Saturday, April 28, 2007

Embrace School 2.0

Wesley Fryer says…

“Schools need to focus on preparing students for life, not just for academic tests conducted under artificial conditions that bear little resemblance to the real world outside academia. In line with this idea, rather than banning iPods, cell phones, laptops, and other types of technologies schools need to embrace them and find ways to adopt new assessments which can be taken by students with ‘open notes.”

I agree, after all, Confucius said, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” Open notes supplies an unsurpassed intellectual understanding that mimics real life learning. The concept is practical and moves beyond standardized tests, which bear little if any resemblance to real world circumstances.

Wesley continues…

“The most challenging assessments and tests I took in graduate school classes were “open note.” The reason they were so challenging is they required thinking and analysis that went far beyond the knowledge and comprehension level. Many schools are fighting against digital culture in banning cell phones and iPods because they remain rooted in 19th century paradigms of education and assessment.”

Once again I agree with Wes. Dewey said, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterdays, we rob them of tomorrow.” The agricultural and industrial ages are behind us. We are currently living in the age of technology and in this age there’s a great disconnect between reality and sound pedagogical practice due to an old school mentality. This mentality comes from an unwillingness to accept and embrace change to promote sound educational practice.

More from Wesley…

“Rather than adopting policies about technologies that are banned, school districts would be better advised to have their teachers craft new assessments. Our goal should not be, “How can we maintain our instructional and assessment paradigms from the 19th century today in our 21st century digital culture?” but rather “How can we craft authentic assessments our students cannot fake and they can take with open notes?” Open notes should include “open devices” like cell phones and iPods.”

Personally, I’m not ready to throw all of the previous methods of teaching out the window, but I am ready to embrace these new technologies and welcome them as additional methods of instruction. We should be looking for ways craft and integrate authentic assessments in our schools that students cannot fake in combination with teaching strategies that work.

Wesley goes on…

“The problem with this proposal is that it is very challenging to write and use authentic assessments. It is much easier to test at the knowledge and comprehension level, and that is why we see so many teachers doing it. When you want to have statistical reliability and validity with an assessment, it becomes much more difficult to assess higher order thinking skills with ‘messy assessments’ that include rubrics and subjective analysis. NCLB also encourages this simplified look at assessment, encouraging school districts, administrators and teachers around the United States to focus almost exclusively on multiple-choice, black and white forms of assessment that can be graded via a scantron.”

Wow! And I thought NCLB was the cure-all for all of the ills affecting K12 education. I am being satirical about NCLB. Although, the intentions of the bill make some sense, it was very poorly constructed and in my opinion seeks to punish schools for the ills of society. Moreover, it does little to help students succeed after they leave the K12 setting and influences schools to teach the test. If life were about bubbling in circles and memorizing facts, then NCLB would be a great bill. Unfortunately, life is more subjective. It’s about using higher order thinking skills to make the best decision based on a vast amount of available information.

Wesley drives his point home by asking the following…

“Why should students have to memorize formulas? Let’s take on an example from mathematics. How many times have you had to use the quadratic formula in “real life” outside of school? If you have, were you prohibited by someone from being able to look up the formula?
Do you think oral communication skills are important in life? If you do (and you should) then why do some schools hardly emphasize assessments which include oral communication? Again, the reason is that many schools are still focused on maintaining their 19th century pedagogic culture rather than preparing students for real life.

Let’s put an end to useless memorization and tradition in schools, and instead ask students to actually apply and use the knowledge and skills they are supposed to be learning in real contexts. That is what we do out here in the business world. It’s time schools stopped acting like the calendar still reads 1899.”

Excellent questions! What Wesley says makes a lot of sense. I don’t believe that we have to dismiss all previous teaching methods, but we should only include methods that are reliable and work. Think about the calculator. Many math teachers were reluctant to integrate the calculator into their classrooms. The old mentality was that students can cheat and won’t learn basic math skills if they use calculators. Are basic math skills important? Sure basic math skills are extremely important. We should continue to teach basic math skill in the lower grades. Students should know how to add, subtract, multiply. This is 19th century teaching that we need to continue to utilize.

In contrast, as students move up through the grades they need to be allowed to utilize calculators, iPods, laptops, and other technologies to prepare them for the real world. How many engineers do you know that perform their job without the aid of calculators, laptops, and other technologies? Let’s put an end to meaningless rote memorization and archaic teaching methods that bore students and increase the dropout rate. Hence, let’s move forward and embrace School 2.0. After all, it is 2007!

Thanks for the great post Wesley!


William Bishop (Bill)

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