Nanny standards creep


Posted on 13th October 2010 by Judy Breck in Findability | Nurture | Testing and assessment

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Two articles featured this morning in The Chronicle of Higher Education are about the creeping of government nanny standards into colleges.

The first article is not open to general readers, but you can get the general idea from its title: “In Return for Federal Dollars, Obama Demands Results From Colleges.”

The second article is open to all readers. Here is some flavor:

Responding to what they call unfair scrutiny from state and federal regulators, representatives from online colleges discussed a self-imposed quality-assurance framework at today’s Presidents’ Forum in Washington, convened by Excelsior College.

But state officials said they are still concerned that self-imposed standards are not good enough and that online programs are not consistent in providing students with high-quality education. . . .

As the internet rapidly matures in coming months and years, these nanny standards form yet more schooling firewalls for the delivery of open learning from the internet. These nanny-creep-firewalls will undermine educational effectiveness for both the colleges who get stuck with them and the governments that demand them.

The most recent post on this blog describes how the new HTML.5 will facilitate delivery of study materials conforming to what a student is ready to learn. This individual assessment of what to learn next is based on at what level of the subject the student has already engaged in previous websites. This fundamental new way to set a standard for what to study next is totally separate from the perceived lockstep standards of either the college or the government. The assessment HTML.5 will generate totally accommodates the learner.

The day is coming when standard setting nannies will need to prove their relevance in the new venue of online response to a student’s level of inquiry. It seems sort of silly for a nanny standard to test a student on algebra in her first college year, when the internet is sending her more basic math knowledge based on her past visits online. Or really silly to give the same algebra test to a student in her class who is exploring calculus and trigonometry based on HTML.5 selected resources where he is spending time.

Post racial delivery of knowledge to students


Posted on 19th September 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Next | Schools we now have

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One of the big, simple, marvelous truths about the future of global learning is that knowledge itself will be post racial.

Post racial knowledge is not dollops of parts of subjects measured to form standards for the average student in a school or state or nation. Post racial knowledge resources for learning are not tailored to kids expected to learn not so much — as happens routinely in inner city public schools. Post racial knowledge is not conformed to a particular religion. Post racial knowledge is not designed to teach students to be loyal to a tribal chief or to support a nation’s tyrant.

The upheaval going on now in schooling is distressing. The Waiting for Superman movie and the likely departure of Washington DC Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee are recent episodes in global education inadequacies and chaos.

Yet almost never considered in the schooling milieu is that fact that what can be learned has become readily available online at little or no cost students. A wonderful aspect of this ready access of knowledge to learn is that the experience is post racial when a student uses online sources. The internet, and the mobile online browsers kids around the world increasing use, have no idea who is holding a connective device in his or her hand.

The learner has no need to tell the device who his daddy is. The expectations for each learner are just the same if he or she is a Harvard grad student, a projects resident in the Bronx, or a small gnome from Neptune.

Ken Robinson on standardized testing


Posted on 22nd March 2010 by Judy Breck in Schools we now have | Testing and assessment

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In this five-minute interview Ken Robinson discusses with Bonnie Hunt why standardized testing is harmful to the individual development of children. He includes a key thought that is part of network theory, though he does not talk of it in network terms: configuring a pattern around a center. Of course standardized testing does the opposite of letting a child center learning around an individual talent.

Robinson explains near the end of the video that “kids give you messages” about what they are drawn to, which in a network environment is a potential center around which their education could be shaped. Robinson says that “when you find your talent, your whole life changes. . . . If education is not about finding the life that’s purpose is meaningful fulfillment, then what is it about?”

Via Education Futures

The core that is really common is online


Posted on 10th March 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Schools we now have

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Today the Common Core State Standards Initiative is releasing proposed standards for what students should learn in K-12 English and math. As Nick Anderson writes in the Washington Post article about the announcement: “Instituting new academic standards would reverberate in textbooks, curriculum, teacher training and student learning from coast to coast.” Eventually, we can suppose, it will get to the kids — most certainly not in anything close to equal opportunities to learn. The Exeter faculty will make sure their students master the concepts; at Dunbar not so much.

There is a wonderful new way to have a common core for what students learn: use the global knowledge commons emerging online. For example, let’s hope all of the books are put openly online that the governors and state school superintendents have proposed in the standards they are announcing today. Otherwise students at Dunbar may have more trouble locating a hardcopy of them all than youngsters in Evanston and Peoria.

The Washington Post gives this example of a math common core standard: “Eighth-graders would be expected to use linear equations to solve for an unknown and explain a proof of the Pythagorean theorem on properties of a right triangle — cornerstones of algebra and geometry.” Happily there are many places in the online commons to learn about Pythagorean proofs. Click the image for an example.

Can it be: standards don’t work because they are absent encodable circuitry?

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Posted on 4th March 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Schools we now have


Put positively: learning online networked knowledge surely stimulates connections in the circuitry of a child’s brain. George Will writes in his column this week, reviewing the best-selling book Nurture Shock:

Until age 21, the circuitry of a child’s brain is being completed. Bronson and Merryman report research on grade schoolers showing that “the performance gap caused by an hour’s difference in sleep was bigger than the gap between a normal fourth-grader and a normal sixth-grader.” In high school, there is a steep decline in sleep hours, and a striking correlation of sleep and grades.

Tired children have trouble retaining learning “because neurons lose their plasticity, becoming incapable of forming the new synaptic connections necessary to encode a memory. . . . The more you learned during the day, the more you need to sleep that night.”

An hour of the drill baby drill approach to teaching sets of standards may not a lot leave for connecting synapses to deal with while encoding memory in sleep. The idea of standards in itself delimits an individual youngster’s pursuit of her curiosity: The class all learns what is in the standard box in the class hour.

Compare what a student will experience spending the same hour following connections in the USGS Earthquake Hazards webpages that interconnect complex knowledge with interactive paths to follow active curiosity. Surely synapses purr into action as she clicks through the map to individual real-time earthquakes, and then to the three-dimensional global regional information when her eye catches the slab models for subduction zones.

George Will’s column is headlined: “How to ruin a child.” Another important way current child-rearing does this ruination should be added to the several in the NurtureShock book. We are ruining their potential to grasp knowledge by chopping it into standard pieces. We need to cut children’s minds free of lock-step, standardized learning that settles for a minimum and ignores the long tails of subjects. This can only be done by letting each child think individually.

Except for wandering and turned off minds, during a class hour all students are regimented to be thinking about the same knowledge at the same time. In contrast, an individual youngster clicking through earthquake knowledge on his own mobile internet browser is sending patterns of connections encountered among webpages through the circuitry of his brain. Such patterns can be complex, and are meaningful to him because they follow his focused attention and curiosity. In this example, a boy is moving beyond a few standard facts of earth science. He is exploring his way down through the long tail of authoritative, fresh, and interconnected knowledge about earthquakes.

We can suppose that if he gets a good night’s sleep interconnected understanding of earthquake knowledge will encode into memory. If he had spend the same time drilling a few earth science standards, the encoding would be not so much.

Where’s the math beef in the core standards?


Posted on 24th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Findability | Schools we now have

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Back in the 1980s, Wendy’s ran its famous “Where’s the beef?” ads. At some point the abundance of internet knowledge is going to force the same question to be asked out loud about the beef in school standards. To get the idea, here is a comparison you can make:

Click around a bit in the Wolfram network of mathematical explanations and demonstrations — all linked together by their cognitive relationships. You will find Sirloin, flank steak, hamburger — and every math beef cut and preparation imaginable.

Next, take a look at the Common Core State Mathematics Standards. These sets of standards are being put together by the governors of the US states and state school officials to “define the knowledge and skills students should have to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing, academic college courses and in workforce training programs.” Where’s the beef?