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Last week our seniors took the College Work Readiness Assessment for the first time; most of them very much enjoyed it, to their surprise.  Two days afterwards, I had them speak to on video about the test: please know these are their own words, entirely unscripted.

My favorite quotes:

We all found it extremely intriguing and enriching, and personally what I like about is so much is that sometimes when you are in class you think “when am I ever going to use this information” and “I cannot think of a single life experience when I would need to use this equation or this random fact from history.” But with this test, I found myself sitting in a room with a computer and have a pool of information to dive into,  which is a really great feeling and you understand and realize that what you are learning is relevant and important.  I think that this realization made it exciting and fun and has given me an almost newfound respect for the information I learn on a day to day basis.

It was nice to be able to couple together some of the common sense and life wisdom that you don’t always get to incorporate in testing and in class;   this test allowed you to couple that [wisdom] with the strictly information knowledge and that which was strictly in the documents and work it all together into a very, very nice piece.

What I found really interesting what that on this test, it was not only just “hey we are going to find out what you know” it was more “we are going to give you information and you are going to have come up with your own opinions based on this information.” (more…)

It’s not about the computer; it’s about the learning.  Our students today both want and need to be active, engaged, collaborative, on-line, vigorous, empowered, creative,  solvers of real-world problems.   They need to be skilled and informed
to do so, but they need to be challenged, motivated, and engaged in doing so.
The best learning has always been, since we were chimps, about practicing, experimenting, mistake-making, and overcoming obstacles as we have used the finest tools available in doing so.  Aristotle wrote that we learn best by doing, and it has always been true.

Yes, it is wonderful sometimes for students to listen to a compelling lecture told with passion and perceptive insight and compelling interpretation and anecdote and a story.    Yes it is dynamite for kids to participate in intellectual discourse and debate, sharing and discusing ideas and appreciating fine dialogue.   And yes, there are fine pieces of writing that can still happen on paper. We don’t need to end, abolish, or abandon any of these things.

But as our “digital generation” comes to school, entirely familiarized with the use of digital tools on a daily basis to communicate, research, collaborate, plan, organize, investigate, create and publish, how dare we say to them they cannot use these same tools in school as they use outside of it?  Just as importantly, knowing that in their college and adult careers they will be expected to do so in nearly every work-place, how can we deprive them of developing mastery in their skilled use of these tools? (more…)

This is now the fourth in a series of posts featuring St. Gregory classes which exemplify (imho) the type of teaching and learning Tony Wagner calls for in his book, The Global Achievement Gap.  In that book, he asks for schools to   uses academic core subjects to teach students to reason, communicate, and solve problems; here we present a Chemistry class that does exactly that.   Dr. Wagner will be here at St. Gregory in just a few days, and on the day he arrives we will present him and publish our new booklet: Bridging the Gap: Teaching Students to Communicate, Reason, and Solve Problems.

This is from Dr. Scott Morris, our Science Department chair.

Students know they will be doing a lab today. Their homework assignment was to download the procedure from the teacher’s website, read it, and prepare any data table(s) that they think will be useful.

The teacher begins by asking whether everyone has a copy of the procedure and then queries them along two lines: What are we doing and are there any hazards we should be aware of? They will have to write a lab report after the activity, so he asks them: “What is the purpose of this lab?” The students volunteer opinions and the class develops both a “scientific” purpose as well as a “technique” purpose. Often, the “hazard” discussion is blended into the pedagogical goals:

1) Are we using fire? Why? (more…)

Howard Levin is a friend (my blogging “career” began in his “classroom” at Urban School CIT), and I greatly admire his vision and  leadership regarding laptop integration.  I first saw him present his outstanding program, making the laptop disappear, back at a conference in June 2006, or thereabouts, and more perhaps than any other single session, it transformed my view of education.

A friend asked me about whether I knew of independent schools which were succeeding greatly in 1:1 laptop integration, and of course I thought of Urban School.  In doing so, it brought me again to Levin’s fine body of work on the topic.   I want to draw upon his wisdom in two excellent articles, one entitled Laptop Program Update in this post, and the other Here and Now in the School of the Future in a subsequent post.

Levin’s update article is already five years old, but it remains valuable.   Two years into his program’s implementation, he reports, “teachers are now having students use their laptops to do more of what was previously impractical or impossible… Few question the wisdom; nearly all are finding effective and innovative ways for laptops to support learning.” (more…)

The WaPo’s Jay Matthews is the single most influential educational journalist in America, and over the years I find myself often tacking back and forth in my appreciation for his writing.   I share with him his great enthusiasm for the IB (International Baccalaureate); on the other hand, I believe his ranking schools by AP scores is problematic, and I was quite put off in 2008 and 2009 by some of his cranky (his own word-choice) criticsm of the 21st century skills movement.

But in recent months he has been terrific; in December he brought good attention to and praised an important report from Craig Jerald, Defining 21st century education,  then praised (late, but better late than never) Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap,  and participated in a fascinating on-line debate with Wagner.

This month Matthews has a fun piece endorsing one of my favorites, the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA), a piece which I am going to quote at some length.

“Why not take the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a new essay exam that measures analysis and critical thinking, and apply it to high schools? Some colleges give it to all of their freshmen, and then again to that class when they are seniors, and see how much value their professors at that college have added. We could do the same for high schools, with maybe a somewhat less strenuous version.”

But after I posted that idea, a young man named Chris Jackson e-mailed me that his organization had thought of it four years ago and had it up and running. Very cheeky, I thought, but also intriguing. I never thought anyone would try such a daring concept. (more…)

Often I write here about my appreciation and enthusiasm for New Tech High Schools and the way they effectively educate students via a problem-based learning methodology and with an excellent use of technology integration.   In my continuing effort to feature more videos on my blog, here is a nice video overview of New Tech.  I am also excited to report here that we have received confirmation that a St. Gregory team of teachers will be visiting a New Tech campus in Dallas in May for a full day exploration of their learning program.

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