Archive for March 2006

Revamping Education for the 21st Century

March 31, 2006

eSchool News has an excellent article in its latest edition. The focus of the article is to discuss the theme of the 2005-2006 FETC conference which according to the article is to bring attention to the changes that must take place in the current educational system to produce students who can compete in the global economy.

Some of my favorite quotes from the article are…

“Bubbling in on a test sheet…is insufficient,” [Rudy] Crew said, adding that nations in Europe and Asia are “eating our lunch” because they connect the experience of students in the classroom to the outside world.

Chris Dede said, “Preparing kids to be effective leaders, employees, and entrepreneurs is really crucial,” he said. “In these other countries, the business community is often the champion for helping the public, key stakeholders, [and] parents see that it’s important to move beyond the kinds of skills that made kids successful in industrial workplaces to 21st-century skills that focus on a higher order of knowledge.”

“Instead of focusing on broad, shallow factual knowledge, we need to prepare kids with deep-thinking skills, with the ability to be flexible and creative, with a love of learning that will sustain them as we move through all these periods of social change,” he [Chris Dede] said.

“Telling is not necessarily teaching; teaching is rather the art and science of getting students to interact with information in order to form knowledge,” said Goldberg [director of technology at Abington Senior High School in Pennsylvania] in his winning essay. “This is a true paradigm shift in learning that is enabled by new technologies, and is part of true school reform.”

So, how do we go about answering the following questions posed by the eSchool writers? “How can educators keep up with the “digital natives,” today’s generation of youth who were raised in a world of information technology and to whom it therefore comes naturally? And, perhaps more importantly, how can educators prepare all students for the challenges of an increasingly global workforce and society, regardless of their socio-economic background or abilities?”

I would love to hear your thoughts on the issue…

Revisiting Ruby Payne

March 31, 2006

The Team Leader group at The Academy is participating in a book study this six weeks centering on Ruby Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty.

I have read the book before and liked it, but I think I am enjoying it more this go around. For one reason, we are reading an updated edition that has been written and edited a little better than the original version, but also because I have a larger frame of reference this time. By this I mean, I have been teaching longer and have come in contact with more of the “types” of students Dr. Payne discusses in her book.

When I graduate from Irving High School in 1992, Irving ISD had just begun the shift from majority of Caucasian middle-income families to minority, middle to low-income families. Now the district is under 20% Caucasian and approximately 68% of students are on free or reduced lunch. The problem is that many of the teachers and administrators in the district have not adapted to the change. It sometimes seems that many of them expect students to perform at the same level, with the same curriculum and in the same way as students in previous years. Yet, this approach does not always (in fact, rarely) seem to work.

Our demographics have changed and so should our understanding of the students. Maybe reading and discussing Ruby Payne’s research will help. I hope so.

As our book study progresses, I will continue to add information about our discussions and what I am learning.

Authentic “Messy” Learning

March 28, 2006

Wesley Fryer raises some interesting questions in his post Messy Learning and Public Education. I planned on writing in response to his article, but for once, I can’t seem to find much to say…

Those of you who know me or have read my previous TAKS rants (rant 1 and rant 2), can probably guess that I agree with Wesley’s comments. You are right. I do. What else can I say? Other than, if you don’t have an opinion on NCLB or standardized testing, you need to form one and speak your mind; otherwise, we will never move forward in education. Luckily, we live in a country where freedom of speech is allowed. Make sure your voice is heard.

There is some commentary on NCLB at NPR you might want to give a listen as well. 🙂

Immigration Laws Hit Close to Home

March 28, 2006

I was at an ITS meeting today when I began to receive e-mails about students walking out of school in protest. I was at the administration building instead of my campus, so I felt severely out of the loop. After e-mailing some teachers on campus, I finally began to piece the story together.

Apparently the students walked out in protest of the immigration bills being proposed in the Senate. The immigration bills are a “big deal” in Irving ISD because we have such a racially and ethnically diverse population. From what I pieced together it sounds like anywhere from 200-400 of our students walked out. As they walked past the other high schools in the district, the numbers of students involved in the protest increased. The students met at one of the DART stations and proceeded to Dallas City Hall where they met up with students from surrounding school districts.

From what I have read the students protested in a peaceful manner (even though a few students were injured in accidents).

So, how do I feel about the students walking out of school in protest? Honestly, I am not sure. I have been thinking about it, and I have mixed feelings. I am proud of the students who are informed about the topic and made a conscious decision to walk out in peaceful protest in support of their beliefs. Certainly, I think a wiser decision would have been for them to have stayed in class and protested on the weekend (but would they have had the same crowd and media coverage…).

I am disappointed in the students who blindly followed with no real purpose other than to hang out with their friends and/or miss class (and I am afraid there were quite a few of these students in the crowd). If nothing else, I hope they are now more educated on the issue so they can make an informed decision.

There has been much discussion in the media as to what consequences the students who chose to participate will receive. I can’t answer for the other school districts or campuses, but our students will receive the following consequences: an unexcused absence, a zero on all classwork for the day and juniors and seniors will lose the privilege of being exempt from semester exams.

In reality, I doubt the student protest will make much of a difference in regards to the Senate bills, but I hope it makes a difference on our campus. I hope the teachers take the opportunity to educate themselves and the students about this issue because no real change of any kind will take place without education and informed decision making.

Detour… Just Indulge Me

March 26, 2006

When I began this blog my intention was to keep it professional and to discuss technology and education, but I have decided to go ahead and post some exciting personal news too…

Yesterday morning Kyle asked me to marry him, so I am officially engaged. And, if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, we also made an offer on a house. 🙂

With that being said, I could use some help. I know NOTHING about wedding planning, so if any of you know some inexpensive places to get married and have a reception in the DFW area, I would love your input.

Fun On-Line Educational Games

March 24, 2006

I have come across some fun on-line learning games recently and thought I would share.

Typer Shark – I may be too easily amused, but this game is really fun! If you need to improve your typing skills give it a shot. (Apparently it is blocked at my school… one more thing I need to get unblocked… GRRR).

Winward – Weather, water currents and sailing are the focus of this interactive game. In the same vein as the Choose Your Own Adventure books, your outcome is based upon the choices you make.

Exploring Space – Learn about space in this simulation of an astronaut’s mission.

Funbrain – This site has lots of Flash games for reading and math. The games are geared more towards elementary students.

Secrets at Sea – Play detective in this interactive mystery as you learn about the sea and it’s inhabitants.

History Games from the BBC – Quite a few interactive history games from the BBC… take a look.

Have fun!

TAKS Results

March 22, 2006

Yesterday I had the “fun” job of sending three of my PACE (advisory/homeroom) students to our Assistant Principal to get their latest TAKS results. I spent the remainder of the period consoling them and trying to raise their spirits. You see, if they don’t pass all four sections of the TAKS, they don’t graduate. Two of the young men still need to pass the math section and one young man needs to pass science.

I can’t even describe how heart-wrenching it was for me to have this 18 year old, 6 foot tall, ‘B” average student sobbing because he is afraid he won’t graduate and is going to let his family down. I tried to play the role of the “good” teacher and advisor. “Don’t give up. You still have one more chance to pass it, and I think you can do it.” But he is defeated. He no longer believes he can pass it.

He is a gifted student. He is good at writing, at rhyme, at making people laugh and feel good about themselves. But he is bad at math. He has persevered through thirteen years of school, but he can’t pass one math test so the state of Texas says he can’t graduate. The absurdity of this astounds me.

I have been carrying this scenario from yesterday around in my mind, and today I came across this quote in the article “Don’t Fear the Digital” published in Time magazine.

Steven Johnson writes

“I believe this dramatic spike in digital participation is, for the most part, sharpening the minds of Generation M, not dumbing them down. But it’s hard to see that improvement without the right yardstick. The skills they’re developing are not trivial. They’re learning to analyze complex systems with many interacting variables, to master new interfaces, to find and validate information in vast databases, to build and maintain extensive social networks crossing both virtual and real-world environments, to adapt existing technology to new uses. And they’re learning all this in their spare time–for fun!

Now ask yourself this question: In the offices of the future, which skill set will today’s kids draw upon in their day-to-day tasks? Mastering interfaces, searching for information, maintaining virtual social networks and multitasking? Or doing algebra? I think the answer is obvious. It’s a good bet that 99% of kids will never use algebra again after they graduate from high school. And yet thanks to the testing establishment, we know a staggering amount about the algebraic skills of today’s teenagers but next to nothing about the skills they’re actually going to use.”

I was so excited to hear my thoughts voiced by someone in the media. If we can just get more people to see the relevance of technology and the irrationality of the “hyper-testing” craze occurring in education, maybe we can make a difference.