Monday, June 14, 2010

Are schools changing appropriately?

Schools should be changing but are they? Check out this article,8816,1568480,00.html

Before July 8, comment on this article.  Also, read comments from other scholars and comment on their comments if you wish. 

Please include your name in the comment.  Thank You


  1. I really enjoyed reading this article. Educators should steer away from the routine of teaching from the text book and focus on teaching to the students learning styles. Educators should have more training in technology and step by step ways to include it into the curriculum. Most of the things I learned, concerning technology, was learned in my graduate program.I believe schools should provide more staff development in this area so educators can have the tools they need to meet the needs of our students.

  2. The illustration about Rip van Winkle was very striking to me (though with the recent rapid adoption of classroom technology, I don't think it would be quite as true now as it was when the article was written). Certainly the way many teachers teach hasn't changed much in the last 20 years.

    I found the different examples of how schools were implementing these principles to be very interesting. One thing that hit me as I reflected on this article is that, in developing their curricula, these different schools are using the same 21st century skills that they desire their students to use. When teachers and administrators are given the license to become more creative and innovative in their curriculum design, great things like this will become more prevalent.

    Another thing that hit me was the fact that these teaching techniques had some positive effect on test scores, but not an overwhelming result. What does this say about our standardized tests? I'm not saying that we need to abolish them, but how much of what we teachers do is geared toward 'preparing them for the test' rather than 'this is sound pedagogy'?

    I agree with what Kendra said about staff development. While I think schools have to provide opportunities for professional development, I don't think it should only be up to the schools to provide it. If we want to foster these 21st century skills in our students, then it is up to teachers to be the 'head learners' in the class and to be responsible for their own professional development. Developing a professional learning network (PLN) is an important way for teachers to practice their interpersonal, collaborative, and critical thinking skills. Since I began developing a PLN, my knowledge has increased way more than it would have if I had simply taken classes or have been offered professional development by my school.

  3. I like how this article starts with comparing what Rip Van Winkle would notice if he woke up. We are so used to the way things are now in our society that we don’t even notice how different it is these days. Kids do have to prepare for a totally different world than I did, and there are a lot of new skills needed for a lot of new professions. Technology is at the base of almost everything now, and students need to know how to use it. They also need to know how to interact with and understand other cultures and languages. I was just happy to be able to read and write in English enough to get by. The difficult part for kids is being able to take in all of the information they are receiving and to process it to determine what is useful and not useful to them. Then they need to know how to use it in their life. Teachers now need to be taught how to teach kids how to live in the now and the future. Schools need to jump on board with the need for a globally educated child in order to help that child succeed in their future. Jumping on board might mean getting businesses to sponsor programs. I just hope schools and students get the support they need from parents to help them create programs to get kids to think outside the box.

  4. Definitely an article to process and view through Rip Van Winkle's eyes. Sometimes it feels that way on a day to day basis with the fast changes of technology. Global students are also a reality with study abroad programs and our students traveling around the world similar to us traveling across the U.S. Learning how to teach students to live in the present but think in the future will keep teachers challenged. Harnessing corporate dollars to inject back into schools for our future college graduates will take some time and resources from schools.

  5. It seems that we have been talking about teaching to higher level learning forever, but we often fall back on spewing facts and memorization drills. Granted, at the elementary level we really need to teach a lot of basic skills, but we do need to find ways to engage and challenge even our young students.
    I appreciated the examples of innovation cited in the article. It is encouraging to know that we have an international baccalaureate program in Millard, even though it has only been implemented in one elementary school that I know of.
    The PLN is an excellent source for the enrichment and support of a team of educators, Jason. It helps if your district and administrator is also willing to take the risks that come with trying something new.

  6. As a foreign language teacher, I was happy to hear about international schools in this article. In many articles about 21st century skills, I feel that foreign language takes a backseat to all of the discussion of technology. Of course, these two are not mutually exclusive and can work beautifully hand-in-hand. Innovations like skype are a fabulous tool in foreign language teaching, as they can directly connect classrooms in separate countries. This exposes students to a highly useful technological tool and also gives them an amazing opportunity to learn more about the language and culture of study. Of course blogging, podcasting, and many other online tools are great additional ways to use technology as a vehicle for great teaching and learning.

    The biggest obstacle I see to schools fully embracing the idea of teaching 21st century skills is buy-in. There are so many teachers in my school, and certainly all over the country, who view this as another trend. The phrase 21st century skills is largely seen as a buzzword, and the latest thing school boards and administrators have added to the mission statement. I have seen several teachers with this attitude start using computers and other technology in their classrooms due to pressure from the administration. The problem is that the technology is used as filler or break time for the teacher. Students play an online review game and then take an online quiz while the teacher takes a breather. I am not completely innocent of this, and have spent a fair bit of time contemplating how I will please the administrators by using plenty of technology and still feel that I am consistently teaching meaningful lessons. I think the answer has been alluded to in several of our readings and by Dr. Topp. Always use student-centered objectives and ask yourself if the technology you are using is helping the kids learn. It actually becomes fairly easy to decide what technology to keep and what to throw it if you always keep this litmus test in mind.

  7. I really enjoyed this article. It has touched home for a lot of theories I want to attempt in my classroom. I'm really excited to set up my room and set up my lesson plans. (Please keep in mind I am a first year teacher and going through the CADRE program.) I am quickly gathering information to back up ideas that I have. I know that this doesn't always make it easier to have people buy into the theory but if you have lots of articles to back it up it can help.

    I feel that technology classes need to be made a requirement for all teachers. There are too many teachers out there that are stuck in the old way of education classes because they don't know better. As a new teacher, I hope this doesn't happen but, I will probably resort back to the way I wast taught because that is what's in my memory and I will fall to being overwhelmed. I have set a goal to use some kind of technology in my classroom everyday. I also have to remember that my school has a low Socio-Economic Status, for many of my students the technology ability and confidence they develop in my classroom will be the only technology use they will have until the next school year.

  8. Comment from Mary

    As techno-phobic as I am, everything I've been hearing and reading over the past 2 days is all very exciting. It's as if we are in a new technology revolution (instead of the industrial revolution). It's incredible to think how much faster we can get our hands on needed information. What's frightening to me is that it is all developing so fast, I have no way of keeping up. Although, I intend to put my best foot forward and give it a try. For instance, this is my very first blog. After reading these articles, I can't help but think about what kinds of things I want to do with my orchestra classes, such as share with them any wealth of musical performances on youtube. Also, I just learned that we can get an endless amount of free downloadable music parts to use. This was not the case 15 years ago.

    I'm pleasantly surprised to see that researchers are finding that our students need to keep other subjects in the curriculum, such as the arts, which support creativity and teamwork skills. I'm hoping administrators are paying attention to this research and dare not cut arts programs for budget purposes.

  9. When reading this article, I thought of the trite expression, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water." I enjoy reading about the different points of view on the new technologies and how they function within education and other fields; however, I feel that many of the people who were interviewed or referenced in the articles we have read so far speak of "the old way of doing things" as wrong or out-dated, and I think it is important to remember what Dr. Topp said at the start of class: we should not do things simply "because." This includes teaching the way it has always been done and using available technologies. Too often, I feel that people use cell phones in class to be novel or show youtube videos to be savvy or project images because chalkboards are old. Like Amanda said, technology should not be a filler, and 21st century skills should not be a buzzword. Let's all remember that computers exist because people are smarter than they are, and while memorizing facts may be ridiculous to do ad nauseum, it is not pointless to lecture and impart wisdom. It is necessary to connect to kids; some days, that works best with an innovative tool, but that should never be the focus. Novelty should never replace wisdom, and technologies should not be a substitute for a teacher who knows his or her content.

  10. Schools are changing, some are just doing it at a faster pace than others. I think this goes back to what Dr. Topp said in do the people in charge feel about technology? This more than anything is going to affect the rate of change. Administrators and school boards (maybe even some teachers?) need to feel the urgency to make the appropriate technology choices that will benefit our students.

    Anne~ I have been to Millard's IB elementary school, Aldrich. It's pretty neat! I believe there is one middle and high school that are also IB schools.

  11. I found this article to be fascinating. The Rip Van Winkle joke was a great way to make light of this concerning issue.
    When the article stated that kids today are spending most of their days in school like their grandparents did in school it really made the connection of how disconnected our schools are from the outside digital world of today.
    I liked how the article stated many reasons for the importance to bring our schools into the 21st century. The article did a nice job giving reasons and examples on how to prepare our students using 21st century skills.
    I liked the emphasis on the importance of connecting our everyday curriculum to current events and issues. I also liked the importance that was put on team work in the classroom as that is a big skill to have in our businesses today. The importance of bilingual education was also fascinating.
    Overall this article was inspiring to me and I will take to heart many of its important research and ideas presented for my own teaching.

  12. Wow, what a great discussion. The article mentions that in the United States, there is emphasis on breadth of knowledge rather than depth. I agree. I have to give my Physical Science class 16 State Assessments every year. I bet they retain very little of what they are taught. I would love to slow down, develop a problem-solving approach to the entire curriculum, and incorporate more technology into the class. -Not technology for the sake of using technology. I agree with Casey.

    Another 21st Century skill that was mentioned was the importance of preparing the students to be discerning consumers of information. At times, when certain events hit the news, I try to teach the kids to be discerning. I have viewed this type of instruction as more of a distraction, because I wasn't teaching the "Science" curriculum. Now I see the importance of it with respect to a 21st Century skills, and now will try to develop more opportunities in class to teach discernment of information.

  13. This article brings up some very interesting issues we have discussed so far in class. It really made me think about how we should be looking at how we teach and how we teach other to teach.
    When developing 21st century learners we ourselves are going to have to become 21st century learners. If we don't commit to adding these different learning styles to our learning how will we expect out students to really by in to learning in this style.
    As far as what classrooms look like now and in that past I agree with the article up until a certain point. Classrooms are changing look at the way guided reading has changed how reading is taught and now we are applying similar concept to teaching math. However, when you look at other subjects many teachers are teaching right out of basal with the same concepts that were used 20 or more years ago.
    I hope that more school districts adopt curriculum and teaching styles that allow for 21st century learners. With the amount of information available to teachers and students you can provide students with meaningful lessons that students truly excited to complete.
    Overall that article is great I enjoyed thinking about the different points presented. Thank you for sharing.

  14. As I read through the article, much of it I was already aware of in some form or another. I just got done taking a class where we talked about something San Francisco schools are doing, which is full-inclusion bilingual education. A Kindergarten student was able to speak conversational Mandarin (Chinese) and English because he is being taught in both. He is African-American, and his mother wants him in this school because it helps him with the community he lives in as well as being able to be a step ahead other American students in regards to a global society. Also, I can't agree more with the story about "learning all the rivers of South America" and the notion of "that's stupid." I have agreed with this concept for some time and I try to teach way in which students can find information rather than just regurgitating facts, but it becomes difficult when the measure of how well I teach is based upon how well most of my students score on a test which basically tests root memorization of facts (ex: What is an example of a lever?, and so on...) Being a science teacher, I am aware of a story of one of the most well-known and smartest people to have lived: Albert Einstein. When Einstein was a professor, he was criticized for not knowing basic physics equations from memory by a student, and he responded by saying, "why would I spend time memorizing something when I know where to look it up? We have books for a reason." And I couldn't agree with concpets like this more.

  15. I really enjoyed the article. It all comes down to what are we really doing as teachers. Right now I feel that a lot of schools are to busy prepping students for a test and not looking at the big picture. Our job is to have students become productive members of society. I like the idea of adding business leaders in the discussion to find out what they need students to be able to do when they get out of school. It is very sad that in America most children can only speak one language. When you compare to European schools children are able to speak multiple languages fluently. We need to be teaching our students to be successful in the 21st Century.

  16. This is a great article that explains what teachers need to bring to the table to teach in the 21st century. The article focused on how students need to become globally literate, think outside the box and develop good people skills. I think that schools are changing but at their own pace. Teachers need to be trained in technology and start incorporating it into their curriculum. Schools should provide development in this area and focus the training the three categories previously listed. Because technology is growing exponentially, teachers should continue to receive training and embrace the latest technology. The hardest thing for me is to find time to incorporate the technology. Our curriculum is so jam packed that we hardly find time to get what is required into the schedule, especially with the huge addition to the state standards.

    The IB program is a great way for schools to embrace a 21st century curriculum. Currently Millard North High School is the only IB high school in Nebraska.

  17. This article is interesting in the fact it has the same problem we all face it doesn't know where to start the change. It offers a glimpse into what could be for all of us but ends with the fact that kids don't have the basic understanding of interpersonal relation skills (handshaking at graduation). The problem we face is the broad scope of our practice. I like the idea of narrow and deep vs wide and shallow. Give me the option to provide the information I am really knowledgeable along with the opportunity to partner with my fellow teachers to make it cross disciplinary and we could have a heck of a curriculum. I would love the opportunity to learn new things even a language to improve my 21 century skills.

  18. Claudia Wallis in her article has a very negative attitude toward how American schools are being operated. She starts her article with an unfunny joke of how schools haven’t changed since 1906. Going on to say that we teach in a “succession of forgettable details” and have “mind-numbing streams of topics”. While I agree that there is room for growth I would disagree that our schools are as bad as she portrays them. She glorifies other countries and fails to acknowledge the progress we strive to make. Yes, teaching in depth over breath is far more correlated in retaining subjects, but one has to be careful as to whether that “breath” is going to become too narrow. Wallis goes as far as to mention how it could be argued the unimportance to learn the causes of the Civil War or the understanding of how the periodic table of elements reflects the atomic structure and properties of the elements! This comment baffled me, she did mention that it was others saying this, not her, but the mere suggestion to skip over these subjects because it’s available in easy access through the internet is preposterous! It is our job to introduce young minds to worlds of possibilities, not just a few interesting tid bits. Yes, it is true that the internet is very useful, and agree that children must be competent computer users, but it cannot replace textbooks even if they are out of date by the time they are printed as she puts it. It is our duty to prepare young minds for the 21st century, as the article mentions, there are not that many jobs left in America for the poorly educated, low skilled workers. Many of the companies that required manual mindless labor have relocated their facilities and education is key for success. We must prepare our children to compete with the world, keeping their minds challenged, but the solution is not as clear cut as her paper argues. She mentions Farmington High and its achievement saying that “principles of calculus, physics, chemistry and engineering are taught through activities that fill the hallways with a cacophony of nailing, sawing and chattering”, while this is a great way of learning, it is not always conducive for learning, plus certain subjects are neglected in this sole situation. This situation would require a great deal of noise which is not always advantageous in a school environment plus many teachers do not have the resources available to apply such standards or the extra amount of time for planning such a great activity. It is great, but is it applicable? There are many issues that need to addressed and many changes that need to keep being done as our society changes and technology will be key in keeping up with these changes.

  19. I have to say that while I think schools need to constantly adapt to the changing world, I think educators need to make thoughtful choices. It seems to me that sometimes we jump on board with ideas before they have really been refined. When new technology comes out, educators should be looking into to its effectiveness and do thoughtful research before committing. I remember in school when we had those HUGE CDs that were going to be the revolution in education. Where are those CDs now? Schools spent lots of money on them and now they are gone.

    While I think that we should invest in new technology to aid our teaching, I also think that we should be more willing to look into everything before committing our financial resources. I don't think that our schools should be taught in the same '1906' version of school, I think that we need to make sure that we thoughtfully consider all of our changes. Yes, we need to do more than ask students to sit in rows... but let's make sure that it's quality. I know that technology can be a great aid in our class, but we need to make sure that our new technology will be in every classroom and available to all students. We need to make sure that we create equality in the classroom and don't spend our decreasing budgets to early.

  20. Two things come to mind about technology in schools after reading this article. The first is that, for example, our school has recently acquired many new tech "things" like Smartboards, etc. Some of our teachers embrace it and experiment with it to learn new things but many are kind of afraid of technology and don't even try...they are literally afraid of the new "stuff." Another is that many of our students don't have computers and internet at home and so although we are trying to teach them using technology, the students are sometimes more "technologically illiterate" than most their age simply because they don't have the chance to experiment with it at home like other students do.

  21. This article has a lot of interesting views that have brought on a great discussion. I agree with much of what is written by Wallis. I do see a need for greater use of technology in the classroom, but all the great stories of these forward thinking schools and districts are not currently viable outside of isolated situations. We are constrained by budgets, community views, and availability of appropriately trained staff to name a few. I certainly see the merit but I also look at the reality of my position as: what can I do for the students who walk into my room this year.
    As a social studies teacher I completely agree with the idea put forth of useless memorization being just that, useless. Helping the students understand what factors led into an event is much more valuable then when it happened and who the major players were, unless you are looking to win Jeopardy.
    -Mayra, I believe that you misread the article. Wallis agrees with you that "few would argue that an American child shouldn't learn the causes of the Civil War or understand how the periodic table reflects the atomic structure and properties of the elements".
    -Alicia Krogstrand, Lincoln High School started an IB program about 3 years ago, I don't know if it is fully implemented yet but the ball is rolling there as well.

  22. After reading the article, it's pretty amazing how almost every aspect of teaching can change and benefit from technology. Are we doing the right things by using it? Short answer - yes. But, as you look deeper into it, are we changing our teaching styles to gain from technology? I work with many educators who are very leary of doing anything with computers. I feel that in the next 2-3 years almost all classes will be working with computers/interactive whiteboards/other technology that will not only increase interest in the class itself, but give students a different way to interact with each other as well as the teacher.

  23. I liked what the article said regarding giving students a global education. While efforts are being made in some schools throughout the nation to educate children on other cultures, these skills are not measured on standardized tests. Consequently, these skills become less of a priority to many school administrators because they are being held to the expectation that test scores should be high.

    The article also brought up a good point when it mentioned the importance of teachers working to create lessons that cross multiple disciplinary areas. To prepare students to function in a global and technological world, it is imperative that people are trained to cross-apply such skills as young adults.

  24. As educators, we should be very scared as to what goes on in our classroom. We are not preparing are students to compete globally. Jobs are outsourced, occupations such as engineers and architects are now having to compete with other countries that charge 1/3 of what we do. Our children not only are not learning the basics, but are dropping out of school at record rates. We need to take our students and teach them the way that they want and need to be taught. Differentiation is the key.


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