The past 21 years, I have taught about half of the subjects covered in most public schools: French, humanities, English, mythology, creative writing, math, physics--you get the picture. Maybe this is why I've always been disappointed to see the way that most public schools compartmentalize learning. Why don't we do things like integrate math, writing, physics, art history, and aesthetic design as students replicate Leonardo da Vinci machines and inventions? Most likely, this is because our educational model in the United States is based on the 19th Century industrial model of the factory, particularly the assembly line. Teach one kid the math behind a flying machine; teach the next kid the physics; have someone else give historical background on the project during the timed lunch break (oh, this step would be skipped in most factories since intellectual curiosity isn't a paying commodity). Sadly, students don't too often find the passion behind what they do, and school subjects seem irrelevant and boring because they are, all too often.
My first teaching job was at a school called "Realms of Inquiry." Although the name conjures up images of incense-filled rooms and students sitting on Moroccan pillow cushions, Realms was really a very down-to-earth, marvelously interesting place to teach. The days of my teaching career were dedicated to a 9-day backpacking trip through southern Utah where we integrated our study of geology, personal narrative essays, and physical education. The sign on the school reads: "Realms of Inquiry: A High-spirited Adventure."
I've missed the integrated, hands-on approach to learning for all the interveninig years and hope that through the use of technology,, I might be able to give my students some of the real-world experiences that made Realms of Inquiry such a vibrant learning environment. Will virtual (not face-to-face) nature of real-time forums, video conferencing, podcasts, and sharing of projects online accomplish this goal? Close enough, provided that I'm able to take my students on some elaborate field trips.