Sunday, April 29, 2012

We Need a New Curriculum

I have been reading a lot these past few weeks, both on my Kindle (2) and my iPad (2).  Both devices have their advantageous.  I like the feel of the Kindle however, I have a very nice leather cover for it, so that could bias my thoughts,  although the Kindle battery lasts much longer.  Of course the Kindle does not have color so that is probably why it lasts longer.

But then the iPad is easy to read in low light conditions because of the back lighting--which of course, means that the battery lasts for about ten hours at best. It's okay as long as I remember to plug it in in the evening to be ready the next day.  The advantage seems to go to the iPad in that it can do more then be a reading device.  But reading is what I do most of the time.

Before I share what I am reading on the devices, you might be interested in knowing that I still buy books, paperbacks and hardcopies.  I just bought a book of poetry by Joseph Green, entitled, That Thread Still Connecting Us.  Joe is an old friend and a much deeper thinker and observer of life then I am.  While I am not a great reader of poetry I do find Joe's poetry thought provoking.  He makes me think.

And then I bought a paperback copy of Betty Friedan's The Fountain of Age. The interesting part of this book is that it is signed by the author, Betty, herself.  Well, that's not the only interesting thing about this copy--I bought it for one cent.  Brand new for one penny.  With postage I paid under four bucks.  The internet is a fascinating place.  Some bookstore wanted to clear some shelves and sold me a book for one cent.  I had a hardcopy of this book once upon a time but I must have lent it out to someone.  For those who are contemplating retirement, this is a must read.  For those having sleeping problems it probably also could be helpful.  It's mostly about research and those that prosper in retirement.  I couldn't get either of those books on e-books.

But then I was given the book, Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson.  I have a fondness for Apple products so I am looking forward to discovering much information about Mr. Jobs. I may report back to you on this reading.

The Steve Jobs book was given to me for a recent birthday--I'm approaching my eighties in age so I went out to learn about growing older by buying the book by Anna Quindlen, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.  It is some reflections about growing older and feeling comfortable about oneself.  I could use some advice in this area.  

Along with these books I am still reading The Dyslexic Advantage and finding it uplifting, valuable and comforting.  You mean there are others like me with the same problems?  I do wish I had read this book many years ago except it was only recently written.  We know so much more about people and kids who have this learning difference.  A couple of years ago I would have written, learning problems.  Perhaps it is not a learning problem but a teaching problem.  How should we teach kids who have dyslexia?  

I have given up on several books--I use to think it a sin not to finish a book but in recent years I don't have the time to struggle through and I am feeling better with putting some books aside.  The Black Swan. The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.  I suspect that I am not a good enough philosopher to follow Mr. Taleb's thoughts and have gotten lost too many times even with re-reading of sections so I have put this book aside. 

Another book I have decided to forego for the moment is Sherry Turkle's Alone Together.  Why we expect more from Technology and Less from Each Other.  It is a wonderful book and Ms. Turkle is one of my favorite sociologist but unfortunately for both of us I think the world is changing the goal posts too fast.  Her definition of robots may be a bit old and a new definition may be needed.  My iPad is a robot of sorts.  It does things for me, reminds me of what I need to do each day, keeps track of information that I will need and a host of other things that could be considered robotique behavior.  So I have reluctantly put her book down.....well, actually I have swiped it into my iCloud.  Isn't that a kick?  I now can keep things in a cloud somewhere.  To retrieve at a moment's notice, a finger tip retrieval.  It just boggles my mind.

Which is why I have titled this blog, We Need A New Curriculum.  What we are teaching in the schools in many places is old fashion, knowledge of little worth.  I have thought at different times about what I have learned that I don't use anymore or that that knowledge has become archaic.  I know how to clean and use Rapidograph pens for graphic work but for my needs present day drawing apps do the job as well.....and I don't have to clean those pen points.  I'm a happy man but it is a skill that I have no need for.

I won't bore you with other examples of knowledge that have become obsolete in my mind but I do wonder about the residue of such knowledge--does it change my mind?  What happens to all that knowledge that i don't use?  Is its only result is to make me feel old?  Perhaps.  How do we decide what is important to our society and what should we be teaching our kids?  I think John Dewey is right--that we have to impart our learnings to the young so that they can continue moving on.  But perhaps that is why the young sometimes think that we seniors don't know anything.  Anna Quindlen writes about what she wants to impart to her children who already have different values and needs.  So... does needs predict the curriculum?  

I am raising these questions in my mind just for me but I am asking you for assistance.  As I plug along with my ipad I wonder what the kids are using them for.  I would like to have some iPads rewired (reprogramed?) so that I could keep track of some young students as to what they use the iPads for, where do they go on the web, how are they using the information instead of learning it?  

In a way I have a humorous vision in my head as I remember teaching geography to my fifth grade many years ago.  But imagine if you will that my students had the latest iPhone 4S in their pockets at that time.  I stand in the front of the room in front of a flip chart map of the United States and I ask the students in my class, "Point out Washington, DC, the other Washington."  I can visualize  half the class pulling out their phones and saying, "Siri, Where is Washington DC?" and Siri responds by saying, "Here is Washington DC" and a map appears with a pin point sticking out of a map. The fast kids in class will swoosh smaller the map and raise their hand knowing that it is on the east coast.  My kids would have done that--it was not cheating, it was knowing how learn something.

So should that be our curriculum?  Learning how to Learn?  We learn what we need to learn?  I can see the American Legion getting upset if we don't learn all the wars?  As a teacher can I have the kids Google each war?  Or do they have to read about it in the textbook?  

As a senior, an elder, I am learning much on my idevisces. I have a new way to check my navigation on my small sailboat.  But I can also swipe that chart on my iPad and see things that were not on my paper charts.  It's a new day.   Some schools are already using the Khan Academy material in their classrooms instead of a textbook.  I wish I were teaching again just to try this procedure in my classroom.  I bet some kids are moving right alone and having fun at the same time.  I can see myself being a learning coach, not a sage on the stage as some see us.  

I can imagine a private school where the middle school students all have iPads and the teacher is saying, "Take out your iPads and find the intersection that has the most accidents in our city.  Then tweet to your learning partner and discuss how you would improve that intersection to make it safer.  When you are happy with your answer, e-mail me your answer with supporting data.  Tweet me if you have a problem.  Understood?  Good."  

Oh my, I would love to be in that classroom.  I think John Dewey would like it as well.

And thanks to those teachers graduating with teaching certificates that know how to use all the new technology in the classroom.  We need you!  And thanks for being a teacher.

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