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Dr. Fischler has compiled some observations and quotations to inspire us to build better schools.   Your comments are invited.  See this excerpt >>>>>

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The voyage of life must be seen as an adventure. People learn from experiences - good, bad or indifferent. Aren't we blessed with brains (much of which we don't even use), aren't we social beings (and seek to create barriers to separate ourselves)?Somewhere along the line, the spirit of exploration, that buzz of excitement at finding something new, has got lost. The urge to ask questions, query eveything, be satisified with nothing until our own uncertainty is cleared up, has died in the glass. Why should "adults know everything" when it is patently not true, and why should children have the amazing feeling of wide-eyed discoverers hammered out of them in regimented classes taught by dull, jaded teachers with no inspiration - if it's Tuesday, this must be page 46. Why should children be treated as "ignorant". Invention means: "If you can make it work, if nobody's done it like that before - you're an inventor!" Don't we need inventors?
Where is the joy of discovery? The disappointment when something doesn't work? Or simply the Simpson-esque feeling of "Meeh"?? We need all of these, and our collaborative spirit, to try again, change something, create.
Break the chain. Involve the children, then the parents and the libraries and all the media, and the neighbours  and the teachers and the local councillors and the representatives, Congressmen  and women... Give ourselves the proverbial kick up the .... . Remove the fuzzy comfort zone and seek newness. Share. Live more!

Best wishes,
Cary Elcome
English language teaching expert (academic, specific and general), examinations trainer (TOEIC, TOEFL, IELTS, EIKEN), theses and dissertations editor and proofreader, business text writer. E-mail me for details

If the unit is the group, 
then the class is the class.
Time is fixed.
The individual must adapt to the system.

If the unit is the individual, 
then the student is the class.
Time is a variable.
The system can accommodate the individual.
The system can adapt to the needs of the individual.

Commentaries by Dr. Fischler

(The following comments in orange are from Dr. Fischler's book of commentaries based on

How can projects and discussions be helpful to students who are not linguistic, sequential learners?  How do projects help the random learner who has auditory or visual, musical or interpersonal, or kinesthetic learning style?

Fischler:  Within a project there are many different ways that an individual can make a contribution. For example, he or she can build a model; he or she can draw a picture; he or she can do some research and make a presentation to others; if it lends itself, he or she can write a short play; he or she can  compose a song.

A project provides for people to work together to accomplish a task where each can contribute to the whole. Soft learning (such as team responsibility, sharing, critical thinking) is the goal.


Abraham S. Fischler

Quotations to Guide Teachers, Principals, Parents and Students

With Hillary Gorski-Howrey and Steve McCrea

Lulu Press


Short Quotations and Commentaries
Excerpts from the blog
Longer Readings
Links for Additional Reading
What’s Next 
About the Authors


The purpose of this book is to introduce teachers, administrators, parents and students to ideas of education that might be missing in their lives.  As Dan Pink has observed, most institutions have changed dramatically in appearance and in how they operate since the 1950s – banks, supermarkets, restaurants, hospitals all have different procedures and employ architecture to improve the customer's experience.  The exception:  public schools.   Free Agent Nation (chapter 15).

The Problem

At the present time, teachers are working hard but we are still not fulfilling the demands of our students or our society. Why not? The schools are set up with an agrarian calendar and teachers are responsible for teaching to a class as a unit. Time is fixed and the only variable is performance – some pass and others fail. And, if the persons who fail do not make up and achieve the proficiency that the test is measuring, they drift further and further behind. The consequences are numerous and punishing. How does this instill a love of learning? This approach does not take into account a truism: “all students can learn, but they learn at different rates and have different preferential learning styles.”

Instead of asking the student to fit the administrative structure (i.e., the class and arbitrary time periods for learning subjects and achieving competencies), we must provide each student with the time and means to succeed. Rather than punish the student who learns more slowly than the arbitrarily chosen period, we must treat each student as the class.

We must find a way of doing this. Other industries have made similar changes* and it is now time for education to do the same.

*FedEx can tell you where any package is at any time. Look at banking, which is now available 24 hours a day through ATMs and you can go to almost any ATM to withdraw or deposit funds. Both industries invested in information and delivery systems to meet the needs of their clients rather than asking their clients to accommodate to a fixed structure. Now the automobile industry is enabling customers to order on demand rather than requiring them to accept whatever is available in the dealer’s lot. In the business world, however, there is competition that requires companies to adapt – education has not had this catalyst.

My vision and strategy for educational change

I believe that we in education must make the investment to do the same for our clients, i.e., each student. What investment is needed? 

There are three modes of instruction: 1) self-paced or CAI, 2) project or problem-solving and 3) discussion. Self-paced or computer-assisted instruction (CAI) requires that each student have access to a computer and modem and access to the curriculum on a server on a 24/7 basis. Projects and problems should be relevant to students so they can relate to the given subject area.

For English and Math, we should implement CAI in the 1st grade (and continue thereafter). The reason English and Math are chosen is that these are the two cultural imperative languages. If you know these two languages and are motivated as a self-learner, you can teach yourself almost anything you want to learn. And, one of the goals of education is to create self-learners.

For all other subjects, the teacher can pose a project or problem that is relevant to the student. Once the problem is defined, the class can be broken down into groups of 4-5 students in order to research the solution to the problem. If complex, each of the groups may study an aspect of the problem. With these subjects, the student uses the computer as a research tool (after having learned to read). Students are taught to use search engines such as Google or Yahoo as well as the intranet made available by teachers gathering information relevant for the students.


Students working in a group learn cooperation, shared responsibility and communication (face-to-face as well as e-mail). Having produced a written solution to the problem utilizing the computer (power point) as a tool, they can then present to the class for discussion. They can also use email or a written report to other students as well as the teacher.

Arbitrary learning within fixed time periods would be eliminated, i.e., no 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. grades. Instead, students would be grouped chronologically with materials appropriate to their learning level and style using the CAI approach for English and Math, and the project-problem-discussion modes for other subjects. The projects given to the students match the level of English and Math competencies and are related to the students (their interests and their lives). For example, in 3rd grade, how would you study the amount of water that a plant needs to grow? I would utilize the students’ Math knowledge (learned through CAI) for science learning. Likewise, rather than studying history through memorization and chronology, it can be studied through problems based on the immediate environment for younger children and more abstract concepts in later grades.


What do we need to make this happen?

In order for this to be implemented, what do we need?

1) We need the people on board – parents, teachers, community leaders, etc.

2) We need the hardware – computers with modems and Internet access for each student.

3) We need the management system (many existing solutions can be adapted).

4) We need the curriculum – Computer Assisted Instructions (CAI) for Math and English and creative, relevant problems and projects for other subjects.

5) We need teacher training.

In order to begin to implement change, we need all of these things in place.  I would like to see a group of elementary and middle schools, and the high school into which they feed (a demonstration ‘zone’) of some size agree to adopt a vision where time is a variable and mastery what is expected from each student.  A computer company can be found to donate (or the zone can buy) a laptop with a modem for each student.  The zone needs to build an integrated management system in order to be responsive to what students do and how they learn.  Part of the management system is administrative, part is the CAI component, and lastly, the management system needs to record and reflect the student’s learnings in non-CAI instruction (‘student portfolios’).  The CAI component must be self-correcting and use artificial intelligence so that the component improves as more students utilize the program for English and Math.  Teacher training is critical and must be done during the summer prior to implementation. 

Commentary:   The way that classrooms are organized, because of the pressures that teachers and students are under since No Child Left Behind, more and more time is now being spent helping students learn at a comprehensive level.  Little time is left for the skills of analysis, synthesis and self-judgment.

We put information in but we don't give them time to massage the information and go through Piaget's process of assimilation and accommodation at the concept level.


How do teachers instill this “fire” quote in a school that focuses on computer-based instruction?

The computer is a tool to be used in many different ways.  It is a learning tool, it is a research tool, and it is a communication tool. So it depends on the environment and how it's orchestrated.

Bloom's taxonomy talks about levels of learning. Comprehension is the lower level.  But the student also needs time to utilize information for analysis and synthesis. So the computer could be used for those two purposes.

In the CAI approach you can reorganize students to solve problems through projects.  Small groups can improve their communication skills,  working in cooperative teams, sharing research responsibilities, and giving presentations to the entire class.

We have to provide an environment so that students can use what they have learned through technology.

Rarely should you see a teacher standing in front of a group of students lecturing. That would make the assumption that all 30 youngsters are ready to receive what you are presenting and to process the information.

Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. Lou Holtz

Commentary:  This is one of those quotes that belong on a wall to remind students of the importance of self-confidence. 

I hope that in the century ahead students will be judged not by their performance on a single test but by the quality of their lives.  I hope that students will be encouraged to be creative, not conforming, and learn to cooperate rather than compete.

Ernest Boyer, president of Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1993.


Commentary:  My test is asking the following question:   Have we produced a motivated person with the tools and desire to keep learning?

Our education system should be creating mindful learners.  Littky


I have been a psychologist for 21 years, and I have never had to do in the profession what I needed to do to get an A in many of my courses in college.  In particular, I've never had to memorize a book or lecture.  If I can't remember something, I just look it up.  However, schools set things up to reward with As the students who are good memorizers, not just at the college level but at many other levels as well.   Robert Sternberg, psychologist.

Commentary:  It is clear that our schools should prepare students for “real world”conditions, where many workers have access to information.  Students and teachers should practice using smart phones and the Internet.

Too often we teach people things like "There's a right way and a wrong way to do everything."  What we should be teaching them is how to think flexibly, to be mindful of all the different possibilities of every situation and not close themselves off from information that could help them.   Ellen Langer, professor of psychology



Commentary:  I agree.  Flexibility is the key.


I never let schooling get in the way of my education.  Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)



Commentary:    What is the goal?   To keep teachers employed?   To hand students a diploma?  To transfer skills to a workforce?    I believe that the goal is to produce a motivated person with the tools and desire to keep learning. We need to have the humility to see that we teachers and we principals don't have all of the tools.  Students need to take responsibility for at least part of their learning.  Can we shape the classroom and the curriculum to the shape and dimension of the student?  

No matter how far you have gone on a wrong road, turn back.   Turkish proverb (from The Big Picture by Dennis Littky)

Commentary:  We have invested a lot of money and training in the big-box public high schools.   Bill Gates has put a billion dollars or so into making high schools smaller and into technology for education.  We need to stop, turn around, and get back to square one.  Let's start with elementary schools.   By adding a layer of computer-mediated instruction over the existing system and by engaging parents, students, teachers and principals in a vigorous re-connection with the goal of education, we can move toward making the student the class.  


ommentary:  Should teachers be entertainers? I want to change this quote:  Learning should be fun to the learner.

Classrooms should be exciting. Students should be the performers. Teachers should be facilitators and motivators, asking students to think about challenging problems.  Teachers should reward success, using language that make learners feel good about themselves. “You can do it.”

As the saying goes:  The teacher is a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage.

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