Wednesday, September 12, 2012

All kids are born geniuses.

Check out this short interview with Michio Kaku about how schools and standardized testing destroy the natural curiosity towards science that we are all born with. As the father of two blossoming scientists I care a lot about this.

"When we hit the danger years. The danger years of junior high school and high school. That's when it's (scientific curiosity) literally crushed out of us. 'Every little flower of curiosity' said Einstein, 'is crushed by society itself'."

Watch it all.

We need to reverse this trend! Let students DO science and not just rigged labs that the teacher knows the results. Let students apply scientific method to problems they care about and attempt solutions.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What to Obsess Over

I stole this title and post from Seth Godin's blog today. He writes about businesses focusing on direct marketing techniques instead of customer satisfaction. Here is an excerpt that I have edited for schools:

"I think for most businesses schools that want to grow improve, it's way too soon to act like a direct marketer politician/edu-reformer and pick a single number (standardized test score) to obsess about.
The reason is that these numbers demand lead to that you start tweaking cheating. You can tweak cheat a website test or tweak cheat an accounts payable policy students by test prep and make numbers go up, which is great, but it's not going to fundamentally change your business school.
I'd have you obsess about things that are a lot more difficult to measure. Things like the level of joy or relief or gratitude your best customers students feel. How much risk your team is willing to take with new product launches projects to personalize instruction. How many people parents recommended you to a friend today...
What are you tracking?"

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I hate standardized testing, so why am I choosing to start the year with a test on the standards?

I want to share our first "project" in American Studies and the philosophy behind it. First of all, it will not really be a project at all. When the students and I started looking at the standards for this year we noticed that there was a ton of overlap with last year's standards for Global Studies. In particular both classes include WWI, WWII, and the Cold War. The standards do have a bit more of a domestic focus but some of them are practically identical. These standards are also a big chunk (approximately 25%) of the "power" standards for this year.
by cobalt123

I felt like my students did a very nice job with WWI and WWII last year and have a good understanding of these events. Their level on the Cold War was not quite as deep though. So we decided to start the year by reviewing WWI, WWII, and how WWII led to the origins to the Cold War. We will return to the rest of the Cold War later this year. We will spend only two weeks on this and end with a test. Of course the test will be like last year's test: open internet and collaborative.

Why are we doing this? Quite simply I hate standardization but I am forced to teach the state standards. So to paraphrase a story told to me by a colleague about a conversation he had with Dennis Littky of Big Picture school. At their school students are encouraged to study their passions. My friend asked him how they deal with standards. Dennis told him, "You do what you have to do." So they cram all of the standards in at the beginning with students knowing that they are working hard so that they will have space in the year to explore their passions later. So that is my motivation here.

We are going to knock out a big chunk of standards at the beginning in order to create space later in the year for students to dig deep into their individual (or group) passions related to being an American citizen. Since this is our second year together I already know what those interests are for most of the students. So this is why I have a vague idea of how this year will end but am extremely excited because I expect my students to decide to do some amazing work to make our world a better place.