Yesterday’s article in eWeek, “Lack of Computer Curricula Deemed ‘Disastrous and Shortsighted'” laments the lack of enrollments in computer technology courses in most US high schools, despite business job projections of a shortage of qualified US applicants for IT positions in upcoming years.

Teachers polled noted that the low enrollments in these computer science courses were not the perceived difficulty of the coursework or the perception that it is “geeky,” but a lack of time in student schedules.

These perceptions line up with what I generally hear teachers express in schools. NO TIME. No time for projects, no time for fun activities, no time for in-depth learning because there is too much curriculum to cover. I am becoming increasingly convinced that part of the educational reforms we need, at a public policy level, involve a reduction in curriculum requirements for teachers and students at all levels. This is in line with the message from Dr. David Berliner, when he shared the presentation “High Stakes Testing is the Enemy” several weeks ago in Lubbock.

Do we need standards? Certainly. But do we need the ridiculously long laundry list of standards laid on the plates of teachers and students today? Definitely not. The quantity of standards that individual teachers have to deal with today is totally ridiculous, and I don’t hear many people saying this. It’s like the elephant in the room. To criticize standards seems almost “un-American.” We’ll I’ve got news for you folks: It isn’t. We need more voices of reason speaking out in this era of educational ridiculousness. I am sick and tired of both teachers and students working in environments of FEAR. Yes demographics are working against us as more workers in India and China join the international economy, but this is no reason to act like Chicken Little. Instead of getting scared, as Dan Pink exhorts us in his excellent book “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future,” it’s time to get more creative than we ever have before. Sadly, our public school system seems opposed to changes that are creative, innovative, and especially those that are potentially disruptive of traditional patters of behavior.

Is it a problem that few US high school students are taking computer courses? I think it is. And it is an even bigger problem that relatively few teachers are willingly embracing the opportunities afforded by our digital environment to authentically engage students and help them learn in digitally enhanced ways both during the traditional class day and beyond it? Yes it is. The fact that state legislatures and the federal government mandate high stakes testing on these curriculum standards is a MAJOR part of the educational problems we face, rather than part of a solution.

Standards and testing will not save us or take us to the educational promise land. Only outstanding teachers and administrators can do that. To attract and retain those excellent teachers in large numbers, we need to pay them more and support them better. Part of that support formula must be an end to our ridiculous era of overwhelming numbers of educational standards.


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On this day..

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  • http://ahlness.com Mark Ahlness

    Wesley,
    I agree with you across the board. But I have hope, because I am teaching 8 and 9 year olds – and my kids get it. They get that they are part of a global community. They get that they are creating content, adding information to the body of knowledge in this world.

    Right, there is no time in classrooms today for the things that matter. I say teachers have to MAKE the time. Play the testing game enough to get by – but then do what REALLY matters. The big machine (school districts, legislatures) will not get it in time to make a difference to my kids. They have to change it themselves.

    I have many shining stars in my classroom, as you know. Some of them are budding evangelists for web 2.0 – they will put pressure on their teachers next year, because they have tasted the power of contributing to the world – and they do not want to give that up. I have faith in them. They’ll be in those tech classes.

    So, what to do? Encourage teachers. If they give web 2.0 to their kids, it will spread, because kids will recognize its power. We teachers need to deliver that into our kids’ hands while promoting a positive message of safety, contribution, and involvement.

    Thank you for all you have done to encourage my students and me this year, Wesley. We will all benefit from that, many times over. I’ll put the money on my kids changing things way before I wait for school districts to come ’round. – Mark

    http://roomtwelve.com

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  • JO

    I also agree with what you have to say. As a curriculum consultant in Canada, I have heard the cries of teachers and administrators who live the life of too many objectives to cover – let alone make sure that the students actually understand them! When we offer new ways, the look we get reflects that of a deflated balloon or a mad bull. I will not even describe the reaction we get from the Provincial Assessments (we don’t call them “high-stakes assessments” – yet) that we are trying to launch so that we can “catch-up” to our southern neighbors. (I hope you can detect my sarcasm)

    Dan Pink has some fantastic suggestions for how we could structure a new way of offering curriculum. Since we are no longer in the Information Age, we need to move to the conceptual age. He suggests the 6 high-concept senses to develop a whole new mind in a new era of demands. I think using these senses to drive the curriculum may be a start to preparing our students for the real world rather than the contrived one of our school systems.
    JO

  • http://tuttlesvc.org Tom Hoffman

    I would point out that the conventional wisdom in ed-tech and the ed-tech blogosphere is that computer science and programming aren’t very important (it’s not about the technology, etc., etc.,) Do we need to change that?

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