Middle School 2014: A Future Fiction
by David Warlick
Sally Crabtree sits at her desk as her A2 students amble out of her classroom, most talking in pairs and threes, some glancing at their tablets for messages from friends, parents, or project collaborators. Sally crosses her legs, lays her tablet in her lap and begins dragging icons around on the smooth bright surface using the stylus she slides out of the holder on the edge of the information appliance. As she busily works at her device, the information on the large plasma display at the front of the room begins to change, some sections of text and images moving around, new ones appearing, and others disappearing. Blocks of information slide down into view illustrating weather conditions, Web-cams in other parts of the world, and finally Arabic music, care of a Baghdad radio station.
Outside her classroom, students stroll down the halls toward their next class, B2 (B period, 2nd day of the week), or huddle in groups, talking, drawing at their tablet displays with fingers or styluses. Most of the conversations are purely the social exchanges between newly pubescent middle-schoolers. However, a significant number of the interactions are discussions of the class projects in which teams of students are constantly engaged. Projects are the primary activity of Bacon School, and most other schools in 2014.
As she prepares for B2 to begin, Sally thinks back to her drive to school that morning with her young and excitable friend Isaac Johnson, one of the school’s media center managers.
Earlier in the Morning:
Sally had just picked Isaac up at his small rental house, almost exactly half way between her family’s home and The Bacon School. She had been listening to John Grisham’s latest book being read to her in a Mississippi accent by her tablet. She touches the Stop icon on her tablet, as her nearly silent hybrid car glides to the curb in front of the refurbished mill house. Isaac, who has been sitting on the porch scanning the news on his tablet while sipping his customary breakfast cola, drops his tablet into his canvas messenger bag, jumps off of the porch, and slides into the passenger seat. As Sally pulls out onto the road again, their conversation goes directly to Sally’s beloved “Reptiles,” one of her student teams. Isaac is aware that they will be making their project presentation this morning during B2, since he works intimately with most of the school’s teams on a daily basis. She has especially enjoyed the “Reptiles,” since the day at the beginning of the year that they chose their name. It was Alf’s idea, but each of the other members came up with a particular reason why the name fit.
The team is uniquely diverse in terms of academic characteristics. Two members, Desmone and Johann, are random thinkers and attention deficit. Samuel is a high achiever with an excellent memory and analytical mind. Alf remains emotionally traumatized by the unfortunate and vicious separation and divorce of his parents a year ago. Neither of the parents have much interest in supporting their thirteen year-old son through his turmoil, each too engaged in their own bitterness and adjustment. Regardless of this odd diversity, the team has jelled into an exciting force for producing surprisingly insightful work.
Isaac describes how the team has been working after classes, with Desmone and Samuel completing the text report version of the project and Johann and Alf polishing up their audio/visual. He adds that Alf has just as often been working by himself on another component of the project that remains a mystery.
“Finding the resources for their visuals was not a problem,” Isaac said. “But, validating them was a useful challenge. Each of the team members took a section of earth history, and created Web shelves in their personal information libraries with resources that they identified. They shared their Web shelves and used the information as a basis for their evaluation. It was an interesting learning experience for the team. I’ve asked if components of their shelves might be included in the Media Center Common Shelves.
“It was brilliant requiring Johann to handle the audio/visual editing and telling Samuel that he could only support him verbally,” Isaac continued, admiringly. “Frankly, I was afraid that I would be pulled into supporting Johann more than I would like, but I found that he called on Samuel at least as much as he called on me. Also, he grasped the concepts and developed his skill, and he really seems focused on the communication, not technique.”
Sally smiled at the reference to her scheme. “Thanks for supporting me on this, Isaac.”