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Posts from the ‘school reform’ Category

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.

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A warning from a high school teacher

The Washington Post recently reprinted an article by Kenneth Bernstein, an award-winning high school teacher who just retired who writes to warn college professors what they are up against. Bernstein, who lives near Washington, D.C. serves as a peer reviewer for educational journals and publishers, and he is nationally known as the blogger “teacherken.” The article first appeared in Academe, the journal of the American Association of University Professors.

I won’t put the entire article here – the Washington Post needs your business – but I love what Ken has to say so you’re getting a few excerpts:

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