Sunday, April 22, 2012

WSJ: Getting Rid of Global History

An article came out this week in the Wall Street Journal: State Reviews Its Toughest Test

This bothered me for a number of reasons:

  1. It's ludicrous to get rid of a state exam because it's "hard". I agree with disposing of this standards-era waste of paper, but that's because I think we should trash all of the current state exams. They're extremely poorly written and they undermine good teaching and development of real, core academic skills in students.
  2. The article references a "push" in science and math as the reason we're getting rid of this history test. That implies that emphasizing these subjects has not been happening since Sputnik was launched 55 years ago. Perhaps if the author of this article and state officials had paid attention in their history classes, they would know this.
  3. The Education Commissioner, John King, basically states we should get rid of this test and history courses because "future jobs" will require math and science. This man needs to wake up to the fact that "the future" as he's referring to it started decades ago. Also, no one has ever said that the curriculum in a history course leads directly to a job in the field of history. We agree that it's important because to understand what is happening around you at this moment requires knowledge of the past and to formulate constructive responses to difficult situations in the future we need to understand things like cause and effect as it pertains to human action. Furthermore, learning history is more about critical thinking, and learning to read and write proficiently about real things than it is about rote memorization of facts- something that is lost on the designers of the current Global History Regents exam.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Flooding the Classroom with Technology Accomplished Nothing in Particular

Here's an article from the Economist:

Error Message: A disappointing return from an investment in computing

It happens in Peru too! If you dump a ton of technology or any other resources on classrooms and say, "Go!" not a lot is going to happen. Contrary to the beliefs of some folks, teachers are actually necessary for all of our students to learn- very, very few can plug in and "go".

It's simply a poor investment to buy tons of technology and not follow up with professional development for teachers. In all classrooms where I've seen digital technologies successfully implemented, the teacher has sought out professional development or has been coached on how to best implement the technology.

When my team was given a ton of stuff to use in our classrooms- classroom sets of laptops, SMART Boards, an online learning platform, etc.- we were bumbling around in the dark for quite a while. We gave up on a lot of it and some of it we adopted. The long and the short of it was that had we received professional development beforehand, we probably would have avoided the stuff we eventually ditched and kept the things we saw as useful, which would have saved a lot of taxpayer money in the long run...