Thursday, March 20, 2008

Big Small World

The internet is amazing. While is connects us all, it does not deal with the underlying cultural differences. I'm thinking about this since I just wandered across the website of an old friend of mine. Did I mention that I was in the Peace Corps in 1980-82 in Cameroon in West Africa.

Emmanuel, who I knew well back then, has emmigrated to the states and teaches cross cultural communications as well as some language work. He also has some games, one of which caught my eye: Yan-koloba the Game. And I quote:

Yan-koloba is a character education activity whose roots reach back in the cultures of Africa. It is an intellectual and highly participatory tool for character and multicultural education. Players learn the concepts of compassion, respect, tolerance, trust, responsibility, interdependence, leadership, in a fun and very relaxed and enjoyable environment.

The purpose of the game is for players to develop great concentration and move wooden blocks simultaneously, rhythmically and continuously to their neighbors within a closed circle, at a given speed while chanting the accompanying song. The game starts with each player holding a block in hand. The leader gives the signal to start the game, and calls players' names incorporating them into the song.

Check it out. And say hi to my kumbi....


This post sponsored by Vocabulary Builder software.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Curriculum Mapping - Concept mapping

Many school systems are involved in "curriculum mapping:. Quoting Heidi Hayes Jacobs, the guru of curriculum mapping and president of Curriculum Designers, Inc:

Curriculum mapping is a procedure for collecting and documenting the operational curriculum anchored in the actual school calendar. Each teacher in the building enters critical information about the basic elements of the operational curriculum—that is: what has actually been addressed via content, skills, and assessment.

I've seen schools and talked to teachers who found the curriculum mapping exercise, when they review what the students are learning in the previous years and what they are expected to know before going to the next year, to be a very fun and productive exercise. BTW - any time that you get teachers EXCITED about doing something that is related to administration and curriculum, it's really special! I think it's partially that they get to think holistically about their students' education, it's partially that they have a very focused way to discuss curriculum with their colleagues.

BUT, in all my experiences working curriculum, the problem of the underlying "language" remains. Are we talking about performance standards, learning outcomes, or benchmarks? Are we using our state standards as "primitive"? I for one, have found the state standards to often be confusing to work with.

I saw an interesting different approach this week. A company started looking at the high stake tests (FCAT and AP exams). They studied how children did on the practice tests. The results were then mapped back to mathematical concepts. A single question on a test could map back to several math concepts.

They build a database for each student of the right/wrong answers and which math concepts they map to. Then, for intervention, they build a list of the concepts which would be most useful in improving performance and teach. They start teaching on the concepts that would have the most impact on test results.

I'm now looking at the third grade math curriculum trying to figure out how I would map some little part of it, just getting my feet wet.


Monday, March 17, 2008

6 out of 10 Americans Cannot Locate Payless

(this post turned out to be a farce) woops

WASHINGTON—An alarming new study conducted by the Department of Education has found that 60 percent of all Americans are unable to locate the major retail outlet Payless Shoes when presented with an ordinary shopping-center map.
The study, which surveyed 200 consumers, has raised a number of troubling questions about the public's grasp of basic mall geography, its ability to identify key regional chains, and its awareness of the diverse brands and logos that make up today's world.

Dr. Howard Saunders decries the nation's lack of basic shopping-center knowledge.
"Not only did a majority of Americans fail to find Payless Shoes on the map, but, more disturbingly, many didn't even know which floor to look on," said Dr. Howard Saunders, a cultural studies professor and the study's lead researcher. "To see countless men and women point to the outline of a parking garage and call it the largest footwear retailer on earth—well, it makes you wonder about our priorities as a society."
Saunders, who stressed that knowing the location of various stores is one of the most relevant real-world skills Americans can possess, said he was deeply discouraged by the study's results. Of the 60 percent of participants who struggled to find Payless Shoes on the map, nearly 30 percent seemed to be guessing at random and 20 percent reportedly confused the shop with the similar-looking Foot Locker. Another 5 percent searched for assistance, but were unable to figure out how to get to a nearby information desk.
Even more shocking, Saunders said, was the inability of many Americans to pinpoint their own location, despite it being accompanied by a bright green star and the words "You Are Here."
"These results are far worse than we could have anticipated," continued Saunders. "It's almost as if these people had never traveled outside of a JCPenney before."
Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who personally monitored the study, said that the United States ranked behind 130 other nations when it came to mall-map comprehension—an embarrassment considering one-third of the countries surveyed didn't even have shopping center


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Education should teach people how to live or how to make a living

"Education should teach people how to live or how to make a living" said John Adams.

Roger Schank: "Our schools do neither. They teach how to pass tests about meaningless knowledge that never comes up in real life."

I would agree that today's curriculum and our understanding of what education is and how to go about it are way overdue. Of course, the current national debate has only to do with how testing and the whole NCLB method fit into today's model. Sigh.

As long as I'm here, I'll plug two a few of my more successful efforts.

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