy, curriculum priorities, and teaching methodology are all inextricably interconnected and all revolve around the fulcrum of human nature.
Because of the complexity of this matrix, it is explained best by reviewing how my thinking evolved. My journey started with a simple quest to make learning fun. I began with an effort to understand and harness what I came to view as the “axioms” of learning. People learn best when:
- They are high functioning (well adjusted, self-confident, high self-esteem, positive self-image, positive attitude about life and learning.
- They expect to succeed.
- The teaching process is customized around student skill levels and cultural perspectives.
- The learning process is fun.
- They are motivated to know what teachers are trying to teach.
- The learning process is physically and intellectually interactive.
What followed was a series of discoveries which kept expanding the scope of my vision. One thing, inexorably, led to another. My analyses of motivation led to the realization that all the dynamics of human nature can be harnessed to motivate learning. Next, I realized that personality (not IQ) determines school performance. This focused my attention on the stages of personality development and the critical role of preschools as the incubators of self-image. I believe the attitudes formed in preschool determine the parameters of everything that happens later.
The Leapfrog Learning Center has an 18 year track record demonstrating universal success teaching Kindergarten skills to four year olds. Eventually, I realized that accelerated learning is the key to educational revolution because it means we can add new curriculum priorities without compromising academics. Grounded by the perspective of early personality development, I began to focus on two characteristics that seem important to all age groups … social interaction skills and emotional maturity. Both are essential to successful personal relationships as well as successful performance in the workplace. Finally, I realized that technology is the missing link to our educational future because it opens new dimensions of interactive learning.
What is the Leapfrog Project?
It is a quest to establish a framework for a broad coalition of educators, technicians, and scientists to design an optimal teaching/ learning process appropriate for the needs of the 21st century. The goal is to integrate technology and recent discoveries about how people learn into a new way of formatting subject presentations that harnesses the dynamics of human nature to make learning fun, inter-active and relevant. It proposes using technology to enable teachers (and “smart” text books) to customize presentation of material around the student’s perspective and thus fundamentally change the dynamics of how students participate in the learning process. Perhaps most controversial, it redefines the purpose of education to be the teaching of all the skills necessary for students to become happy, responsible, self-sufficient adults. Literacy remains the top priority but it is supplemented with a new focus on courses designed to teach the social/emotional skills needed to be happy, the practical skills needed for success in personal and business life, and the maturity needed for responsible behavior. My school has an 18 year track record proving that “fun learning” greatly shrinks the time required to teach traditional academics and, by so doing, makes time available for these new curriculum priorities.
I propose major changes in six fundamental areas:
- Educational Philosophy – using a child centered model with a priority on personal growth.
- Curriculum Content – redefining our goals & synchronizing course material accordingly.
- Motivational Formatting – harnessing human nature to motivate students to want to learn.
- Teaching Methodology – changing the fundamentals of how teachers interact with students.
- Textbooks Design – proposing software driven, inter-active, smart textbooks.
- Learning Habitats – integrating technology into school/classroom design & equipment.
The vast majority of “drop outs” quit because they feel school is boring and irrelevant. The solution is a detailed analyses of what motivates each age group and then formatting “teaching targets” around presentations that are linked to the things students care about. With younger children this entails linking teaching targets to play and entertainment behavior. If learning can be made more fun than traditional play/entertainment, then we can harness the intrinsic enthusiasm that these activities engender and expand the learning process outside the school environment. The most important thing is that it achieves success for every student. Sesame Street successfully demonstrated both these dynamics 40 years ago when it linked an emerging technology (television) to “fun learning” and had national impact. The Leapfrog Project extrapolates the principles pioneered by Sesame Street to the teaching of all age groups.
America’s education process is a multi-billion dollar industry that fails one third of its consumers. Bill Gates explained it best when he highlighted that the problem with our education system … is the system. Prosperity in the global economy of tomorrow requires a complete education overhaul. If you were free to change everything, how would you integrate technology into an optimal education process that is customized around the sophistication level and cultural perspective of our students? Read all the parts of this proposal and hold on to your hat!!
The Leapfrog Learning Center started out on a simple quest to make learning fun and ended up discovering the basic dynamics of how children learn. Eventually the principles we discovered evolved into a totally new education paradigm that promises to fundamentally change the dynamics of the learning process. This initiative is revolutionary not because it proposes changing how we teach but rather because it proposes adding to the priorities of what we teach. The Leapfrog method promises to give all children the skills to be happy, self-sufficient, and responsible adults.
How it Works >>This initiative harnesses the dynamics of human nature to make learning fun, relevant, and interactive. The heart of this process is a motivational curriculum that links learning academics to the things people care about. It starts by harnessing play and entertainment preferences and evolves to use all the human nature engines that drive behavior. It uses technology to change the way teachers and “smart” textbooks interact with students by enabling presentation of material to be customized around the sophistication level and cultural perspective of the students. The result is an accelerated learning curve (targeting 12th grade proficiency by grade 10) and a process that works for every child. The Leapfrog Learning Center has an 18 year track record proving “fun learning” enables average children to skip the first grade by age five!
When I discovered that “fun Learning” allowed every child to have outstanding achievement levels, I realized that personality (not IQ) is the primary variable that determines achievements in school. Nurturing socialization skills and emotional maturity (and all the characteristics of “high functioning behavior”) are not just fuzzy, philanthropic goals but are fundamental to the attitudes that determine academic performance. Perhaps most important, I discovered that if education is driven by high levels of motivation then the time required to teach academics can be greatly shortened. This means that a motivational presentation format enables us to add new curriculum priorities without compromising literacy. And this allows us to change everything!
Imagine, for a moment, what life would be like if the solution to the education crisis could teach people the skills to be happy!
Choosing the right child care is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. If you are searching for a safe, nurturing child care in Red Bank, visit the Leapfrog Learning Center in nearby Shrewsbury, nj.
Your children are the most important people in your life and finding the right child care will become your top priority when you decide that it is time to start their education. If you are a typical first time parent you are probably confused about what is best for your child. Should you choose a preschool that offers only supervised play or child care that is more structured and includes academics? Partly your answer depends on what kind of school your child will go after preschool (public, Catholic, or private school). The private schools (Oakhill Academy, Rumson Country Day, and Ranney) all have challenging academic programs which are typically a year ahead of public schools. These schools require a strong academic foundation. The Catholic schools are only slightly more academically demanding than public schools. “Play group” nurseries are fine for the public schools and even entry into first grade is automatic (note that because there is no mandate in New Jersey for Kindergarten, your child can start first grade with no knowledge of numbers or letters). As long as your child has rudimentary social skills and is emotionally ready for separation, they will be fine in public school kindergarten.
The Leapfrog Learning Center offers the best of both worlds because our child care includes serious academics wrapped around a really fun curriculum that teaches socialization skills while nurturing self-confidence. Early reading and math skills will give your child a big self-esteem boost when they start public school. Get your child off to the right start at the best preschool in Monmouth county.