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Posts from the ‘school reform’ Category

What’s your social studies ROI?

ROI was never something I had to worry about back in the day. If I made to 3:30 with nothing getting set on fire and all 135 middle schoolers accounted for, I checked it off as a major success.

Return on Investment? ROI? I’m not even sure the term had been invented yet. And if it had, I would have had no idea what it meant and how the idea might apply to my classroom.

For anyone without the MBA degree, ROI is a basic business concept that measures the efficiency of an investment of time and/or money. The higher the ROI, the more efficient the investment. Spend $10 on lemons, sugar, and the time to craft a cardboard sign. Make $60 selling lemonade. The ROI is $50. Nice job.

Spend $10. Make $5. ROI is negative $5. Time to go back and rethink your business model.

And back in the day, ROI would not have been something that educators would have worried about. The business model of school was different. Kids showed up. Kids sat in rows. Teacher talked. Kids copied down what the teacher said. Kids memorized what they wrote down. On Friday, teacher asked students to write down what they memorized. Teacher assigned a grade. Repeat.

The world of school is different now. We’re not following the traditional model of kids in rows and teacher centered instruction. (At least we shouldn’t be.) And ROI needs to be a part of this new world.

Before you all jump in with Read more

Learning is the end in mind, not fun

Every year, back in my Derby Middle School teaching days, we did Kansas Day. A big Kansas Day. As in . . . invite the newspaper, Board of Education, and parents kind of Kansas Day. I was the social studies guy on a teaching team and my goal was to find a way to integrate my social studies activities with math, language arts, science, and reading.

And a big Kansas Day fit the bill.

We organized all sorts of activities and projects for the day that students rotated through. Kids weaved wheat into hearts and shapes. They punched tin for pioneer lanterns. Sewed quilt pieces. Played frontier games. We had a blacksmith set up shop who demonstrated how to make horseshoes. A storyteller came and entertained.

It was always such a great day. Parents loved it. Made our principal look good when he talked with the newspaper guy. Kids were up and moving around.

It worked out so well that I started doing more projects and activities. I had kids use potatoes and paint to make African Ashanti cloth. We played Oregon Trail. Kids simulated the Constitutional Convention. You get the idea.

I was Project Man.

Because projects are good, right? My job was to engage kids. Have fun. Hook kids into liking social studies? Read more

iPads are the problem, not the solution

At the recent EdTechTeacher iPad Summit held in Atlanta, Greg Kulowiec asked a simple question:

Is the iPad a solution or problem?

It’s a great question. There are tons of people jumping on the iPad bandwagon and I’ve suggested before that many of them are hopping on with their eyes closed. It’s a shiny tool that attracts a lot of attention. But is all of the attention a good thing? Greg says maybe not: Read more

So what’s my job?

An assessment researcher said once that

The role of the learner is not to passively receive information, but to actively participate in the construction of new meaning.

B. L. Shapiro, 1994

I would not disagree with that at all. In fact, much of the recent buzz in the K-12 social studies education movement has focused on the idea that kids need to be doing more and sitting less.

Thinking more. Analyzing more. Evaluating more. Creating more.

But if the role of social studies students is to actively participate in the construction of new knowledge, it sort of raises another question, doesn’t it?

What’s my job?

Complete the following sentence:

The role of the teacher is not to _________ but to __________.

It’s not just jeans. It’s how we teach.

There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to say goodbye.

It’s never easy. We try to be brave but it’s hard. Knowing we’ll never be together again can be rough.

Guys. You know what I’m talking about. The day you have to throw away the t-shirt you won in that 1992 softball championship. Maybe it’s that awesome hoodie you got back when you and your buddies used to go skiing every year. Or it’s your favorite pair of jeans.

That’s me today. I’ve had these jeans for maybe ten years. Comfortable. Broken in. They have been the go to pair of pants for a decade. But at this point, even I have to admit perhaps they’re just a little too broken in.

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Social studies in the age of Siri

Twenty years ago if I had asked a kid who the 16th president was, I would have likely gotten a blank stare and a shrug of the shoulders. Ditto with stuff like the capital of Idaho, when the 14th Amendment was passed, and where the Treaty of Versailles was signed.

The shrugging of shoulders was mostly my fault. I taught in a very traditional style, with my focus on basic content. This method encouraged the memorization of a few facts just long enough to pass the unit test.

I didn’t know any better – it was the way I was taught and it was the way I was taught to teach. In that sort of classroom, long term retention and actual application of knowledge just weren’t going to happen.

We know better now.

Realistic problems. Collaboration. Analyzing evidence. Creation of authentic products. Integration of fiction and non-fiction. Use of technology. Formative assessment.

This is 21st century social studies.

Read more