Where do I begin? I spent the last thirty minutes listening to a group of arrogant and condescending non educators disrespect my colleagues and profession. I listened to a group of disingenuous people whose own self-interests guide their policies rather than the interests of children. I listened to a cabal of people who sit on national education committees that will have a profound impact on classroom teaching practices. And I heard nothing of value.
“I’m thinking about the current health care debate, “I said. “And I am wondering if I will be asked to sit on a national committee charged with the task of creating a core curriculum of medical procedures to be used in hospital emergency rooms.”
The strange little man cocks his head and, suddenly, the fly on the wall has everyone’s attention.
“I realize that most people would think I am unqualified to sit on such a committee because I am not a doctor, I have never worked in an emergency room, and I have never treated a single patient. So what? Today I have listened to people who are not teachers, have never worked in a classroom, and have never taught a single student tell me how to teach.”
Since their release in April of 2010, Apple’s iPads have taken the US by storm. iPads have swept through almost every industry, especially education. Apple is pushing for iPad use in education, and several schools across the US have taken up the charge. The proliferation of iPads in the classroom will only keep accelerating. With these powerful mobile devices come a lot of possible benefits for educators and students alike. We all know iPads are exciting and there is a plethora of engaging apps for them out there, but do they actually improve education?
There have been many interesting studies done about iPads in the classroom and the effects on both students and teachers.
We’re now at a point where curators rule the content world, by collectively deciding whether content gets amplified or lost. As a result, quality of content is again starting to win out over quantity, with an assist from smarter search algorithms and the death of content farms. As power continues to shift to the curators, great long-form content continues to increase in value, as it’s shared and consumed by more and more people. Today, one exceptional, widely shared essay is far more valuable than a thousand disparate tweets.
The “better filters” conversation is an important one. But I don’t think it’s just about algorithms. At the end of the day, while the technology can help us aggregate potentially relevant and interesting content and information, if we don’t have the “curation” skills to make sense of it for ourselves, it doesn’t really matter much.
And, while curation may mark the return of the long form essay, just because it’s shared doesn’t mean it will get read. There is still a lot more work and thinking to do about how to cultivate reading and writing habits in ourselves and in our children that reflect the opportunities and challenges of this writing-rich moment.
Like…now that our kids have access to an authentic audience, why don’t we give them all sorts of opportunities to write about the things THEY care about in ways that have a real purpose and meaning in the world. Becoming a great writer starts with developing a passion for writing, something we too often extinguish in schools.
“I think the key to the problem is that frequently technology is placed in schools without much thought as to what problem it is supposed to solve.”—Dr. Richard Smith from the University of Houston Clear Lake (via callahaan)
Here’s some potentially huge news from the photo-editing software industry today: Adobe may be giving away its older Creatie Suite 2 for free. This includes Photoshop CS2.
It may sound sketchy or like a mistake to you, but it’s found over on Adobe’s website on a page titled “CS2 Downloads.” It appears to be down at the moment (we’re getting a “Site Area Temporarily Unavailable” message), but that may be the result of hoards of people trying to snag the software at the same time.
When it was up, the page included individual download links for the entire suite and for the individual programs in the suite. You can download Photoshop by itself if you’d like.
The sixth graders at Marymount School — an independent Catholic school for girls in Manhattan — have a problem they need to solve. The American Dental Association recommends that kids brush their teeth for two minutes, twice a day. But the students know that most kids fall well short of that goal. How — their teachers ask — can they find a solution to this challenge?
The girls open their sketchbooks and doodle possible solutions. One toothbrush plays music. Another comes with a timer. Still another has a tiny TV embedded into the handle. One model grows larger as you brush and then gets smaller when the two minutes are up.
The project takes several weeks and involves more than a few trips to the school’s Fab Lab, a state-of-the art digital prototyping and manufacturing facility that Marymount started in 2011 to more thoroughly engage its students in math and science. It’s here that they transfer their sketches to computer-automated drawings, which are then sent to the classroom’s MakerBot, a 3-D printer that seems like it was plucked straight out of The Jetsons.
While there’s a lot of laughing in the Fab Lab, the class also comes with its share of frustration as students try their hands at solutions that don’t work. That’s all part of the process, says Jaymes Dec, the lab’s administrator, who started Marymount’s program after a grant to facilitate these same kind of lessons with South Bronx high schoolers ran out. “My goal is more about inspiration than education,” he says. “I don’t believe you can just pour knowledge into students. They have to learn things by trying them out.”
1. Read the whole thing. I’ve been droning on for some time now that if we are to save schools, our value proposition has to change. We can’t be the places kids come to learn stuff that they can learn on their own in a gajillion different places now. We have to become the places where we help kids make interesting, meaningful, useful, beautiful artifacts of their learning that they can share with the real world. That’s our value moving forward. That stuff that can’t be “Khanified.”
2. This is “unflippable” if you will. I’ve come around to the idea that flipping classrooms has helped teachers individualize with students and make the content more meaningful in practice. But it’s still our content.It’s still about what we want kids to learn when we want them to learn it absent any real context or purpose that makes it meaningful outside the classroom, context that helps them to love it. I’ll take a Fab Lab every day. I’ll take spaces where kids are engaged in work that is meaningful to them, not us.
I know…the Fab Lab is hard. There’s no money. There’s no space. We’d need training. Lots of “Yeah, Buts”. But I’d argue the bigger problem is there is no vision. If we see this as better learning than the lockstep curriculum that we’re currently delivering in a variety of ways in schools, then why aren’t we fighting harder for it? Why aren’t we demanding it? Why aren’t we at least starting conversations around it?
Need a roadmap? Follow the kids at Marymount. We have a problem we need to solve. Schools are under a huge challenge from the Web, and we’re not changing. Take out your sketchpads. Start fabricating. Start talking. Start dreaming. Start creating a vision for teaching and learning that makes more sense for this moment. Engage in that conversation anywhere you can.
And then, start making stuff with your kids.
The key, as with all of hands-on learning, is for the grownups not to do what really should be the child’s work. “We want to teach kids that they have a lot of answers inside of them,” says Jason Chua, one of SparkTruck’s founders. “If you don’t get things right the first time it’s OK to continue prototyping and iterating until you find a solution that makes sense.”
We have answers inside of us, too you know. Are you iterating toward change?
“An early childhood surrounded by books and educational toys will leave positive fingerprints on a person’s brain well into their late teens, a two-decade-long research study has shown.”—~The Guardian, “Childhood stimulation key to brain development, study finds” (via reborn-pure)
I’m typically quiet. Why? Well, for starters, it usually invites a host of negative or critical comments on my own work, which engenders the type of “sour grapes” responses that make me look jealous of others’ success. This in turn can make it quite easy for anyone, close colleagues and acquaintances included, to conclude that Ben Rimes is a rather crotchety, pessimistic, jerk that would rather whine about others than rise to the occasion. I suppose that today, I’ll have to accept those likely outcomes, as this weekend a number of musings, thoughts, and ramblings came together for me. Here are a few of my growing concerns with the mainstream education blogging space.
I would describe Chromebooks as computers for people who only use computers to visit websites. When you consider that you can now use websites to edit graphics and video, they aren’t as limited as they seem to be at first glance.
A new study on the value of homework in high school reveal some perhaps predictable results.
Contrary to much published research, a regression analysis of time spent on homework and the final class grade found no substantive difference in grades between students who complete homework and those who do not.
But the analysis found a positive association between student performance on standardized tests and the time they spent on homework.
The researchers draw a conclusion about what homework should look like going forward to help improve grades.
“We’re not trying to say that all homework is bad,” Maltese says. “It’s expected that students are going to do homework. This is more of an argument that it should be quality over quantity.
“So in math, rather than doing the same types of problems over and over again, maybe it should involve having students analyze new types of problems or data. In science, maybe the students should write concept summaries instead of just reading a chapter and answering the questions at the end.”
That sounds like a superior approach to the mechanical practice and busywork I remember homework being.
““It’s an universal law: intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”
― Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn”—(via sawise)
Let’s talk about assessment in band. We don’t have a standardized test, so instead we go to a yearly district-wide assessment. Each group plays three songs for three judges and then sight-reads for a fourth judge. Their scores are totaled, averaged, and a rating is given. It is not a competition. Groups are not ranked based on scores.
Here’s the catch: each student that participates is supposed to pay a per-student fee (which is not cheap). This fee covers the judges’ payment and purchase of all new sight-reading music each year. Some schools pay for their groups out of the school fund. My groups are paid for from the band budget given by the county each year. A few schools have to request that their students pay for it out of their own pocket.
I think it is crazy that students, schools, or band programs have to pay for an assessment.
As one of my colleagues put it: “They don’t make the kids put in quarters to take the SOL.”
I understand what we are paying for. I really do. But I still don’t like it. I wish there was a way that we could have assessment, but not make it a financial burden on the schools or students.
“Gates argued that the high unemployment rate — 7.9 percent, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor statistics — is the result of deficiencies in the educational system, rather than an absence of available jobs.
There are currently three million more jobs than there are people with the degrees to fill them, and Gates said the American system needs to start supplying workers or risk losing these opportunities to other countries.”