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Posts tagged ‘21st century skills’

MACE 2011 – Social Studies for the 21st Century

The MACE Spring Conference is here! The MACE Spring Conference is here!

I love this time of year – MACE always does such a great job. Great food, great resources, great learning, great people. This year Jerry Butler, Jake Fisher, Jaime Hendricks and I are here in Manhattan having a great time.

I will be posting some stuff later this evening outlining some of the sessions I had the chance to see. I’m especially excited about Curtis Chandler’s session on gaming in the classroom. Curtis is the current Kansas Teacher of the Year and he’s huge into gaming.

My session this year is on appropriate 21st century tools for teaching social studies. The Slideshare preso is embedded below but since I’ve got just 45 minutes, I’ll focus on just a couple tools. You can also go to the session web site to get all the goodies.

The session is just an opportunity to discuss ways to engage 21st century learners. At it’s most basic level, we need to train our kids to structure their time around four basic 21st century skils:

  • Collect
  • Collaborate
  • Create
  • Communicate

A few of the tools I’ll be talking about:

My favorite? DocsTeach. Three thousand National Archives primary sources, teaching resources, great tools to create your own lessons and the chance to build an online portfolio of your favorite stuff.

But there are tons of cool things out there that we can use to engage kids in messing with social studies content in 21st century ways. Your task for the day?

Pick one and come up with ways to use it with your kids. And don’t think that I won’t be checking on you!

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One more reason to check internet sources – inaccurate history books

Digital literacy.

Twenty-first century skills.

Media smarts.

My teenage son says

ya gotta be good on the tubes.

Different vocabulary but they have the same meaning – all of us need the ability to navigate the online world of multimedia. A recent textbook brouhaha in Virginia highlights how important these skills can be.

Joy Masoff, author of books such as Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty and Oh, Yikes! History’s Grossest Moments, wrote a fourth-grade history textbook for the state of Virginia. The book titled, Our Virgina: Past and Present,  included a paragraph claiming that thousands of African American slaves fought on the side of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. A review committee made up of three elementary teachers and no content specialist approved the book for state-wide adoption.

Apparently no one involved noticed the passage until the parent of a fourth-grader, moonlighting as an historian at the College of William and Mary, came across the reference while browsing through the text.

A Virgina Department of Education spokesperson called the passage

outside mainstream Civil War scholarship.

When questioned by reporters, Masoff and her publisher provided three web links which Massof used as her source for the passage.

The problem?

All three links cite work done by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The SCV is based in Columbia, Tennessee and disputes the widely accepted view that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War. The group’s web site claims that Confederate soldiers took up arms to protect their homes “from an illegal invasion” and argues that the war was fought

to preserve their homes and livelihood.

According to the Washington Post, John Sawyer, chief of staff of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Army of Northern Virginia, is happy that a state textbook accepted some of its views. Respected historians disagree with these revisionist views:

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson of Princeton University said, “These Confederate heritage groups have been making this claim for years as a way of purging their cause of its association with slavery.”

The whole thing seems a bit like some sort of Comedy Central episode. We’ve got a history textbook written by someone who’s not an historian, an author who didn’t evaluate her online sources, a publisher who didn’t provide adequate oversight and a department of education that created a flawed textbook review system.

But in the end, it comes down to an author who failed to practice what we should be teaching – quality research and evaluation skills. Masoff told the Post that she was “unaware that a number of her sources were members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.” Whether unintentionally or otherwise, Masoff didn’t do her job. She included information in a history textbook from a source that she failed to evaluate. And the parent who first caught the error knows how big a deal this is:

It’s disconcerting that the next generation is being taught history based on an unfounded claim instead of accepted scholarship. It concerns me not just as a professional historian but as a parent.

So . . . lessons learned?

Think twice about selecting a history textbook whose author also writes encyclopedias about everything nasty. And we need to continue to teach ourselves and our students about how “to be good on the tubes.”

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10 Tips for jump starting the school year

Several months ago, I had the chance to listen to and meet Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss at the Laptop Leaders Academy at Mitchell, SD. They are doing some incredibly cool stuff with PBL around the country and so I’ve been following their blog these last few months.

A recent post at Reinventing Project-Based Learning was a link to an Edutopia PDF document that can “jump starting” the beginning of the school year. It’s got ten tips and useful resources to help you integrate technology into your instruction.

Useful stuff! Find it here.

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Tip of the Week – Twitter template and Tweet summaries

I haven’t decided quite yet whether this is sacrilegious or not. But a guy named Chris Juby has decided to use Twitter to summarize the entire Bible, one chapter at a time.

We’ve talked in the past about using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter as instructional tools. But it’s always been a way to simulate or recreate the actions of thinking of historical people and this Bible thing has got me thinking a bit.

When asked about the project, Chris said

It’s a really tough process deciding what the key themes of each chapter are and what can be left out.

Many kids have trouble with summarizing, trying to do exactly what Chris is doing with Twitter – trying to figure out what is really important.

What if you used the Twitter concept to help kids summarize text? It’s a idea that they understand, with many of them already using the tool or texting via cell phones.

And while Twitter is probably blocked in most of your schools, it’s not tough to create some sort of usable blank template based on the Twitter page. In an earlier post, I posted directions on how to create a Facebook template. Follow those instructions to make one yourself or you can simply download a PDF version of a blank Twitter template that I quickly put together.

Have kids read the text, watch the video or listen to the lecture. Have them stop at appropriate times in the text or during the video and, using the template, ask them to create a “tweet” of the most important themes or ideas presented in that section of content. (But have them leave the big empty space at the top blank for now.)

Students can “publish” their tweets by having a partner read what they wrote. Encourage conversation and comparison between partners about what each wrote. Repeat the process until the content has been completed delivered.

I would then have partners exchange their Twitter “pages” one last time. Students should create a question for each of the tweets created by their partner. This will provide a quick way for students to review the information – having both a simple summary and a question that can help trigger additional information.

An example might be a tweet that I created stating

Gettysburg is big 3-day battle in PA, July 1863. 20th Maine holds, Pickett’s Charge fails, north survives Confederate invasion

My partner would create a question in the margin along the lines of

Why was the Battle of Gettysburg so important?

The final step would for each student to go to the top of their Twitter template (the space that they left blank earlier) and create a tweet that summarizes all of their previous tweets. All of these activities will help students create, store and recall tons of information.

And while we know this is just another form of a graphic organizer, your students will see just the Twitter connection and dive right in.

Have fun!

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Open Content – Why are we here?

During a Skype presentation back in January, Marco Torres asked some interesting questions.

He had K-12 teachers describe their curriculum and then asked:

If I can Google everything you just said, what value are you adding to the learning that takes place in your classroom?

He continued on that theme:

Never ask a question a kid can look up – simply knowing the answer is just not enough anymore.

I just finished listening to an interesting presentation at BbWorld 2010 by author and speaker Anya Kamenetz. (She also has an interesting blog.) She talked about the research and ideas from her recent book, DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education.

Anya spent her time this morning talking about how higher education needs a “radical revolution” because of cost, access and quality issues. She suggests that higher ed, while not becoming an “iPod app,” needs to be much more open source in terms of content, socialization and accreditation.

Most of what she says makes some sense. Fewer and fewer students are actually graduating from college, it’s taking people longer to graduate and those who do are piling up amazing amounts of debt. And while the traditional college track is probably not going away, (and in my opinion, probably shouldn’t) we need additional paths for preparing people for the 21st century.

Anya went on to mention a variety of examples of how this new model of open source higher ed, DIY U, might look. I especially liked her examples of open content sources:

I would add sites like Shmoop to the list.

And while Anya focuses on higher ed, her observations mesh with the K-12 track that Marco Torres talks about.

Marco would agree that there is tons of content available online. Kids can access that content. But I think Marco adds a bit that Anya ignored.

Content without some sort of quality instruction and direction isn’t worth much. Marco’s point is that many K-12 (and I would add, higher ed) teachers focus just on content and not quality instruction. Colleges of ed across the country have created a huge group of K-12 teachers who believe that quality instruction is the same as delivering content.

But in today’s world, content delivery is not enough – whether kids get it face-to-face in the classroom or online. We as teachers, K-20, need to be more concerned about what our students do with that content.

So while Anya is correct in saying that how content is accessed is changing, I like how Marco is pushing us to be aware of the importance of what good teachers should be doing with that content, no matter the source.

That’s why we’re here.

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Bribes for learning

I admit it.

I bribed my kid.

When nothing else seemed to work, we used a variety of stickers (mostly Thomas the Tank Engine) to encourage our two year old during potty training. And while we didn’t do a lot of scientifically-based research, it seemed to have a positive effect.

Giving kids stuff to modify their behavior is a time-honored parenting tool that’s been around forever. Schools have used similar techniques in the past but as the educational stakes have gotten higher, the “stuff” used to modify behavior has changed to include actual cash. A recent Time magazine article documents the trend:

In recent years, hundreds of schools have made these transactions more businesslike, experimenting with paying kids with cold, hard cash for showing up or getting good grades or, in at least one case, going another day without getting pregnant.

The question is does it really work? And, more specifically, can similar strategies be used to encourage long-term learning?

The Time article highlights the work of Harvard economist Roland Fryer Jr. who distributed 6.3 million dollars of private funds to thousands of students in Washington, D.C., Dallas, New York and Chicago.

The results?

Like any large educational research project, the results are mixed. You can read for yourself but in one city,

the experiment had no effect at all — “as zero as zero gets.”

In another,

something remarkable happened . . . Statistically speaking, it was as if those kids had spent three extra months in school, compared with their peers who did not get paid.

Robert Marzano’s research on what works in schools discusses the concept of rewards.  At Building Better Instruction:

It is equally important to reward students for achieving specific goals. Though there are many ways to tell a student he or she has done well, recognition is most effective when it is abstract (e.g., praise) or symbolic (e.g., tokens such as coupons or stickers) and contingent on students’ attaining specific performance goals. (see Classroom Instruction That Works, pp. 73−74, for a list). 

So we have some newer Fryer research partly supporting older Marzano research. The problem some are having is that cash is not “abstract” or “symbolic.” Larry Ferlazzo of Websites for the Day is concerned about using cash rewards for certain types of learning:

As Daniel Pink and others have described and demonstrated much more ably than I can do here (see A Few Reflections On Daniel Pink’s New Book, “Drive”; On Rewards & Classroom Management; and New Study Shows That Paying Students For Higher Test Scores Doesn’t Work) extrinsic rewards do work — for mechanical work that doesn’t require much higher-order thinking. But it doesn’t work for anything that requires higher-order thinking skills and creativity. And, in fact, these incentives reduce intrinsic motivation over the long-term.

Claus von Zastrow who writes for Public School Insights agrees, remarked that Fryer’s team noted that students getting cash for scores naturally grasped at test-taking strategies rather than, say, better study skills or deeper engagement in class materials:

Students [who were asked what they could do to earn more money on the next test] started thinking about test-taking strategies rather than salient inputs into the education production function or improving their general understanding of a subject area…. Not a single student mentioned reading the textbook, studying harder, completing their homework, or asking teachers or other adults about confusing topics.

For me, it comes down to this. When all we worry about is test scores, about the short term, about meeting AYP, about meeting NVLB reqs, it seems as if paying kids for performance might be part of the answer. And I know that every school and situation is different and short term solutions may be what’s needed in some areas.

But if we want to kids to think critically, to apply content in creative ways and to be true 21st century learners, I’m still not convinced.

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