2013 January : Justin Womack

I find myself balancing on the fence with this subject.  On one side, I feel it is absolutely essential for students to have  core knowledge to better assist them with life.  I also believe that being able to apply this knowledge to the 21st century is greatly important.  In the USA Today article the dissenters to 21st century teaching said that it takes away from class time and learning essential content (Toppo, 2009).  I am only in my first year of teaching, but I feel that I agree with those against 21 century teaching.  It seems to me that because of the increased focus on relating teaching to our times students are missing out on core concepts.

Reading through each website I believe they all represented their views very well.  I liked how the core knowledge website had the knowledge sequenced.  This made it easy to see how that knowledge grew as student’s progress through school.  This website also did well to divide the information about their beliefs for each interested group i.e. teacher, administrator, parent (“Core knowledge,” 2013).    The partnership for 21st century skills website was good about providing specific examples of how their learning looks throughout the educational spectrum.  The wiki spaces site was the most interesting to look at.  There were a lot of graphs and visual representations of information.  This was a great way to keep the reader engaged.  Looking over all the websites only confirmed my thought that core knowledge is important and that applying that knowledge to the 21st century is the best way to go about teaching.  In my school we have many 8th graders who do not know their basic times tables.  Students are allowed to use their calculators for all math work because this coincides with their math SOL.  When I asked my mentor teacher about possible working the students through drills she told me that this type of teaching was frowned upon.  It seems difficult to me for this idea of 21st century teaching to work if the students do not even have a grasp of the basics.  While the students are able to connect knowledge to things relevant to them today the depth of that knowledge may not be as deep as those learning core knowledge.

I teach special education and it is my job to make learning accessible to all my students.  My students struggle with the basics of learning and it seems counter productive to ask them to relate knowledge to things related to 21st century.  Students require a baseline of knowledge to be able to apply it to high level of learning.  While 21st century learning  helps prepare students to function better in today’s world, I do not see this being effective if they don’t have an understanding of the core of their knowledge.  With the examples presented involving the 21st century learning students are asked to collaborate with each other and problem solve on their own.  This is asking students to use prior knowledge to apply to more complex situations of today.  For my students I believe that this is giving them too much at once to think about.  Their learning needs to be explicit to make sure they fully understand things.  While the idea of students learning information to fit their 21st century needs, I believe students need to learn about core knowledge first and then apply it to their lives today.

Core knowledge. (2013). Retrieved from http://coreknowledge.org/advocates

Toppo, G. (2009, March 4). What to learn: ‘core knowledge’ or ’21st-century skills’?. USA Today. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-03-04-core-knowledge_N.htm

As technology continues to grow it is interesting to see how other schools are using technology in their classrooms.  I found the example of students making videos of their interpretations of Tom Sawyer very refreshing.  The plan had students use their ideas of visualization to create their own representations of the book in collaboration with the technology class.  Students were able to be actors, producers, directors, costume designers, and many more things.  The students were also able to get outside and explore their options for shooting their movie.  I thought this project did a great job of incorporating different subjects to collaborate on an assignment.  The project also gave students tools to be successful while gaining real world experience in many job areas that the students may be interested in when they become adults.  The whole project fits well with Gagne’s engaged learning.  You have all the aspects of students working with their community of students and in their community through location scouting for their video.  You also have the students collaborating during the project giving them a feeling of self or purpose.  It also gives the students a way to explore information they learned and achieve great goals like creating their own movie.

There was not one specific example that caught my eye as questionable.  I felt in general that to be able to do things with technology takes a lot of resources.  I also wondered how often these schools use the technology like this in their lessons.  From most of the videos it seemed that these schools had many computers, and other tools like video cameras, and other software needed to complete the lessons.  I know at least for my school that not every class has computers for a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio.  It is actually quite a battle to get computers for ones class.  I think that being able to use technology is great but your district and school have to have the resources to make those technologies available.  I also think to what happens if things malfunction, and if the teacher is prepared to troubleshoot the problem.  I know that my school only has one technology resource person and they are only at our school once a week.  With these considerations in mind I believe at least in my school this type of lesson would be great, but not something that would be possible on a daily or even weekly basis for every class.

Unfortunately I have not seen a whole lot of technology use in my school so far.  Most of the technology I see is in the active-entry range.  Many of the teachers I work with use smart boards to conduct lessons, and provide students with other interesting videos on the subjects they are learning.  I think that implementation of more technologically advanced lessons takes planning.  I also believe that these lessons would work better in a collaborative setting so that one teacher is not overwhelmed with questions that may come up.  This could also assist in making sure all the students understand the use of technology while they are learning.

References

Florida Center for Instructional Technology. (2011). The technology integration matrix. Retrieved from http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/index.php

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