Some Recent Articles of Note

August 26, 2008 · Posted in NCLB, Personal, Teaching 2.0 · Comment 

The beginning of each school year–whether it be k-12 or post-secondary, since my teaching activities touch both worlds–is always a reflective time for me. I think about what I can do to improve my own instruction and, hopefully, the ability of my post-secondary students to expand and improve their instructional activities in preparation for their careers. But mostly, I think about the nature of the K-12 world for which we are preparing our students. What kinds of problems will they encounter, and how might they respond.

In that light, here are a few recent articles that are worth a look by K-12 educators and those who are responsible for preparing them to teach.

One Teacher’s Cry: Why I Hate No Child Left Behind
How much control do K-12 teachers have over their curriculum? Does a “one size fits all” approach to teaching work for everyone? What will current students remember about their schooling 10 years from now?

Remember ‘Go Outside and Play?’
As an adult who very fondly remembers leaving my front door each morning, finding a couple of friends, ending up at someone’s house for lunch, going back outside and returning for dinner, I appreciate this article’s emphasis on the importance of independent, unsupervised play and exploration. There are many lessons for school experience embedded here.

A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash
How can a teacher who believes in the power of science to explain natural phenomena teach evolution to students who refuse to accept one of its basic tenets? A fascinating, in depth article about a teacher who truly cares about science education, and a cautionary tale for most teachers entering the profession.

12 New Rules of Working You Should Embrace Today
While this article is focused on the business world, there is much food for thought for K-12 and post-secondary educators–particularly in the areas of online collaboration and applications. Schools exist in a social context that is rapidly changing to adapt to new methods of communication and productivity. How should schools educate their students for this evolving context?

Beloit College Mindset List
It’s always a good idea to get a demographic handle on the students you are working with. Beloit’s annual Mindset List is an amusing but thoughtful glimpse at the realities of our students’ lives. Definitely worth a bookmark.

The New Sputnik

October 5, 2007 · Posted in NCLB, OLPC · Comment 

I suspect many readers of this blog are not old enough to remember Sputnik (1957) and the massive changes that it brought to math and science education in our nation’s K-12 and post-secondary schools. But we are all beneficiaries of those changes. After Sputnik, the United States embarked on an extended emphasis on math and science that produced the technology that we use today, from computers to cell phones to GPS to the Internet. Sputnik was the wake-up call that jolted us out of our complacency and forced us to make some important changes to the way we educated our children.

In 50 Years Later, A New ‘Sputnik’ Crisis: The War of Minds, James Goodnight makes a very strong case for the need for a “new” Sputnik. The threat that concerns Goodnight–and most educators–isn’t as immediate or as obvious as Sputnik, but it’s potentially more pernicious. It’s the war for the minds of our children and the pressing need to use technology to reform education. Many countries that have invested significantly in education–China, India, Korea are cited–are producing more engineers and scientists than we are. Our students use a staggering array of technology, but very little of it gets used in school for learning activities. Where are the next technological innovations coming from–from a country of kids with iPods and cell phones or a country with advanced educational practices aided by technology?

And speaking of using technology in education, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative seems to be nearing fruition after three years of fits and starts. For those of you unfamiliar with OLPC, it’s an effort to design a rugged, self-powered wireless laptop that can be produced in massive quantities and used by poor children in developing and third world countries so that they can gain an educational advantage. David Pogue, technology reviewer for the New York Times, has an excellent review of the XO laptop in an article called Laptop With a Mission Widens Its Audience. The article includes a nice video that demonstrates the major features of the laptop, some of which are not available on any existing laptop. I love the networking features, for example.

Would you like to get your hands on one of the XO laptops? As it turns out, you can. OLPC is making the laptops available for purchase in the United States for two weeks only on November 12. For $399, you can buy one for yourself and donate one to a child in a developing country. You get a laptop, a tax deduction, and the ability to help a child in the third world. Pretty nice Christmas present…