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Lessons from The Magic School Bus

Or “Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy” but Consider These Tips . . . “

The Magic School Bus series has been captivating readers since 1985, and with 87 million books in print, continues to enhance the lives of readers of all ages to this day. Lily Tomlin’s voice portrayal of the eccentric Miss Frizzle on the television animated series brought the series to new levels of popularity starting in 1994, and a new Netflix series will bring on new magic starting in 2016. While the anthropomorphic bus is a star in its own right, it really is Miss Valerie Felicity Frizzle who carries the stories in both print and on televisions and her popularity continues to grow through Cosplay and appearances at Com Con and via the creative energy of hundreds of fan artists across the globe.

So, we are all quite taken with her thirst for adventure and her ability to turn things around. But the truth is that we’d probably approach a real-life Miss Frizzle with some amount of caution, judging her initially for her fashion choices and her apparently scattered approach to classroom . . . er . . . management.

But whereas things typically begin in a less-than-calm manner in Miss Frizzle’s classroom, and although things do not often go according to plan, the outcome of each adventure is, actually, real learning. Frizzle is more in control than she appears to be and constantly adapts according to the need (as does the actual school bus). The kids are engaged in hands-on problem solving. Everyone learns something and is satisfied with the results.

So, while we absolutely advocate experimentation, and we understand that as educational practices evolve over time with the adoption and adaptation of technology, some best practices need to be maintained to maximize success and minimize failure in all online educational programs.

  1. Start with what you know about best practices in teaching and learning.

  2. Evaluate how the technology can support those practices and if not, consider how to adapt one or the other to achieve the best outcomes for your intended audience.

  3. Consider optimal means of maintaining contact with your student audience, both programmatically/administratively and as part of the learning design.

  4. Partner effectively to achieve optimal results.

We’re in the midst of a period of great experimentation, and there are fantastic tools and platforms being developed every day. We do need to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy; but we also need to know how to best serve our student audience in the process of innovating.

To learn more about best practices for being part of today’s educational evolution, contact us at Designs2Learn.


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As of January 2024, Rewriting Paradigms is back and I'm writing about today's  issues, those that most test us and our humanity.

Designs2Learn blogs were originally published on a separate site devoted solely to educational issues. 

With the release of the Rewriting Paradigms site, we' ported them over to their new home.

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