“How Is a Bad Radio Station Like the Public School System?”: We’ve all gotten used to the thrill of customization — Pandora Radio lets anyone customize the music he or she wants to hear. Could a New York City pilot program called School of One do the same thing for education?
We’ve just released the latest episode of our Freakonomics Radio podcast. It’s called “How Is a Bad Radio Station Like the Public School System?” (You can download/ subscribe at iTunes here, get the RSS feed here, or listen live via the link at right.)
This episode is a full 30 minutes long, and it’s about what we call “the thrill of customization” — that is, how technology increasingly enables each of us to get what we want out of life, whether it’s a consumer experience or a religious experience. The main focus of the episode is a fascinating New York City Department of Education pilot program called School of One.
All photos Stephen J. Dubner Joel Rose, School of One
Chris Rush, School of One
Joel Klein, New York City schools chancellor
You’ll hear from its founder, Joel Rose, as well as its co-founder and tech guru, Chris Rush; you’ll also hear from Joel Klein, the city’s schools chancellor, and Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education (whom some of you may remember as the former head of Chicago Public Schools who worked with Levitt to get rid of cheating teachers).
And, because we tend to never follow a straight line in our podcasts, you’ll also hear some interesting stuff about Pandora Radio from its founder, Tim Westergren, who has just been named to the Time magazine list of 100 influentials (congrats!).
The School of One tries to take advantage of technology to essentially customize education for every kid in every classroom and help teachers do their job more effectively. That is of course a daunting task — and perhaps, some might argue, unnecessary — but the amount of thought and analysis that have so far gone into the program is impressive. Furthermore, the enthusiasm it has generated from people like Duncan and Klein make it a program to watch. And the early results are promising.
Lionel, a School of One student
You’ll hear about School of One’s conception, its potential pitfalls, and most of all how it works day-to-day. You’ll spend some time in a classroom in I.S. 339 in the Bronx, hearing from kids like Lionel (at right), whose daily “playlist” — in this case, his math lessons — are chosen in part by an algorithm that is designed to learn how Lionel learns best.
And you’ll hear how Chris Rush and others track and analyze the schoolwork that Lionel is doing to make sure he’s not just doodling away his time (like Levitt did in the third grade).
Below you’ll find some more images, including screen shots of the School of One software that helps handle the various analyses. Hope you enjoy the episode; it was an interesting one to make.
School of One teacher Joyce Pulphus with students Tyesha Wilson and Frank Angel Montalvo.
School of One students learning via “virtual tutor”; that’s podcast producer Aimee Machado getting in there with the microphone.
After the kids have gone home for the day, School of One teachers and administrators analyze their progress, one student at a time.
At School of One headquarters in the Dept. of Education building in Lower Manhattan, a dashboard lets the project’s administrators monitor each student’s progress across the entire skill list.
Each student’s lesson is scheduled the night before, based on an optimization algorithm.
Every teacher has a set of skills he or she is assigned to teach throughout the program, and is given a “five-day forecast” to show which skills will likely be taught next.