2. Love this blog, from an Iowan educator, Angela Maiers. In one recent posting she answered a reader's question:Is Sitting Still a 21st century Skill? What a great question. No, it is not! Ms. Maiers respectfully answers the question by suggesting the parent seek to communicate with the teacher, and appropriately seek first to understand, and then to be understood. The discussion that follows makes good distinctions: there are times that there needs be an expectation of quietness. But, there is no good case for requiring students of any age to sit still for any great length of time. Rather, there is a growing amount of evidence that standing and moving helps students maintain focus and remember more effectively. Requiring students to sit still derives from a transference model of education-- just as it is hard to pour milk into a moving glass, so it is hard to pour learning into a moving child. But that is not how children learn, they learn by doing, by acting, by practicing. Yes, students need to be respectful of others' learning, they sometimes need to be quiet and need to take care they are not distracting others. But we should celebrate differentiation by letting those who need to stand or move do so, and we should honor brain research by requiring all students to move as they learn with some regularity.
3. Alecia Magnifico, a friend and former colleague, now is a doctoral student at U. of Michigan. She recently wrote me to say that she is studying how students can learn by game-playing, and directed me to two sites: one called games, learning, and society, and one a blog called epistemic games. Together, they are looking at how games of all kinds, including but not limited to video/computer games, can help students do the following:
1. Develop complex, academic language in and out of schools, something our current educational system fails to do for many students.
2. Think innovatively and creatively in science and technology.
3. Become "tech-savvy" consumers and producers of knowledge with technology.
Sounds great to me; games engage kids and require great cognitive development for success. I wrote back to Alecia to tell her that among my very favorite teaching experiences was teaching 12th graders International Relations. Kissinger's magnum opus Diplomacy was our textbook, and we read a review of the book by Simon Schama, published in the New Yorker, in which Schama told us that Kissinger's faculty office at Harvard in the sixties always hosted an on-going board game, Diplomacy. Schama went on to tightly link the game and how one successfully played it to the principles of Kissinger's book and diplomatic theory. Our class played the game daily, beginning each 55 minute class with ten to fifteen minutes of play, and those students were on fire. They loved the game, and quickly drew their own insights about IR from it, and they were that much more eager to learn IR history and policy in order to enhance their gamemanship. Let's all of us educators talk more and experiment more regarding the appropriate role of game-playing in school.
4. The New York Times recently published an article about the conference of college admissions officers. Harvard Admissions Dean William Fitzsimmons previewed a soon-to-be published report on the appropriate role for the SAT in college admissions, and said, to much applause, that average SAT scores should not be indicators of the educational quality of an institution. What is called for instead is that colleges and universities become intentional, thoughtful, deliberate about how they use SAT and ACT scores in their admissions process. Don't use them for minimum threshold cut-offs, don't use them for National Merit qualifying, don't underestimate the impact of expensive test prep opportunities that only a select elite has available to them. Let me build on the article and report to say we have to go further and find new ways to evaluate student readiness for university in the way Tufts Dean Robert Sternberg calls for: the skills and qualities of resilience, responsibility, reasoning, of wisdom, intelligence, and creativity. The 21st century requires critical thinking, problem-solving, and innovation skills: let's select for these things, and not narrowly limit our criteria to SAT testing!