Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cell Phones and School

We opened the school year at Shelby East Middle School with a longish faculty meeting a few days ago, and it amazes me that cell phone policy didn't come up.
We all know that cell phones have inundated society. In third world countries, cell phone technology will greatly benefit education. After all, many phones are essentially mini laptops. Is there a place for responsible cell phone use in US schools? Kate Sullivan, a classmate of mine this summer at the Bread Loaf School of English, created this interesting documentary about cell phone policies and possibilities in our schools. The issue isn't going away!

Friday, August 7, 2009

The National Math Standards Movement

In Brief

The CCSSO’s July 16, 2009 draft of College and Career Readiness Standards for Mathematics is fewer, clearer, and more concise that most existing sets of state content standards or the NCTM’s Principles and Standards. Writing a set of standards with these goals in mind has not addressed issues relevant to improving schools and American society; although these standards will receive high marks in terms of statistical measurability and meeting current economic demand, they score low against the criteria of prizing diversity, professional innovation, and 21st century needs.

This isn’t a question of “who developed them” but of focus. The CCSSO chose to focus on content standards instead of “process standards”, which combined with their ostensible desire to develop standards that are easily measurable, has resulted in a set of “explanatory problems” that are procedurally focused and lacking connections within and outside of mathematics.

If the primary evaluative criteria are educational and developmental then this set of standards should be completely scrapped. The NCTM has already written a set of process standards that will prepare our students to responsibly lead American society through the 21st century.

The Mockery of Revised Standards

Anyone who thinks developing a set of fewer, clearer, and more concise national math standards (in comparison to existing state standards or the NCTM’s Principles and Standards??) would be troublesome, fear not; the CCSSO has done just that with their July 16, 2009 draft of College and Career Readiness Standards for Mathematics.

Making a set relatively fewer is probably the easiest task because a small group (like the one that wrote these standards, composed of Achieve, the College Board, and ACT…notice the exclusion of the NCTM or NEA) focused on statistic validity and reliability and current market forces simply has to identify which standards hold little economic utility or are difficult to measure quantitatively and then toss those out of the existing set.

Clearer and concise standards aren’t difficult to write either, simply get rid of any profession-specific language in existing sets and restrict any latitude of interpretation, which will likely reduce innovation in the educational experiences of our diverse student population.

Fewer, clearer, and concise is easy. Achieving that goal while writing standards that encourage innovation in teaching, celebrate the diversity of the American experience, and maintain the creativity of the education profession is another story (and one that has already been captured within the NCTM’s process standards and principles).

Areas of Concern

If you believe as I do that diversity and innovation are two of the driving forces in our search for responsible solutions to today’s and tomorrow’s problems then a set of national content standards effectively hinders progress. This isn’t a matter of finding consensus among stakeholders or including (or excluding) certain parties. Anointing a set of content standards as national, no matter the process, should result in a more uniform knowledge base across America. This uniform knowledge base will help those primarily concerned with testing, measurement, and comparison among states; however, it should also reduce variations in individual and local perspectives to the detriment of improving society.

The shining star of NCTM’s Standards and Principles are its Process Standards (problem-solving, communication, reasoning and proof, connections, and representations), which the CCSSO calls Mathematical Practices (precision, reasoning, perseverance and sense-making, structure, finding patterns, technology use). Unlike the CCSSO’s document, which gives a paltry two pages to these “practices”, the NCTM devotes a substantial portion of its document to explaining what the “process” standards are and how to develop these capacities in our students. As economic and political winds change the knowledge and skills a citizenry needs should change as well, and in today’s world the forecast is anything but calm. Instead of focusing on content standards, students need to develop process standards, which in essence describe mathematical habits of mind.

Process standards are not as easy to measure on mass scales as content standards, which may be why the CCSSO didn’t stress them; however, teachers focused on the development of processes are much more likely to choose complex and engaging tasks for students in order to hone these mathematical habits of mind. Expecting all American students to have the same knowledge base is extremely short sighted and counterproductive; expecting our students to possess mathematical habits of mind that will allow them to adapt to changing winds is laudable. Obviously, content and skills provide a basis from which these processes will spring, but an educational lens (not a statistical or economic one though) would have a balanced focus on content, richness and complexity of the task, and its authenticity with respect to similar problems in real life.

To their credit, the CCSSO has included “explanatory problems” in their standards; however, these problems elucidate the kinds of thinking ostensibly valued by this group: typical 20th century content standards. In staying true to their focus on statistics and measurability these problems are procedurally focused, lack connections to other strands of mathematical knowledge, and are typically written in a contrived context lacking the complexity and richness of authentic real life challenges.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, July 27, 2009

Digital Story

One of my classmates this summer recently created a great digital story about how some kids envision using technology to help change the world. Check it out.

Academics Blogs - Blog Top Sites

Saturday, July 25, 2009

On my mind...

Digital and media literacy is on my mind this summer...below is an excerpt from an Op-Ed piece I'm working on.

“If we judged students’ ability to interpret and gather information solely based on print media, like books, we’d be doing ourselves—and society—a huge disservice. Oh wait, we already do just that. No Child Left Behind and standardized state curriculums, coupled with frequent assessments, are stuck on a notion of literacy that does not reflect the reality of our time. Schools are accountable to report how well students read, but we’re testing students on print media only. It’s time the accountability movement demands that schools teach and foster responsible student use of new literacy forms.

Redefining literacy standards does not mean throwing away measures to assess whether or not a student comprehends the main idea of a fiction passage or the purpose of a how-to feature article Redefining literacy standards includes an acknowledgment that our students are reading, interpreting, and creating new forms or media that require as much attention as books.”

Academics Blogs - Blog Top Sites

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Google Tips

This is a Google page designed for educators, to help both us and students become more media literate.

Academics Blogs - Blog Top Sites

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Students on Homework

Students on Homework
8th grade students at Shelby East Middle School offer the following advice and opinions about homework.

As if about seven hours a day aren’t enough, we have to go home to more of the same work. Kids need alone time, family time, some mingling time, and just some “do nothing” time. Kids need some time to watch TV. Even though they say TV is bad for you, it helps kids cool down. It helps relax us and takes away our worries and stress.
-Ashlyn Harmon

I’m tired of hearing students being yelled at for not having their homework. That wouldn’t be a problem if teachers would just quit giving homework. All homework does is cause problems. If kids don’t finish work at school it shouldn’t be taken home to finish. I think that school and home should be separated. Kids spend about eight hours at school and they do not need to spend more time on school at home. There is no need for homework. Teachers shouldn’t hesitate to forsake homework in schools.
-Kassidy Ramey

So why do we do homework? Many people will agree that the average homework assignments don’t educate them anymore than the in-school assignments. If people aren’t helped by homework, then why should we have to do it? Many teachers reason is that it keeps the students focused on the subject they’re teaching. But in all reality, many students cannot wait till they’re done with their homework. So it isn’t really focusing on the subject the homework is about, it’s about focusing on getting the homework over with. So, if kids aren’t really focused on the homework when they do it, and if the in-school assignments educate you more, then homework really doesn’t help students.
There are lots of things to do at home, chores, recreational activities, and also spend time with family. If you have a huge report to finish, then how can you make free time at home? Maybe homework is too time-consuming. Even the average homework assignment can take thirty minutes. If one homework assignment is on average thirty minutes of work and if you have homework in four classes, then it takes two hours to do homework! Many kids don’t get off the bus until five o’clock after school. So theoretically, the only free time they have is from seven o’clock until they go to bed. Homework is extremely time-consuming.
-Hunter Jennings

Home is for the students to rest. Going to school seven hours a day, five days a week is really stressful for students. Students diligently do a variety of work in six different classes every single day. They look forward to going home and releasing they’re stress and doing homework will only make the stress worse. Teachers need to acknowledge the fact that students need rest.
School is for books, work, and learning. So why isn’t home for relaxing and cooling down?
-Miranda Douthitt

I do believe that homework is necessary, but not all of the time. And sometimes, it isn’t even given in a way that’s fair. I’ve seen homework given as a punishment. If the students weren’t getting homework from the star, and if the students only got it because they acted up, then we must not have needed it in the first place. Why do we need to be given another load of work if we don’t need it? Homework should not be a punishment, it should be given as a way to stay good in school and be able to learn as much as possible. Despite the fact that students may act up every now and then, it’s not right to give them work as a punishment for that. Homework is not a need, definitely not a want, but it is a privilege. It is not demanded to be given out, so unless the teacher feels that the class does really need the extra work, homework should not be given out. Students have found a solution that they like, and that’s to not give out any more homework. But that won’t work for many people, so homework needs to be given out only when it is needed, not just to give it out. Homework may help every now and then, but daily homework will not help when you are doing the same thing, whether you know how to do it or not. Homework does not need to be given out unless it is needed. That could help people all over the country, less homework to worry about, and more time to worry about other things.
-Tyler Eades

Academics Blogs - Blog Top Sites

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What is happening with NCLB? Is it being dismantled?

Academics Blogs - Blog Top Sites