Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Overview

This course explores the potential impact of modern technologies on the school reforms debate.

In this first part of the course, after providing an overview of the current state of the school reform debate and reviewing the ideas in the progressive school reform movement, we look at the process of founding and the design principles behind the new public charter school in Cambridge, Community Charter School of Cambridge (CCSC). We provide an in-depth analysis of this school because it will serve as a concrete local context for the implementation of the final design projects for the course.

In the second part, we will critically study research projects that hold great promise as inspirations and guidelines for concrete multidisciplinary activities and curriculum for progressive charter schools. Students will work in small groups to design tools, material and activities to be field-tested in the charter school during the term or beyond. We anticipate that each group will engage the faculty, administrators, and the broader school community in the design and implementation process.

The course concludes with a discussion of the challenges in scaling the successful innovations in school reform to new contexts, and the types and roles of nonprofit organizations that have been formed to meet these challenges. In particular we will discuss strategies for successful introduction of innovative educational ideas - such as the ones students develop in this class - in real world settings.

Course Requirements


All students are expected to do the readings, and to participate in discussions of the readings in class. Readings that are not available on-line will be provided at least a week in advance.

Active Participation

I strongly recommend that you discuss the readings outside of class in preparation for class discussions. The class discussions are very important since they give us an opportunity to present different perspectives and interpretations of the readings and in the process come to a shared understanding of the central questions and issues. You are encouraged to share the questions or issues that you found particularly provocative in the reading with the rest of the class.

Final Paper and Web Site

The main deliverables for the course will be:

  1. A full research paper about the tools or materials that your team develops and evaluates for the course.
  2. A complete Web site with background research, design and development notes, documentation, and source for the tools and materials you develop for your project. I will provide more detail in class.

Final Class Presentation

There will be two opportunities for presenting your class project. The first will be on Ses #13. This presentation will be to the class participants only. The initial feedback from this session should be reflected in your final presentation on Ses #14 which will be open to a broader audience.


The grade will be based on your class participation, class presentation, and your contribution to the various components of your group class project.

SES # Topics
1 Introduction and Overview
2 General Context: Approaches to School Reform

Guests: Paula Evans and Rob Riordan
3 Specific Context (I): Community Charter School of Cambridge (CCSC)

Guests: Rob Riordan and Robin Pringle
4 Specific Context (II): CCSC Design Principles

Guests: CCSC Faculty, Rob Riordan, and Robin Pringle
5 The Role of Technology (I): Documentation for Reflection, Evaluation, and Communication

Guest: Glorianna Davenport
6 The Role of Technology (II): Creating Deep Community Connections

Guests: Erik Blankinship, Mike Ananny, Leo Burd, and Stefan Agamanolis
7 Final Project Proposal: Brainstorming Session
8 The Role of Technology (III): Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology
9 The Role of Technology (IV): Media Literacy

Guest: Erik Blankinship
10 The Role of Technology (V): Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology

Guest: Eric Klopfer
11 The Role of Technology (VI): Learning All the Time

Guests: Sandy Pentland and Eric Klopfer
12 The Role of Technology (VII): Art, Music, and Technology
13 Understanding the Role of Nonprofit and Volunteer Organizations in School Reform
14 Final Presentations