Archives for category: Guide on the side

Speaking of “fast trends,” the superintendent hopes to establish a new “BYOD” policy this fall.

UPDATE 7/8/2014: I gather that the idea isn’t for parents to purchase devices, but for taxpayers to do so.

Laptops in the classroom have been shown actually to reduce learning, but public school administrators have rejected peer-reviewed research for many years.

Abstract
Recently, a debate has begun over whether in-class laptops aid or hinder learning. While some research demonstrates that laptops can be an important learning tool, anecdotal evidence suggests more and more faculty are banning laptops from their classrooms because of perceptions that they distract students and detract from learning. The current research examines the nature of in-class laptop use in a large lecture course and how that use is related to student learning. Students completed weekly surveys of attendance, laptop use, and aspects of the classroom environment. Results showed that stu- dents who used laptops in class spent considerable time multitasking and that the laptop use posed a signiWcant distraction to both users and fellow students. Most importantly, the level of laptop use was negatively related to several measures of student learning, including self-reported understanding of course material and overall course performance. The practical implications of these findings are discussed.
In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning by Carrie B. Fried | Computers and Education | 2007

There is tremendous pressure, inside the ed world, to transform public schools into make-believe start-ups.

Inside the”student-centered” class of the 21st century, students move purposefully about the room, poking their devices and working in teams to…innovate.

From a typical report in Education Week:

The fast trends:

Schools are rethinking the roles of teachers, as pressure increases for digital-learning integration in classrooms, including a shift to “student-centered” learning and flipped classrooms. The report states that in ideal class settings, the teacher will function as the mentor, guiding groups and individual learners through technology-based lessons.

[snip]

Trends expected in five years or more:

Overall changes in the structure of schools are aimed to create innovative school designs and restructuring school schedules to allow more flexibility and cultivate student creativity. The report notes that the multi-disciplinary nature of project-based learning and other models requires subjects to be linked to one another, without the restriction of bell schedules and classrooms. Students at Venture Academy in Minneapolis go to school in a repurposed printing plant without structured classrooms and at High Tech High in San Diego students work freely throughout the school building, designing structures and producing multimedia.

This is where IUFSD is headed.

SUPERINTENDENT: Curriculum should be infused with technology
CURRICULUM: I am a child-centered professional
TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR: Jesse Lubinsky, Technology Director,
..Twitter feed
|  NY Tech Ed blog

Since our district looks likely to adopt “one-to-one” computing in the not too distant future (see: Creating the Vision for Technology), I’ve taken a look at some white papers and reports discussing its effectiveness.

Interestingly, several of them openly report that issuing laptops to all students helps change traditional teachers into constructivists — I say “openly” because the word constructivism is actually used. Normally constructivist practices are promoted sans the label, which isn’t a draw for parents. But not in this case.

Of course, few parents are going to see white papers extolling the transformative wonders of laptops in the classroom, so that may account for the frank celebration of guide-on-the-sidery.

From a report on Microsoft’s Anytime Anywhere Learning Program :

IMPACT ON TEACHING
Laptop teachers show significant movement toward constructivist teaching practices. When we asked teachers to reflect on their practices three years ago and currently, only the Laptop teachers showed statistically significant change toward more constructivist teaching practices. These changes included more frequent uses of student-led inquiry and collaborative work, and also included departures from traditional classroom roles and changes in activity structures. Data from Non-Laptop teachers did not show any significant changes in their practice from three years ago. In a measure of more traditional teaching, Non-Laptop teachers report they employ direct instruction (a traditional practice defined on our questionnaire as the sequence “review, teach, guided practice, individual practice”) almost every day, and that this has not changed at all over the last three years. In contrast, Laptop teachers have moved from employing direct instruction almost every day to about once a week in the current year. However, differences in current practices for Laptop and Non-Laptop teachers on most measures were not statistically significant, though directionally Laptop teachers were slightly more constructivist. The laptop program itself, then, may be acting as a catalyst for change.

[snip]

For both groups, the large majority of teachers who indicated a change toward more constructivist pedagogy also indicated that computers played a role in that change. When we asked teachers to reflect on changing practice, we also asked them to indicate whether computers had played a role in particular changes, such as using more authentic assessment, allowing themselves to be taught by students, encouraging students to choose their own research areas or explore topics independently, or moving away from direct instruction. In each case, more than four out of five teachers who made a change in such practices indicated that computers played a role in this change; in some cases, one hundred percent indicated a computer role. Computers themselves, then, may be acting as a catalyst for change for both Laptop and Non-Laptop teachers.

AND SEE:
Teachers sing about becoming guides on the side

One of our local high schools started the flipped classroom strategy and both students and parents pretty much rebelled. I was asked to tutor former students taking Algebra 2 who had been outstanding “real” Algebra 1 students. I actually encourage my students to hang out on Khan’s site but only because many of his lessons are interesting and can serve as an excellent supplement. An important part of teaching and learning math is the interaction among students with their peers and teacher WHILE learning is occurring, not a day after the fact. And that even assumes that quality learning occurred while watching videos with no opportunity for questions. The guide on the side folks have been trying to separate me from my students for the past forty years. They accuse you of being the sage on the stage because you dare attempt to teach. If flipped classrooms are being pushed by educrats and colleges of education, beware.

Vern Williams is something of a legend in ‘instructivist’ circles. He teaches algebra to gifted 8th grade students, served on President Bush’s National Mathematics Advisory Board, and was I believe the sole classroom teacher involved in writing the Common Core math standards. (Common Core State Standards Initiative K-12 Standards Development Teams)

Three of his articles in the Times:

All posts on flipped classrooms

This graphic from Knewton, which writer David Neilsen links to, explains the rationale behind ‘flipping’ the classroom. The goal isn’t to “engage” students (Powerpoint movies are boring) or to increase achievement (achievement won’t be measured), but to eliminate the teacher as “sage on the stage.” Or, because the teacher-sage can’t be eliminated altogether–not if you want students to pass Regents examinations–to banish the act of explicit instruction out of sight, in the student’s home. Explicit instruction is rejected by education schools. In their ed-school classes, aspiring teachers and administrators are told that students must teach themselves via “inquiry,” “discovery,” “problem-solving,” “collaboration,” and the occasional “struggle.” The correct role for the teacher, they learn, is as “guide on the side,” not “sage on the stage.” Guide-on-the-sidery is the core belief, the core message, and the core teaching of the education programs all public-school teachers and administrators are required to attend. It is also the core teaching of  the “professional development” provided by education schools and their graduates. In all likelihood this group of teachers singing about becoming guides on the side thanks to Common Core wrote their song at a professional development workshop. The dream of the flipped classroom is the dream of finally removing the teacher from the front of the classroom forever.

CLICK TO ENLARGE:

Flipped classroom - complete - Knewton

Source: Knewton Infographics

UPDATE: Mathematics teacher Vern Williams responds: One of our local high schools started the flipped classroom strategy and both students and parents pretty much rebelled. I was asked to tutor former students taking Algebra 2 who had been outstanding “real” Algebra 1 students. I actually encourage my students to hang out on Khan’s site but only because many of his lessons are interesting and can serve as an excellent supplement. An important part of teaching and learning math is the interaction among students with their peers and teacher WHILE learning is occurring, not a day after the fact. And that even assumes that quality learning occurred while watching videos with no opportunity for questions. The guide on the side folks have been trying to separate me from my students for the past forty years. They accuse you of being the sage on the stage because you dare attempt to teach. If flipped classrooms are being pushed by educrats and colleges of education, beware.


Vern Williams is something of a legend in ‘instructivist’ circles. He teaches algebra to gifted 8th grade students, served on President Bush’s National Mathematics Advisory Board, and was I believe the sole classroom teacher involved in writing the Common Core math standards. Two of his articles in the Times:

www.tristateconsortium.org
The Tri-State Consortium, a group of public school administrators and teachers from nominally high-performing districts, will soon be returning to Irvington, this time to evaluate our World Languages program.

Tri-State reports are constructivist* in nature: they focus on “21st century skills” and the like as opposed to knowledge.

Constructivists value “skills” (21st century skills, critical thinking skills, critical inquiry skills, noncognitive skills, etc.), which they believe can be taught separately from knowledge. (Another constructivist claim: whatever knowledge one may need in order to execute a skill can be looked up on Google.)

“Instructivists” value knowledge (which includes skills).

That is the conflict.

You can see Tri-State’s “skills” focus in the text below, which is drawn from its 2007 evaluation of the district’s math program. A translation follows the text.

From the report:

1. How effectively does the K-12 Mathematics program prepare students for higher level thinking skills required in the 21st century?

The structure of the Trailblazers program includes a comprehensive mathematics curriculum that contains embedded quantifiable evidence of critical thinking skills, an important part of preparing students for their futures. The program consists of an approach to mathematics that develops resourceful and competent problem-solvers who can use a variety of tools, from manipulatives through to calculators, graphs and data tables. Students, K-5, will transition into sixth grade with a common vocabulary, a consistency of performance-based assessments, and computational fluency.

The Tri-State team’s concern relates to the challenge to maintain the critical thinking skills that students have acquired in the K-5 program as they move into the district’s more traditional math environment. With a clearly articulated balance of integrated critical thinking skills and traditional math, the student results will be a deeper and more enduring understanding of mathematical procedures and concepts.

Currently, there is a wide range of 21st century skills defined as vital for students’ future success; critical thinking is just one of them. The Tri-State team suggests that the district identify, analyze, and select those skills that are relevant and developmentally appropriate to the K-12 program. A coherent plan that identifies specific thinking skills that are assigned by grade level and course, scaffolded to ensure consistency, and agreed upon by administrators and teachers, will establish the framework essential for sustainability.

Tri-State Consortium Irvington Visit Report
November 7-9, 2007

Obviously, these three paragraphs contain a great deal of jargon and obfuscation. In fact, the reason I read the report in the winter of 2008 was that a friend who had tried to read it and failed asked me to read it for him. Reading is all about background knowledge, and to read a Tri-State Consortium report you have to know the Tri-State Consortium world and words.

1.

The first paragraph lavishes praise on Trailblazers. From the sound of it, Trailblazers would be a perfect choice for implementing Common Core standards (as our district interprets the standards).

Note that the report echoes Trailblazers marketing materials, which claimed students would achieve “computational fluency” without drill. Constructivism opposes memorization and drill.

2.

The second paragraph expresses “concern” over the “challenge” of K-5 students being able to “maintain the critical thinking skills” they possess when they enter “the more traditional math environment” of grades 6-12.

Translation: With the adoption of a constructivist math curriculum only in the early grades, K-5 is now on a collision course with 6-12.

The report is clear as to which math curriculum is superior: Trailblazers.

In Tri-State’s mind, the question is: How will Irvington students be able to “think mathematically” in middle school and high school if they use traditional math textbooks and are taught in traditional ways?

3.

The third paragraph recommends that the district create a 21st century skills-style math program for all grades, K through 12.

The final reference to “sustainability” is an allusion to the sustainability of Trailblazers. If grades 6-12 are not brought into alignment with Trailblazers, the report warns, Trailblazers may not survive.



..
In the end, the Consortium was right about the sustainability of Trailblazers, wrong about the notion that children could acquire “computational fluency” without practice.

Eventually the middle school teachers, possibly encouraged by the then-curriculum director (I don’t know),** protested 6th graders’ lack of preparation, and timed worksheets were introduced in grades K-5. Since one of Trailblazer’s main selling points was its promise that children would learn the math facts without timed worksheets, the worksheets amounted to a repudiation of the curriculum.

Two years later, Math Trailblazers was unceremoniously dumped in favor of a math curriculum that had yet to be written.


* Also see: constructivism, excerpted from An Electronic Textbook on Instructional Technology by Irene Chen
**During a board meeting I attended, the then-curriculum director praised the middle school math teachers for their courage in coming forward. Of course, by that point parents had been coming forward for years, but there was no public acknowledgment that parents had been right.

AND SEE:
Trailblazers “Math Night” in 2007
The Banality of Deeper Learning by Tom Loveless May 29, 2013
..11:00am | The Brown Center Chalkboard | Brookings
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