Simple Changes in Current Practices May Save Our Schools

Marc PrenskyBy Marc Prensky

Here’s an idea to get at least something positive out of the Gulf oil spill. What if volunteers (or BP, under presidential order) collected samples of the tar balls on the beaches, sealed them in plastic bags, and then shipped them to every school in America for all students to analyze in their science classes. We could even throw in some oil-covered sand and feathers for good measure.

Doing this would involve every school kid (and science teacher) firsthand in the problem. They would see and smell, for themselves, just what the spill is actually producing, rather than just hearing about it on TV. Their awareness, as citizens and scientists, would be greatly enhanced.

To make it easier for teachers unfamiliar with the details of petroleum and environmental sciences, the NSF and DOE could quickly create study guides and lesson plans. Students and classes who were moved by these lessons could then talk with students living near the Gulf Coast, via email or Skype, to understand the devastation even further. They could discuss solutions, start Facebook and other groups, and contact local scientists. Many students would be motivated to pursue environmental and other sciences further, and to join and become active in environmental movements.

That is what today’s education should be: not just “relevant” or “authentic” (the current buzzwords) but real; not just preparing students for some test based on “standards” but actually dealing with the problems of our — and especially the students’ — day.

It is ironic that — given the current insistence on curriculum and standards — any teacher who wanted to divert class time to dealing with perhaps the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history might well fear being taken to task for doing so. Providing such “real” education, in many school systems, would require special administrative dispensation from the curricula.

And those curricula, in all subjects, are currently so overstuffed that teachers typically have no time to cover all of it during the school year. That leaves little or no time for studying real problems as they arise, for deep discussions of issues, or for students to explore their own interests and passions. For our kids’ education to improve, serious curricular deletion and revision is required.

Yet, our broken education system is, I believe, fixable. Not just by rushing to start new charter schools and programs, an expensive solution that is unlikely to reach the numbers we need (i.e., 55 million) in a reasonable time. Currently, the number of students reached per year by all the best programs put together, including all charter schools, which includes KIPP, Harlem Zone, New Vision, Uncommon Schools, and others, and programs like Teach for America, NYC Teaching Fellows, and Teaching Matters, is less than 2 million, i.e., only 4% of what is needed.

And not by rushing to the “disruptive” approach of teaching through technology, championed by Clayton Cristensen and others. Certainly this will eventually help, but creating technology that teaches, and teaches well, except for the most highly self-motivated students, is extremely difficult and has yet to be done broadly. For our mostly unmotivated “middle students,” who are the source of most of our failures and dropouts, online learning has yet to emerge as a viable approach.

The best, fastest, least expensive, and most easily executable solution to our educational problems is to change what goes on in our current classrooms. This is not as hard as many make it out to be since most of our teachers are people of good will and high motivation. What we need to do is provide them with easily doable directions that they can all start using in September to increase student motivation and performance. In addition to making education real, let me suggest five others.

The first relates to student passions. Our kids are almost all intensely passionate about many things (not typically their school subjects), but their teachers are typically unaware of what those passions are because they rarely ask. This is an issue that matters enormously to students and can be addressed with almost no additional work on the part of teachers. All they have to do is, at the beginning of the year when they ask each student his or her name, ask them what they are passionate about, write it down, and remember it. Once teachers know their students’ passions, they can group them by their interests, give them differentiated assignments, and address them with different, more relevant approaches. Students will get the important message that they are cared about as individuals.

A second motivating change is for teachers to greatly reduce the amount of “telling” they do, relative to the amount of classroom activities and “partnering.” If properly directed, all students today are capable of learning things they need to know on their own (using books, libraries, or course technology when available) without all the explanations having to come from teachers directly. It is actually far less work for teachers — and far more motivating for students — to cover the required curriculum by creating guiding questions for students to answer on their own rather than by creating new lectures.

A third thing that can be done immediately is to begin each day or class by putting students in the right frame of mind for their daily learning by employing existing, proven, 5-15 minute “relaxation” tools. These types of videos and software, which have been shown to greatly increase student focus and concentration and reduce difficult behavior, could easily be made available by the DOE to all teachers.

A fourth simple and motivating change would be to connect all our students to peers around the world through such free tools as ePals. Even when there is only one computer in a classroom (almost always the case in the U.S. today) students can, one or two at a time, regularly connect with students across the globe. ePals is not only free, it is secure as well.

A final quick change with great motivating potential would be to allow, for instructional use, devices the students already, to an increasing extent, own, know, and love, i.e., cell phones. There is a growing movement of teachers and educators who support this; they are creating lessons for the curricular use of cell phones while figuring out ways to deal with potential student abuse. If not all students in a class have their own phones, a teacher can easily create teams of two or more students to share.

All of these things are doable this September. If implemented widely, they would change the face of American education, improving it greatly. There are many other things we could do as well. Making these relatively simple, student-focused changes would have much more effect on student success than requiring more advanced degrees for teachers or even implementing smaller class sizes (this becomes less of an issue once students begin partnering and learning on their own).

We should all support experimentation and innovation in education. But instead of just spending, and often wasting, billions of dollars to create things that are new, let’s try harder to fix what we have that’s already in place. Our kids, when properly motivated, are far more capable and creative than our critics give them credit for. Let’s give all of them the motivation they need to work, create, and succeed.

__________
Marc Prensky, a worldwide speaker on education, is the author of three books, including the recently published Teaching Digital Natives Partnering for Real Learning (Corwin Press, 2010).

38 Responses

  1. Your propposals are very interesting and sensible – yet I doubt the 5th, about cell phone use, could be implemented by September.

    Even in Switzerland, where I live, it would be difficult to get all education authorities to authorize the use of cell phones in schools, at least with <16-year-old students, at such short notice. Let alone to get most teachers to use them even if the authorization was given: too many cases of privacy violation and bullying lead to their prohibition. And we did not even have – nor are likely to have – the US merciless though baseless hounding of Julie Amero to scare teachers and authorities further from using tech that might exposing them to similar risks.

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  3. I love what you say about curricula being “overstuffed”. I agree 100% that we should be doing something about it ASAP. In my lesson observations (I’m a TEFL teacher trainer) this is usually perceived as a frantic pace – one exercise followed by another type attitude – and very little true interaction between students and teacher.
    I suspect this is all part of the backwash effect of testing. So my feeling is we need to re-think evaluation / testing before we can see the changes you are advocating come true. Yes, these changes are long overdue – indeed.

  4. I couldn´t agree more…In my country, Brazil, the very same happens. Most teachers favour theory rather than experimentation. The student´s role is most of the time passive. Moreover, investment in experimental lessons is underestimated. It is time my government invested in teacher development as well as sponsored experiments in the classroom.

  5. Dear Marc, great ideas indeed, esp. Yr idea of sending tar balls to schools all over the US so as to engage students in current problems involving not only their own life, but the life of many more citizens like themselves. If we took simple measures in order to improve our classroom atmosphere and students’ level of motivation, we’d start a changing wave – real learning would take place in an easier way.

  6. I think many teachers would welcome the opportunity to incorporate “tar balls” from the Gulf oil spill to their classrooms. In Birmingham Public Schools, we are working hard to bring down the walls and make global connections. I can visualize teams of kids constructed from around the world researching together not only the tar ball…but how the oil has impacted the animals, marine environments, and human lives. I agree with you that it would help kids better understand the devastation. While I concur that it is always good to work in conjunction with administration, I think that these investigations which would encourage global collaboration, critical thinking, research skills, inquiry, are absolutely in line with curriculum and state standards. One just has to read them carefully to make the match.

    Having kids team together and create divergent lists of solutions would be at the top of Blooms “reconstructed” taxonomy, wouldn’t it?

    How can we find these connections? How do we move beyond wouldn’t it be great if…and give the next steps for interested educators…that would be extremely valuable for me…

    In regards to starting out in September…in addition to learning the passions of students (and teachers sharing their passions with students) I would suggest giving a Multiple Intelligence inventory (you can google search these for all different grade levels) and find out not if the students are smart…but “how are they smart” (according to their own perception)…when sharing the results of the surveys with the class, members of the classroom community find out not only that kids are smart in different ways, but everybody is “smart”. This also helps the teacher differentiate instruction by designing activities that not only tap into a variety of modalities but different strength area of the students.

    P.S. You were missed at the BLC10 this year…we were hoping to attend another one of your sessions!

    Enrichment Specialist and Ignite Facilitator Birmingham Public Schools

  7. Your idea about shipping the oil from the gulf to every science classroom around the country is fantastic. I recently heard from a student whom I taught 10 years ago. He shared with me how meaningful a lesson he had participated in had been in light of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. As a special education teacher in 7th grade inclusion science classes my partner and I would teach a unit on the environment. One of the lessons was a demonstration of an oil spill. We would begin by identifying students whom we were sure was not allergic to peanut butter and give these students a very large spoonful to put in their mouth and ask them to talk, whistle, sing, etc. Of course they could not. This always brought on lots of laughter among everyone in the class. The purpose here was to show how various substances can greatly inhibit normal function, e.g. birds covered in oil. Following the peanut butter demonstration we would set up two water basins, one containing just water and one with water and crude oil in it. The demonstration showed how a feather drawn through the water came out unchanged and a feather drawn through the basin containing water and oil came out drooping, heavy and would now sink when placed in the basin containing only water. This was connected to how water fowl are affected by an oil spill. We would then use different methods, dispersants (dawn dish detergent) and “sweep” (specially designed fabric made to absorb petroleum products and not water) to clean up the feather and the oil spill we had made. The student who contacted me recently remembered the lesson and was very interested in the situation in the Gulf of Mexico. He understood the discussion in the news about dispersants and knew they must be using “sweep” to clean up the oil. Without the 7th grade science lesson, experience he would have been like much of our society, unaware of what could and most likely is being done to respond to this disaster. While learning about an oil spill first hand may not have seemed important or relevant outside that particular classroom at the time it is certainly relevant for every student who was there for that lesson now given what is happening.

  8. I love the idea of helping our current education system with the sample of ideas that could be implemented. Using the current oil spill problem and turning it into a positive exploration where students can learn about the world around them, students can learn how it affects their life in ways they had never thought about. Also, technology doesn’t always have to be a bad thing and I like the many ideas for using the current advancements to encourage students where their passions are. Teachers can learn about each student’s passions and use them to help children learn where they are so they can remain interested in the learning process.

    Overall, great post to point out ways that educators can start encouraging and learning with students to help enhance our education system. Thanks for the ideas to help this process get started.

  9. I love the idea of bringing more real life events into the curriculum for schools. One of my biggest complaints from high school especially is that you learn very few things that you use in life for example calculus.

    Samples from the oil spill would be a great way for students to become involved and really be exposed to what is happening in today’s world. Not all parents discuss these topics with their children or watch the new with them around and this would be a great opportunity for them to find out.

    I also love your idea about passion. If children are passionate about what they are doing or learning about, they are going to apply themselves more and want to succeed. There were many subjects in school that I had no interest in and had no desire to learn about them but there were others that I could not get enough of and wanted to know more and more.

    Overall, you have some amazing ideas that require little to no cost. I love your idea of “fix what we already have that’s in place.” Most people do not look at it like this but I believe that this would make a great impact on our education system.

  10. I love this article. “By small things, do great things come to pass” … You don’t have to start out big to end big. And certainly within the world of education, it is the small things that make the biggest impacts. Let’s get started! Today!

  11. Marc, I enjoyed reading this. Out of the five ideas that you have given, I love and agree with you more on the first one. It is so true that teacher need to know more about their students in what they are interested and their passion. I have seen more talking than teaching in High School. Many teachers need to know how to teach each student on their own interest. As you said, students need to be passion and interested in what they are learning; teachers are the most important guideline for them. This article help me more understanding in the learning processes for children. Thanks!

  12. I agree with your statement that, “For our kids’ education to improve, serious curricular deletion and revision is required” I have watched our schools go more and more toward specific curriculum and “teaching to the test” in an effort to fulfill the NCLB act. I don’t believe we have children who are incapable of learning, we have children that are bored and not being challenged by the current curriculum. We don’t have bad teachers, they are told what, when, and how to teach so that their class, school, and district will pass the standardized tests in that area.

    Your ideas for changes that are doable by September are great. Students, especially Middle and High school students need to know that they are valued as people in the classroom. Having a teacher who cares and asks about their passions shows that we are interested in these children. They will feel better about the subject and the work they do in that class.

    Children who are motivated to learn tend to delve deeper into the projects they are working on, take more pride in their work and develop critical thinking skills instead of memorizing information to spit out for a test and then forgetting most of the information. Developing critical thinking skills in our children is the only way we are going to improve our educational standards and produce a new generation of people ready to solve the problems that will come up during their adult lifetime.

  13. I loved the ideas about finding ways to bring real problems that the world is facing into the classroom. This motivates students to become involved and care about what is going on and let them see how it affects them. Also, being able to communicate with someone, like someone living on the Gulf Coast would help students see that this is impacting the lives of real people. This may help show students that Education is important because it can solve problems and better the world, not just pass standardized tests.

  14. I think this is a very interesting post. You did have several great points. In the beginning when you touched base on the oil spill, that is a good point. I think by having the students actually involved and see, feel and smell the results of the oil spill would open their eyes a bit to the world around them. They are our future and we need to teach and mold them to want to stand for the things that are right. Which all this is a lot easier said then done. Also, you mentioned the 5th thing about the cell phones. I feel this is highly unlikely going to happen. Unless the school systems are willing to pay for cell phones for each child it would not work. Most students would only benefit if they had a cell phone with a data plan (email/internet access) and not every cell phone has these capabilities. Right now if this came into effect you would have other students using cell phones that other parents are purchasing, and I do not feel that it would be possible to make this happen as soon as you’re expecting.

  15. Great article. I think that sending the oil spill evidence covering the beaches to schools around the country would be a great way to facilitate education outreach and help teachers with the project approach model. Having hard to reach resource right at hand will help further the children’s education and allow them to experiment and investigate as if they were right there at the beach. I completely agree on finding the students passion from day one. Even though, the variety might be so different from one another, it should be some-what possible to narrow it down for everyone’s enjoyment. Part of the project approach model is allowing students to investigate and raise questions about the topic, thus allowing the children to guide the direction of the curriculum. This should help limit the amount of “telling” to-do by the teacher and let the children explore and observe individually or as a whole.

  16. There are so many good ideas expressed in this article! I completely agree that children are far more capable than many, including teachers, give them credit for. Why can’t our children be more involved with current issues in the society they are also a part of? The idea of providing real educational experiences, instead of simply their authenticity would be so beneficial for children, as they would be given the opportunity to develop a genuine interest in their world now, rather than waiting to for high-school or even adulthood.
    Thank you for campaigning for these student-focused changes in education. You are so right that the passions of the students should be known and supported/encouraged by their teachers. I love the idea of education as a “partnership” between the teacher and student. This is something anyone working with children should remember. When a child feels his/her interests are valued, they are more open to receive new information and encouraged to experience new things.

  17. There are so many good ideas expressed in this article! I completely agree that children are far more capable than many, including teachers, give them credit for. Why can’t our children be more involved with current issues in the society they are also a part of? The idea of providing real educational experiences, instead of simply their authenticity would be so beneficial for children, as they would be given the opportunity to develop a genuine interest in their world now, rather than waiting to for high-school or even adulthood.
    Thank you for campaigning for these student-focused changes in education. You are so right that the passions of the students should be known and supported/encouraged by their teachers. I love the idea of education as a “partnership” between the teacher and student. This is something anyone working with children should remember. When a child feels his/her interests are valued in the classroom, they are more open to receive new information and encouraged to experience new things.

  18. There are so many good ideas expressed in this article! I completely agree that children are far more capable than many, including teachers, give them credit for. Why can’t our children be more involved with current issues in the society they are also a part of? The idea of providing real educational experiences, instead of simply their authenticity would be so beneficial for children, as they would be given the opportunity to develop a genuine interest in their world now, rather than waiting to for high-school or even adulthood.
    Thank you for campaigning for these student-focused changes in education. You are so right that the passions of the students should be known and supported/encouraged by their teachers. I love the idea of education as a “partnership” between the teacher and student. This is something anyone working with children should remember. When a child feels his/her interests are valued, they are more open to receive new information and encouraged to experience new things.

  19. “For our kids’ education to improve, serious curricular deletion and revision is required.”

    Any serious study of the state standards will show that this is possibly the biggest problem we must overcome to accomplish any sort of reform, but state standards demand this overstuffed curriculum, and I see little possibility of change any time soon. A couple of years ago Georgia established new standards that defined, for example, what every student graduating must know in Language Arts. When I examined those standards, I wondered if I have ever met more than a couple of English teachers in my lifetime who knew all of what was supposed to be required of all high school graduates.

    Look at the California science standards. Science educators doubt if it is possible for students to learn all the required body of facts in a school year, even if no time is dedicated to labs, rather than the large percentage actually required in addition to all that content memorization.

    I was in a meeting of curriculum leaders in our school district years ago when the social studies director returned from the meeting in the state education department in which the final draft of the social studies standards was approved. He told everyone else that they might as well retire. From then on, high school students were going to need to stay in school until they were 25, and they would not have time to take any courses other than social studies.

    The problem with this is worse for online instruction than it is for regular instruction. The regular classroom teacher can close the door and edit the requirements down to something manageable, with no one being the wiser. An online curriculum must frequently be approved by the state body that created the standards, and the lessons, fully visible for all to see, must be shown in many states to match the outrageously unwieldy standards exactly in order to be approved.

    • Yes, the new national curriculum for earth science has 70 standards for grades 6-8. Life science has 51, and physical science has 59 by my (possibly inaccurate) count.

      The Texas standards for high school physics have about 250 topics. With around 180 school days per year, that’s about 1.5 topics per day.

      The national curriculum is more mellow but the topics aren’t broken down into such small pieces.

      As I read through them, I have to ask, “Why should anyone have to learn all of this?”

  20. This is a fascinating article because it provides great ideas that can be use to fix the current problems with our educational system. I do not have children yet, but I fear the ineffectiveness of the public education system in creating that intellectual spark in my children.

  21. Great ideas! Does anybody have specific names of “relaxation” tools that you have used and that I could broadcast in our daily “Morning Show” that is shown to the entire school? Thank you in advance for any suggestions.

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  23. I echo all of the praise for this article. I, like Michele above, would like some ideas for “relaxation” tools. I think this is a great idea and would like to explore it further.

  24. In the interests or realism it should be noted that there are more than that 55 million students in the schools of the US. That’s a lot of tar to distribute.

    Perhaps they will be distributed only to secondary school students. That reduces the packets of tar to be distributed to some 16 million.

    Would it be acceptable for BP to deliver the 16 million packets to the US Department of Education, or would we expect BP to send an appropriate number to every secondary school in the nation?

    How do we estimate how many volunteers filling packets with tar for how many days might be needed?

    Or: is it possible to get all or most of the value of such an exercise without the real tar?

    • Interesting take. I have been working with Scalable Game Design, and that is the work of Alexander Repenning.

      The actual work starts out with learning some fundamentalideas about creating a game.

      Mission: Reinventing computer science in public schools by motivating & educating all students including women and underrepresented communities to learn about computer science through game design starting at the middle school level .
      Empowering girls in math, science, and technology, a local summer camp shows it’s campers how to clean up after an oil spill, use robotics and more.

      The Girlstart summer camp in North Austin offers a hands-on exploration of science, math and technology in a fun and girl-friendly environment.

      This week, middle school students learned about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. They created a demo on oil spills using vegetable oil and Dawn dishwashing soap.

      “It’s so cool, because it’s, like, if only they could do it, it would be so much easier. But, obviously, they can’t or they would be done by now,” Girlstart camper Madeleine Levsen said.

      The campers also learned about ocean levels and about the habitats of specific fish. They also programmed computer games to stop the oil spill without killing any fish.

      The girls participating in Girlstart summer camp also learn how to program robots. They used the robot to save a fake pelican from an oil spill instead of using humans because of the danger factor.

      We’re talking about marine biology and how it’s important. And, the girls really relate to that. They love animals, they want to help the sea and things like that,” Girlstart Camp Director Katelyn Wamsted said.

      Opening their minds to math and science, and also opening their eyes to what’s happening in the real world.

      “It must be really sad those animals. It’s hard to get it just water,” Madeleine said. “And, that water is contaminated with oil So, even if you did a little bit get off, you get a little bit more on you. So, it just must be terribly sad.”

      http://www.news8austin.com/content/headlines/271865/camp-empowers-girls-to-find-solutions-to-major-problems

      Departrment of Commerce also has website lessons that are easily replicatable without the tar.

      Just a thought. If it seems that I am pushing visualization and modeling, I am. But I don’t work for
      Scalable Game Design. I work for the idea of
      new ways of learning and I am passionate about capturing the ideas of participatory learning.

      Bonnie Bracey Sutton

  25. Missed this article when it first came out, so this is a belated response.

    Sorry, but I do not share others’ enthusiasm for Prenky’s approach. The idea to distribute 55 million tarballs is extremely expensive and highly impractical as Steve Eskow’s post illustrates. In fact, such an effort would be seen as a “Trojan horse” attempt to impose federal control over education, and face broad resistance as a result.

    His other specific ideas are nice, but hardly original — in fact, no doubt they are being done by hundreds, in some cases, thousands of teachers and thousands, perhaps millions of students in some cases.

    Which raises the real issue: why do 55 million schoolchildren have to be involved in this? Yes, the BP spill affects everyone; so do thousands of other issues. Wouldn’t sending out 55 million tarballs deprive teachers of the opportunity to experiment and innovate which Prensky purports to advocate? Please note carefully: Prensky did NOT say, “develop a program to send out tarballs to every teacher who requests one.” No, he proposed a blanket “solution” for everybody. The distinction is crucial, and not merely rhetorical, as it reflects a an ultimately authoritarian approach to moving forward.

    As does the notion that the education system is “broken” and needs “fixing.” The more I study this issue, the more annoying this misguided meme has become. Please enlighten us: when was the educational system ever working just fine, and when did it break? The current issues we face are not the product of a “broken” system, but of one which is not designed to achieve its current intended purpose: education for all. This aspiration is relatively recent in our history; we have not figured out how to do it yet, which is not surprising because it is a hugely ambitious undertaking, in fact unprecedented in human history. But calling the system “broken” is like calling an Apple IIe computer “broken” because it doesn’t support video. The computer works just fine; the problem is that a more powerful one is needed.

    In Prensky’s case, all the “real learning” takes place in the “best programs” such charter schools and programs with identifiable labels (KIPP, Harlem Zone, Teach for America, etc.). But they reach “less than 2 million, i.e., only 4% of what is needed.” The implication: multiply these programs twenty-five-fold, and education is “fixed.” Wrong — these programs do not work for all their participants; at best, what they trumpet as success is marginal improvement at best. (Show me one which has 100% success and I’ll take a closer look at it.) Prensky’s assertions are also deeply insulting to the multitude of teachers who try, and often succeed within a flawed system.

    Of course, if an entire system is broken, then one feels comfortable proposing a ‘one size fits all’ solution such as 55 million tarballs or the Five Simple Changes which will Save Our Schools. Do what I say, problem fixed, schools saved; move on to next problem. Prensky’s views have always struck me as ultimately motivated by a deep resentment for education and schooling as having wronged him in some way. But education is not a problem to be fixed; it is an ongoing enterprise of relationships.

    Perhaps if Prensky showed a little more appreciation for nuance and complexity instead of his ‘black-and-white’ approach (‘Schools bad; my ideas for real learning good’), it’d be possible for me to take Prensky’s ideas more seriously…

  26. Visualization and modeling are great — as long as they aren’t substitutes for real science labs involving taking real data from the real world with true data collection and so providing for an authentic science learning experience. Students already get too little of this experience and cannot afford to lose any more. See the National Research Council’s “America’s Lab Report” for a fuller discussion.

  27. “…but creating technology that teaches, and teaches well, except for the most highly self-motivated students, is extremely difficult and has yet to be done broadly.”

    Take a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuHcppi0TQg. Pay special attention to the almost-failing student’s response to technology that teaches.

    This particular technology (in which I have a stake) may not be the best possible today; it may not even be the best available, but it really, really works.

    I’m not criticizing Mr. Prensky’s suggestions, just his quick dismissal of technological approaches. Just because you haven’t seen it yet doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

  28. Well, the ideas may be simplistic but at least the idea is something that can be done in all classrooms. I am not must on tar balls. But teachers usually are asked to buy everything .

    Similar outreach?

    I was introduced to real science in Virginia, at the Science museum when they did the Kepone outreach.
    I don’t remember the incident, but industry financed outreach because of the Kepone in the James River.

    I am embarassed to say I still have the book. The state of Virginia created the opportunity for teachers to come
    and learn real science for a week and we were given resources to take home to my classroom.

    It was magic in changing my understanding of hands on science. Most of the class returned for another symposium and most of the other teachers got PhD’s in
    areas of science. I did not choose to leave the classroom.

    I was so excited to teach physics at the University of Virginia to other teachers as a part of the work.

    On a personal note it was when science became real to me.

    Just a thought.

    Thanks Marc for making me remember when I learned to love science.

    Bonnie

  29. Bring on the tar balls! Maybe Dr. Ballard and the Jason Project could get involved in the project to make it happen nation wide.

    We started school August 18th and I have accomplished 3 of your 5 suggestions. I start the year showing my students a model of DNA and then they complete a form called “I am unique…” that is all about them from favorite ice cream flavor to favorite videogame to career interests. I use this info all year long to connect and engage. Next I asked my students to find a cell they are interested in, build a model of it, and prepare to tell the class an interesting story about it (one student chose the oil eating bacteria that have shown up in the Gulf since the spill). Today my students used their stopwatches on their cell phones to help gather data for a speed experiment with retractable toy cars. I gave them the cars, weights, tape, and two meter sticks, they did the rest. They made excellent line graphs of their data on the online site called Create-a-Graph. I’d like to complete your other two suggestions before the end of the month so please post resources for the “relaxation” tools (a Dalcroze roll call method would be great if you know of one). I signed up for epals but I am also toying with the idea of an exchange through the virtual world of Quest Atlantis, one way or another we will be in contact with other students across the globe. I would also like my students to use their cell phones to participate in a GPS Your Trees with kids in Kenya. Keep up the great work, I look forward to reading your books next summer. Please let us know which online free games you like for math and science and what do you think about World of Warcraft at School http://wowinschool.pbworks.com/ . If only computers fell from the sky into school computer labs, what fun learning we could have!

  30. NOAA to the rescue. Supercomputing and Ranger to the rescue. Even at the Expo little students were using IPads to view the simulation of the oil spill and they also picked up posters from TACC to show the effects of the Oil spill.

    NOAA has a project Science on a Sphere, that was demonstrated at the recent supercomputing conference in New Orleans and in fact is on the cover of “Computational Science, Foundation for Innovation. from the coalition for academic scientific computation at http://www.wasc.org

    The contact person is Sue Fradkin

    Bonnie Bracey Sutton

  31. […] risk falling into irrelevancy. In a recent post on Education, Technology and Change Journal (http://etcjournal.com/2010/07/12/4918/ ) Marc Prensky appears to have softened his opposition to traditional classrooms and pedagogy […]

  32. I agree with many aspects of this article – the motivating potential of using real problems to help students construct solutions, uncovering sources of passion and finding new ways to use the tools that we already have to guide learning.

    As a college professor, I am intrigued by the notion of tapping into the passions that learners bring with them into the classroom. While I agree that it is important for teachers to understand what interests and motivates our students, it is also important to help them develop the tools to learn effectively in situations within which they feel no or minimal levels of passion. What strategies can we share to help students get interested in topics that seem to be boring or irrelevant? It is easy for students to learn in areas related to their passions, but we also have a duty to help them succeed in domains outside their zone of passion.

  33. From my experiences, students’ educational experience is greatly enhanced by hands on influences. The idea of having them examine the tar and sand from the oil can help to give them a feeling of being invested in their own education, as well as providing them a practical experience in “real world” problems. The idea of letting them handle an object that has been affected by the oilo spill will help to trigger their tactile sense, giving them another means to incorporate data into their education.

  34. […] By Marc Prensky via Educational Technology & Change. […]

  35. I am impressed with this article and think that it is high time that we teach kids to use technology to enhance the curriculm. I believe if we allowed students to create Facebook pages and comment about world issues we would find that young people are more invested in learning more about the world around them. Teaching kids how to appropriately interact using social media is a responsibity that educators need to as seriously as passing high school assessments. If our goal is to prepare kids for the future teaching students using current technology is the best way to do it. If we want to continue to be competitive as a nation, we need to use all the technology that is available to prepare the younger generation for the future.

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