International Association for Learning Alternatives

Member Group : David Kirkpatrick

I want to call your attention to the International Association for Learning Alternatives (IALA), a 38-year-old organization that, in recognition of the obvious fact that not all students learn alike, supports the provision of a choice of educational programs for all students. Its website has a wealth of information freely available for anyone. Numerous articles, instruments and references stretch your thinking about the subject of learning alternatives are organized by longtime innovative educator Wayne Jennings.

IALA also publishes a free periodic newsletter with brief items like FutureLab for the busy reader needing to stay abreast of the school transformation movement. The most recent issue contained items about educational change, options and technology. Each item is briefly described, seldom more than a paragraph or two, with links for further information. Here is a sample of some of the items:

Cell phone use by students can be the bane of teachers. However, some teachers and schools have found a creative way to augment and spice up instruction by having students use their cell phones in the classroom for learning according to an article from the New York Times. A book, The World Is Open, and the article argue that it is time for administrators and teachers to join the 21st century and welcome cell phones, especially the new generation smart phones, into the classroom and let students use them for the learning potential that they have.

The MacArthur Foundation has invested $50 million researching digital learning and gaming. Their three year research report, Living and Learning with New Media, indicates positive impacts on youth, and the foundation has now funded and established a Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at the University of California-Irvine to explore the impact of digital media on learning and its potential for transforming education.

Minnesota state representative David Bly proposes a constitutional "Middle-Class Amendment" to achieve social reform including educational transformation because such changes will not occur or are so unlikely that a constitutional amendment is necessary.

The phenomenal growth of online learning at K-12 and higher education levels continues to astonish and raise questions. A number of these issues can be seen in online presentations at the Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning.

An extraordinary source of stimulating presentations is TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design). Here you see riveting presentations on video from some of the world’s greatest thinkers on a wide variety of topics in rarely over 20 minutes each, such as Pranov Mistry.

School assessment via standardized tests is one of the most controversial and talked about subjects among administrators, teachers, parents and students. Edutopia provides an excellent article describing promising alternative assessment methods as does the extraordinary resource of evaluation instruments at the Compendium of Assessment and Research Tools (CART).

What are the categories of various learning alternatives? The pricey Handbook of Research on School Choice describes such options as: charter schools, homeschooling, vouchers, magnet schools, cyber schools, and others. This handy reference cites research, policy and practice. It’s probably available at university libraries.

Other brief blog items describe the overall impact of technology, standards for alternative education, the growth of school choice movement worldwide, and link to a variety of materials regarding learning alternatives. The website lists upcoming conferences on alternative education and related topics.

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