Democratic School Without Computer Teacher Wins Huge Computer Competition!
Report from Israel IDEC!

Report of the 2017 International Democratic Education Conference in Israel
Some of the 3000 people at Democratic School of Hadera IDEC opening

From March 26th through April 5th the AERO team participated in the International Democratic Education Conference in Israel. This was the 5th time the IDEC has been in Israel, where the IDEC started in 1993 with a meeting organized by school founder Yaacov Hecht at the Democratic School of Hadera.
The situation with democratic education in Israel is truly off the charts compared to other countries. There are now thirty public or semi-public democratic schools in Israel. The Democratic School of Hadera, site of the first two days of the conference, now has 500 students in its dramatically reconstructed building site, and will go to 800 next year. There were an estimated 3000 attending on those days, including students, staff members and parents from the other democratic schools around Israel. At an opening ceremony the mayor of Hadera said they plan to construct a 4th democratic school in Hadera with a goal to have 100% of its students in democratic schools. These are schools in which students have a say in the governance of the school and freedom to pursue whatever they are interested in studying.
Famed researcher Sugata Mitra participated in the IDEC throughout the course of the 5 days. He won the TED Prize in 2013 for his "Hole in the Wall Project," in which he placed a computer in a wall of a slum and the students taught themselves to use it, including learning English. He replicated the experiment throughout India with the same results, eventually creating the "School in the Cloud." During the opening session he painted a picture of the world 20 years from now, pointing out that 20 years ago there was no iphone, no Facebook, no Twitter, etc. The point was that, with an accelerated information curve we can hardly imagine that future and certainly don't know how to prepare students for it, except by making sure they are creative self-learners. Mitra keynoted AERO's 2015 conference.
Coincidentally, just as the conference was starting, computer students at the Democratic School of Keshet won a country-wide computer competition against 800 other schools. This was in spite or because of the fact that the school has no computer teacher. The student team taught themselves! This was big national news, featured in many news outlets. Later in the conference the winning team did a workshop with Sugata Mitra about their exploits. They just sent us an exclusive article, written by the students, about their adventure, featured below! .
The attendees at this year's IDEC were from 30 countries! It included many former IDEC organizers such as Kageki Asakura (Japan 2000), Marko Koskinen (Finland 2016), Cecelia Bradley (Australia 2006), Chloe Duff (England 2011), Tae Wook Ha (Korea 2014), Verena Gruner (New Zealand 2015), Ana Yris Guzman Torres (Puerto Rico 2012), Henry Readhead (Summerhill, England 1999). It also included Ramchandra who hopes to host an IDEC in Nepal in 2020. Next year's IDEC will be in India, co-organized by Saumya Sharma-Meier. Remarkably, the IDEC is not an organization. Each year a different school agrees to host the IDEC upon attending at least two IDECs and agreement with the attendees at an IDEC. Yet there have been several spinoffs, such as the European Democratic Education Community and the Asia-Pacific Democratic Education Community. The annual AERO Conference is a direct result of our hosting the IDEC in 2003. Our 14th annual conference will be in New York August 2-6.
A group of attendees went on a two day pre-conference trip, visiting a progressive school in the Arab city of Nazareth and four democratic schools. The last school visited  was the Kanaf Sudbury School in the Golan Heights which, incredibly, has just become perhaps the only public Sudbury in the world.
Several years ago, through our school starter course, we helped start the first democratic schools in Poland. This year there was a big group of Polish attendees. There are now 30 democratic schools in Poland!
Most of the attendees from out of the country stayed at Givat Haviva, a kibbutz and learning center dedicated to peace and cooperation between Jews and Arabs. This is where the rest of the IDEC took place after the first two days at the Democratic School of Hadera. 

Hosting the IDEC has often had a profound effect on the country hosting it. The Stork Family School in Ukraine was on shaky ground when it hosted in 1998. It gave them credibility and it continues to this day, more than 25 years since its founding as the first private school in the Soviet Union. Summerhill was under attack when it hosted in 1999. This helped it win its case with the English education department. Democratic schools were illegal when Germany hosted in 2005. The last day was a university presentation. Six years later a third of the attendees of the IDEC in England were from German democratic schools. In 2014 200 parent-organized democratic schools were threatened with closure during the IDEC. We organized an international demonstration in Seoul that was covered by the media, The legislators backed off and the schools are still open. 

You can see more pictures from the IDEC here.

Students at Nazareth progressive school

Mayor of Hadera addresses IDEC
Jonathan Kozol Rounds Out Amazing Slate of Keynoters for AERO Conference
Workshop Spaces Filling Up
There was a tremendous reaction to the announcement that renowned author, speaker, and education critic Jonathan Kozol would be an 
AERO Conference keynoter,
joining our illustrious list of four others!

Many people have already held their places by registering for the conference. A deposit will also hold the current rate. The rate will go up at the end of April and again at the end of May, so register now. Special group rates can be arranged if you contact us soon. Write to PLEASE HELP US SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT THIS VERY SPECIAL CONFERENCE!

We already have filled more than half of the workshop slots and will soon inform the applicants that they have been approved. We will start to post them next week. So if you are thinking of doing a workshop or presentation, you should submit the proposal soon, here. Low income attendees can still sign up the low income rate for a while longer. 

Please do commit yourself to coming to the AERO conference, and if you can't, send a small donation toward a fund to help low income people to attend. We are also looking for sponsors and exhibitors for the tables at the conference. 

Here are two interviews with Kozol by Bob Greenberg:
New Episode of the Education Revolution Podcast!
In this episode of the Education Revolution Podcast we interview Roopa Reddy. Roopa traveled around the world to see 18 schools in her journey to learn more about learner-centered approaches to education. 

She discussed where she went, what she saw, what she learned, and how it could applied to the public school system.

You can listen to the podcast here.

You can watch her talk from the 2016 AERO Conference here.
Exclusive Story:
Democratic School With No Computer Teacher Wins Israel National Programming Championship 2017
Front row (from left, in blue shirts): Amir Mann, Lior Meyer, Bary Levi, Amir Aboutboul, Elool Yanover (the participants).

Ed: Exclusive story written by the students of Keshet Democratic School for AERO:

We are a group of five 12th grade students from the Keshet Democratic School in Zichron Ya'akov, Israel: Amir Aboutboul, Amir Mann, Lior Meyer, Bary Levi and Elool Yanover. This year, we decided to participate in the Israeli National Programming Championship. 800 groups participated in the championship, most of them from "normal" schools, who spend a lot of money on teaching computer science. But we, a group from a democratic school, without even a computer science teacher, won the championship.

In the competition, we were given a game for two players, with pirates, islands, and treasures that the pirates had to bring to their base from the islands. The winners of each game were the team who managed to bring 20 treasures back to their islands (an example game can be seen here, we are the green team). Each group had to write code (instructions for a computer) that told the players on the board where to go and what to do. The game isn't played in real-time; rather, we had to write all the instructions for the objects on the board before-hand. After each group writes their code, the games are run group versus group, and each group is given a rating by how many times they won

Read the rest here.
Protect Our Education Rights: NO Annual Compulsory Exams for Italian Home-Ed Kids
Ed: Reported in English Home Education Listserve

Dear homeschooler friends,

The Italian Parliament has recently approved an Act (no.384 "Buona Scuola") stating that the fulfilment of the duty of Education by the parents must be proved through annual school exams. Up until today our regulamentation protected the freedom of teaching and families that chose this path simply had to notify the school officials on a yearly basis.

At present the Ministry is drawing up the final version of this Act that would lead home-ed families toward the same standardized and levelled situation that is already badly affecting the Italian school system.

It is now time to join our forces to lobby the Ministry for the removal of any references to home education from the Act no.384 or, at least, for their compliance with the current regulations.

Members of Parliament and Senate from different political groups are supporting us, as they perfectly understand that this Act from "Buona Scuola" set of rules is highly unconstitutional.

Ask your families and friends to raise their voices against this Act. 
Join us and sign the following letter that will be sent to the Italian Ministry of Education and her staff.

Please personalize this letter with your name and Country of residence.

Thanks for your support from all the fellow Italian Home Educating families!

Read the rest here.
Coming This Week: A New Mini-Talk by Judy Yero-- Common Factors in Effective Learner-Centered Schools
Coming Next Week: 
First List of Approved Workshops

Links and Calendar
Please send us feedback on this issue. also, we would like to have more articles written by AERO members and about AERO school and organizations.  Thank you for your ongoing support. With  your help , we will make learner-centered alternatives available to everyone!

In Service,

Jerry Mintz
Executive Director
Alternative Education Resource Organization

Please consider making a donation to AERO to help support our work. Thanks!