Time to Face the 21st Century

I have a ton of projects that I should be grading but first I have to share something frustrating? disheartening? unbelievable?…that I heard today.

At our district department chair meeting we were discussing the draft of the new history/social science framework.  Though it’s coming up for its second field review (which means nothing is finalized), we were discussing how this “new” framework would impact what we do with our students.  At first glance, most of the topics seem the same…some wording has been changed…and it looks like there’s more of a global (thematic) outlook.  All in all, it didn’t look too bad.

But a question was brought up about how much autonomy would we have with the benchmark testing.  Currently we do not administer the CST in history…only the benchmarks that were created by an outside company with no input from the teachers.  Benchmarks which sorely need to be revised.  But I digress.

The idea of the cost of revising the benchmark came up because now that our district is moving towards administering the benchmark via Illuminate, it means that we should be able to easily revise the questions because there’s no monetary cost to reprint test booklets…just the cost in man-power to revise the questions online.  We’ve been pushing for revised benchmarks for years…to no avail.

Then another department chair brought up the question about textbook adoption.  Apparently we’re slated to adopt new history/social science textbooks in two years.  Do we wait on the pilot until the “new” standards have been finalized?  Can the textbook companies align their product with the standards in time?  Everyone knows that California is very picky when it comes to textbooks.  Case in point, I have a couple of textbooks which are specifically labeled “California Edition”…

It was at this time that I decided to add my two cents.  I asked…why not just skip the textbook adoption and just use OER?  Each content area could build a site that curated primary and secondary sources…and that way we could easily revise the resources because they aren’t in print form.  I mentioned that modern US and world history textbooks cannot keep up with the changes.  If we utilize online sources, we could keep up with new information.  And save money in the process.  Maybe we could truly go 1:1 with the money we’d save by NOT purchasing textbooks.

I think that my point was well received by the department chairs.  There’s no one there who is married to our current textbooks.  In fact, most of us have supplemented (er, supplanted?) our textbook with other sources anyway.  But then one of the administrators in attendance said something to the effect, “Our district will never go away from print.” Her comment effectively shut down the conversation.

Nice.

Way to keep a closed mind.

When are we going to join the 21st century?  I certainly hope it’s before the 22nd one comes along.

Easing Back into the Fray

Monday morning back from a holiday is just as hard on the teachers as it is on the students.  As a veteran teacher, I know that it’s best to ease back into the routine.  We started a new unit today which was a perfect introduction back into a schedule ruled by bells.  The task for today was for students to analyze a secondary source and compile notes utilizing the Thinking Tools:  details and unanswered questions.  Today’s task focused on giving students the choice to work together or independently (my morning classes were half asleep) as they used their analysis skills and background knowledge to make inferences about life on the manor in feudal Europe.
I usually tweet this…but today I really should have done it…I really should have recorded their conversations because they were so interesting, thought-provoking, and in some cases, downright hysterical.  In analyzing a picture of manor life, most students struggled with an object that looked like an elephant (not likely in Europe), a rock (not a significant factor for describing a place), or a person taking off their clothes (to which they wondered…why is someone taking their clothes off in the middle of the manor?!?!).  Then there was an object in quadrant two…is it a guy doing pull-ups (seriously?), committing suicide (well, we did just finish our study on the Bushido Code), or was someone hanged for a crime (what kind of crime required hanging as a punishment? how long did they leave the guy hanging? what is that hanging thing called?!).  One of these days, I’m going to record their conversations because the pictures on Instagram only told half the story.  When students verbalize their thinking, it is truly something to behold…