Monday, November 28, 2011

Blocks Help Build Student Learning

Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
Technology has revolutionized the world of education. How students learn and what they learn is constantly changing, but that doesn’t mean that educators should throw out everything they’ve ever done in the classroom. Blocks, yes blocks are making as much of an impact as ever in the learning of young children. So why not combine the two?

Yesterday, Kyle Spencer of The New York Times published an article filled with the positive effects of blocks in today’s classroom. Block building is not about occupying time or finding a way to get kids away from a computer screen. Blocks are about exploration.

Jean Schreiber, a self-described “block consultant,” advised a group of parents to engage their children in building by photographing their work. “Don’t rush to help them with structural challenges,” she said. “You don’t have to ask them a million questions. Just sit with them and notice.”

Jessica Thies, a teacher at Chapin School on the Upper East Side, said her students photographed their block extravaganzas with one of the school’s iPads. Last year, they made a documentary about blocks using a Flip video camera and edited it during computer class. “It is very low-tech/high-tech here,” Ms. Thies said.

Sasha Wilson, co-director of the four-year-old Bronx Community Charter School, said his faith in blocks was solidified by a struggling second grader’s actions after an apple-picking field trip. “She went to the block corner and built an incredibly complex structure, a tractor engine, and she was able to talk about how all the parts moved,” Mr. Wilson recalled. He said he told his staff a few days later: “We need to be looking at this student in a very different way.”

Blocks may just be one more tool we can use to help students learn.
What do you think?

Read The NY Times article here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Data-Sharing is Key to College and Career Readiness

Every day, we hear “data this,” and “data that,” being told “the data” will show us how to get students college and career ready. Although data is powerful, its power lies in what we do with it. Kentucky educators are discovering how data really makes a difference in the education of their students. It’s no secret that collaboration is a vessel for change, but it wasn’t until university professors and high school teachers began comparing notes about their expectations in class that real changes began to occur.

According to an article in Education Week, transition courses were developed in high schools to help lagging students avoid remediation in college. Advanced Placement restrictions were lifted to expose more students to college-level courses. As communication lines opened, other changes followed. The percentage of college-going students in Kentucky went up, and the need for remediation in college went down.

Kentucky is at the forefront of collecting and sharing P-20 data, information that spans preschool through graduate study. Since the 1990s, it had been tracking the performance of students over time. But not everyone knew it.

Sam Evans, the dean of the college of education at Western Kentucky University, in Bowling Green, was part of the group that sketched out how the new P-20 collaboration would work. "Everybody had their data sets, and they weren't speaking to one another," he said. The focus of the discussion, he said, was practical: "What do we need to know?"

The driver for everyone to work together was economic development. There was agreement that the only way it could be achieved was with more college degrees and well-prepared high school graduates, said Mr. Evans.

How can we improve the use of data in our schools?

To learn more and to read the full article, click here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Teachers Teach Students How to Be Competent Curators

“The 21st century will not be defined by the volume or speed at which you consume information. (That was the old way of being smart.) It will be defined by how well you curate that information, translate it and contribute information back in a way that your community can understand it. Teaching students to be competent curators is our main responsibility as educators.” –Angela Maiers (education-tech expert)

Earlier this week, Julia Steiny included this quote in her article, "Most Kids Way Ahead of Us as Digital Learners, for Better and Worse." She discusses the future of earning in a digital age, giving us a new way to look at what happens in the classroom every day.

Do you agree with Angela Maiers?

Monday, November 14, 2011

How Much Do You Value Education?

No one can deny that education is important, no matter what country they live in. It’s true that every person doesn’t have the same opportunities for education as their peers across the globe, but that doesn’t mean there is a lack of dedication to learning.

Last week, Nicholas D. Kristof from the New York Times presented the story of a malnourished 14-year-old Vietnamese girl making every sacrifice possible in order to go to school and take care of her two younger siblings at the same time.

Dao Ngoc Phung is so obsessed with schoolwork that she sets her alarm for 3 a.m. every day to cook rice for breakfast while reviewing her books. She rides her bike with her two siblings for 90 minutes each way to and from school. Though she is only 14 years old, Phung takes responsibility not only for her learning, but that of her younger sister and brother—she doesn’t complete her homework until after she helps them finish theirs. Sometimes this means late nights with little sleep to start over again the next day.

Phung is not the only one who values education. Kristof explains, “Teachers in America’s troubled schools complain to me that parents rarely show up for meetings. In contrast, Phung’s father takes a day off work and spends a day’s wages for transportation to attend parent-teacher conferences.”

Then what may be most admirable is the following statement from Phung’s father. “If I don’t work, I lose a little bit of money,” he said. “But if my kids miss out on school, they lose their life hopes. I want to know how they’re doing in school.”

“I tell my children that we don’t own land that I can leave them when they grow up,” he added. “So the only thing I can give them is an education.”

Today, we might ask ourselves, “How much do I value education?”

Read the full article here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

How Much Do You Know about Implementing the Common Core State Standards?

There is no doubt that the Common Core Standards will change education. Whether those changes will be lasting and positive is largely dependent on the implementation of the Standards. How does your school plan to use the Standards? How do you plan to use the Standards? Recently in the Harvard Education Letter, Robert Rothman addressed five myths about the Common Core State Standards that may provide perspective concerning Common Core implementation.

Myth #1—The Common Core State Standards are a national curriculum.

Rothman reminds readers that “standards are not curriculum: standards spell out what students should know and be able to do at the end of a year; curriculum defines the specific course of study—the scope and sequence—that will enable students to meet standards.”

To learn more about this myth and additional myths, click here. To learn more about how to effectively implement the Common Core Standards, click here.