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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Fisher is Asking Good Questions

Over at Remote Access, Clarence Fisher asks why more school curriculum isn't tagged in Technorati. He then asks his real question, "What does this say about how current many of the topcs that we teach are?"

I think I understand where Mr. Fisher is going with this - in a nutshell, that modern curriculum isn't attractive or meaningful to our students in the 21st century, and that teachers/and web authors are not tagging their information so that it can be found.

My short answer is that the reason our curriculum has little meaning is not that the content isn't valuable, but rather that we do not have enough artistically-trained teachers who know how to reach their students...because teachers have been trained to concentrate on the curriculum/standards instead of the students first. As I review the Georgia Performance Standards, I am overwhelmed with boredom at what teachers are asked to present. But again, it's not what is presented, but rather how it is presented that can make the difference in the way students receive the information they are being force-fed.

Mr. Fisher's second question, to me, has the greater implications for teachers who want to figure out ways to reach their students. The question he asks is, Have you noticed... "how few of the webpages that you access, looking for resources you can use in class, have RSS feeds to bring the latest news to you?

My answer is two-fold. First, the majority of educators probably wouldn't understand how or why they should use RSS feeds to keep up with current news, and second, the sources I would likely use to reach my students in the classroom can have RSS feeds, even if the authors do not provide a feed of their own. That's right...I would use a service like Page2RSS to create my own feed to pages that could be helpful to me in the teaching of my students. Though not 100% reliable, it would likely serve me well enough.

I would also use the Google News RSS feature on topics I knew I would be presenting to my class. As a matter of fact, I am in the process of conducting Google searches on the Georgia Performance Standards for grades 6, 7, 8 Social Studies topics. When new news items make their way to the Web, I can receive an update. It's a great service that Will Richardson discussed at the 2006 Georgia Ed. Tech Conference last November. He used Darfur as an example. Powerful! For the teacher who doesn't understand the RSS thing, they can even have email updates on their topics. Too cool, too easy, and too few teachers are using it.

Again, it is not that teachers are hurting for curriculum, material, knowledge, news, or lesson plans. Teacher are lacking in the skill to find, collect, evaluate, analyze, and use information that would assist them in making their students more interested in the content they are presented...the art of being a good teacher. As an old history teacher once said, "History is not boring. Everything we find exciting has happened sometime in the past." History is boring when we present the material in textbooks, handouts, and from the standards. History comes alive when we can illustrate that the human condition has not changed that much, even if technology has. I wouldn't try to hook middle school kids on the issue of slavery by talking about antebellum America. I would hook them by reading today's article from allAfrica.com about how Mauritania's government made slavery illegal...in August 2007. I might even consider using something like illegal immigration (a topic of great debate in our city of >40% Hispanic population) and how local companies recruited workers from other countries to take jobs at a lower pay than normal. I might get in trouble for that one though.

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