By Francis Koster Ed. D. 

TheOptimisticFuturist is pleased to offer a number of locally implementable solutions to national problems.  In some cases, however, others have already created wonderful web sites on specific topics.  In these cases, we are pleased to point to them and send you on your way, knowing you’ll come back and visit us when you are looking for success stories in different areas.

In the realm of Education, we’ve found several excellent sites that celebrate projects, techniques, and methods that are proven, replicable, and a good investment.  They beat us to the punch!  Know of a good site we’re missing?  We invite you to let us know by submitting your nomination for additional sites.

Below you will find our summary of some of the best sites for “in-classroom” techniques.  We will devote our space to outside-the-classroom additions, such as school lunch improvements, school gardens, and so forth.

Many of the best models we have of how to improve a sector of society are found in education.  Under the pressures of a nearly omnipresent lack of resources and funding, teachers and administrators have been forced to dig deep for creative and visionary solutions to the challenges faced by our youngest citizens.  And as technology and information dissemination evolve at a staggering clip, balancing the tasks of meeting standards while raising thoughtful, moral human beings requires a good dose of ingenuity.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the Doing What Works web site sports a clean, easy-to-use look and feel and is designed to help teachers and administrators easily identify and employ research-based educational practices.  Covering topics including such as Literacy, Quality Teaching, Early Childhood, and more, each section includes an overview of media and materials, policy and planning templates, and related links.  Within each of these subcategories, users will find expert interviews, research evidence, sample materials, and practical tools and ideas.

Edutopia is an outgrowth of the George Lucas Educational Foundation’s mission to improve the K-12 learning process by “documenting, disseminating, and advocating for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students to thrive in their future education, careers, and adult lives.”  Behind this initiative is Edutopia’s six core strategies defined and featured prominently throughout the site combined with the input and participation of schools and communities throughout the country that contribute to the site.  Not surprisingly, Edutopia is beautiful to look at and well organized, with videos, blogs, and a wide variety of opportunities for connecting through online communities.

PBS Teachers offers resources, discussion forums, and professional development opportunities for teachers, with information broken down by grade-level and discipline. Among the site’s offerings are thousands of lesson plans, teaching activities, video clips, games, and simulations.  A wide variety of content linked to the station’s current quality program supplements these resources. Unique to the site is TeacherLine, which provides more than 130 top-quality graduate-level courses for educators across the curriculum.  The program has been recognized for excellence by organizations including the National Education Association and the Distance Learning Association.

The Alliance for Excellent Education, a national policy and advocacy organization with the goal of helping at-risk secondary school students, hosts a web site featuring content geared toward illuminating the crisis, proposing solutions, and providing opportunities for concerned citizens to help.  Of particular interest is its Elements of a Successful High Schoolsection, which offers ideas for how students, parents, educators, businesses, advocacy groups, and elected officials can learn more and contribute hands-on solutions to the effort.  Each section is broken down by action that can be taken at the local, state, and national levels.