Ananth Pai is a masterful educator, who runs a dynamic, student-centered classroom humming with activity — what we imagine as the best-case scenario for blended learning. Pai has created individual learning plans for each of his students, which includes time with him, with other kids, and with online games. And though his students have shown exponential growth in achievement, Pai is frustrated that his successful tactics haven’t been acknowledged or applied outside his class.

“I couldn’t be more stunned by the apathy,” he says in this video, which also documents other schools and educators’ attempts to change the traditional school paradigm.

Watch this short, but important film, created by Education Evolving.

  • Nick

    Working through packets and playing games maybe self-paced, but is it individualized? Do the higher test scores denote better retention of facts? Is that the goal? I heard little discussion of Pai’s classroom as being a place that is creating a potential for newness or complex thinking.

    I applaud Pai for push back against “interactive” white boards.

    • Julie

      I agree. Gaming is not an innovation — it’s a response to pop culture. Innovation is kids interacting, thinking, creating, communicating…

  • Gerald Ardito

    In response to the earlier commenter, I think we have to distinguish two levels:
    a. acquisition of basic skills
    b. application of those skills/development of higher order thinking skills.

    Once we do, then we can talk about the questions you are raising, which are important.

  • Lid

    I wonder how that teacher ensures that he is teaching state standards and/or district curriculum. Does he not worry about that?

    Does he teach “core” with whole group lessons? I’m assuming he does small group lessons, but we didn’t see that.

    Although I love the idea of individualizing instruction and using technology, I would find it very difficult to do in my district which is all about systemic practice.

    I have so many questions I would like to ask him that weren’t addressed in the video!

  • michaelstrong

    Great to see NPR communicating the depth of homeostasis in existing schools. The video rightly points out the importance of creating “disruptive innovations” in new institutions – as it points out, even in the business sector innovators need to create new institutions in order to get innovations developed. That said, the tone here is all too kind to the forces that resist innovation. Cumulatively innovation by means of new institutions is largely responsible for our extraordinary level of technological development – inventions by brilliant scientists and engineers would have almost no impact on our lives were it not for the many thousands, perhaps millions, of new enterprises created by people such as Robert Noyce who left Fairchild to create Intel, or Jobs and Wozniak, who would never have been allowed to create Apple had they been employed by a major corporation. We urgently need to create many thousands of new schools, and for many thousands of old schools to “go out of business.” We need to embrace creative destruction in education wholeheartedly. Moreover, we need to recognize that over time, the best way to create a more equitable education system is by means of creative destruction. New schools that provide new, more individualized ways of learning will develop, grow, and spread once we allow widespread creative destruction in education. Just as technological innovation has brought cell phone technology to billions of human beings around the world, new forms of learning will become cheap and ubiquitous once we allow people like Pai to be free to create new schools. And then we will need to keep going, letting even newer schools put Pai’s schools out of business unless he can make his even better. There should be no sacred cows, certainly not the careers of teachers, when the lives of our children and the future of our country is at stake.

    I say this as someone who spent 15 years in K-12 education, including creating a charter school that was ranked the 36th best public high school in the U.S. before I was forced out. i believe that we could create order of magnitude improvements in learning if we allowed an ongoing gale of creative destruction to take place in education the way that we do in business. For more see,

  • This is what we do in homeschool. Yes- it works!

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