America is nothing if it consists merely of each of us; it is something only if it consists of all of us. ~Woodrow Wilson, 1916
20 years ago, I was interviewed by a local news station. They wanted a Kindergarten teacher’s perspective on what kids should best do over the summer. Camp? Summer School? Activities? While I described an ideal childhood summer — reading, activities, outdoor time — I also cautioned against too much structure. Young children need time to simply BE … run, play, do nothing, be bored, figure out how not to be bored.
According to a recent NY Times article, it appears as if everything old is new again:
As American classrooms have focused on raising test scores in math and reading, an outgrowth of the federal No Child Left Behind law and interpretations of the new Common Core standards, even the youngest students have been affected, with more formal lessons and less time in sandboxes. But these days, states like Vermont, Minnesota and Washington are again embracing play as a bedrock of kindergarten …
Using play to develop academic knowledge — as well as social skills — in young children is the backbone of alternative educational philosophies like those of Maria Montessori or Reggio Emilia. And many veteran kindergarten teachers, as well as most academic researchers, say they have long known that children learn best when they are allowed ample time to go shopping at a pretend grocery store or figure out how to build bridges with wooden blocks. Even the Common Core standards state that play is a “valuable activity.”
But it’s still controversial. Read the entire article here.
…technology’s “Law of Amplification”: Technology’s primary effect is to amplify human forces, so in education, technologies amplify whatever pedagogical capacity is already there. Amplification seems like an obvious idea—all it says is that technology is a tool that augments human power. But, if it’s obvious, it nevertheless has profound consequences that are routinely overlooked …
If a private company is failing to make a profit, no one expects that state-of-the-art data centers, better productivity software, and new laptops for all of the employees will turn things around. Yet, that is exactly the logic of so many attempts to fix education with technology … At a talk Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave at the South by Southwest conference, he pressed the case for more technology in education (mentioning “technology” forty-three times, and “teachers” only twenty-five). He claimed, “Technology can level the playing field instead of tilting it against low-income, minority and rural students—who may not have laptops and iPhones at home.” But this is wishful thinking; it’s misleading and misguided. Technology amplifies preexisting differences in wealth and achievement …
…what the U.S. education system needs above all isn’t more technology, but a deliberate allocation of high-quality adult supervision focused on those who need it most. The specifics are daunting and complex, but inequity in educational opportunity isn’t a problem that technology can fix. Without addressing the underlying socio-economic chasm, technology by itself doesn’t bridge the gap, it only jacks it further apart.
Read the entire article here.
Chuck Blakeman writes:
“Managers solve and decide, leaders train others to solve and decide, and then get out of the way…. There are countless great leaders who have learned the basic principle that training others to make decisions allows them to truly lead. They have all learned the simple axiom of leadership we use to advise CEOs: The art of leadership is to know how few decisions the leader needs to make.”
Read the article here.
By now everyone in the education world has learned of Grant Wiggins’ untimely death. I echo the sentiments of all who knew him or his work: this is a great loss to our field.
I joined the consultant group at Authentic Education last year. My “interview” with Grant and his wife Denise, took place in their sunny Lambertville kitchen. We chatted about education philosophies and Grant questioned me on my background, understanding of UbD, my current work and goals. After a pleasant conversation, he said, “Good, great, we’ll get you to work as soon as we can.” I expressed some surprise, “That’s it? There isn’t more you need to know?” With that characteristic twinkle in his eye, he responded, “What– should I keep asking you questions even when I’m satisfied that I understand your capabilities?”
So I laughed … there it was, Grant’s philosophy as a case-in-point. There’s no need to continue testing once you have sufficient information about mastery. Grant taught me, so clearly, that assessment is a necessary and valuable part of the learning process — but we want tests to be meaningful, authentic, and we don’t test just for the sake of testing!
I had hoped to learn more from you, Grant. Thankfully you’ve left a body of work for us to to draw on as we continue your efforts. Vale.
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. Try your hand at some of the questions here. Some of them might surprise you. Are we preparing our students for these kinds of tests?