Friday, May 21, 2010

Texas Social Studies Textbook Debacle

Are we serious?

While everyone is fighting over what is going into the Texas textbooks, we are quite literally missing the point of educating our youth through SOCIAL STUDIES.

I was infuriated by the Huffington Post article that made everything look like conservatives were manipulating language to mold our youth I'll quote them here:

"With little criticism from Democrats on the board, conservatives added language that would require students to discuss the solvency of "long-term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare." "

I mean, are you kidding me? Is it a negative to require that students DISCUSS long term effects of social and government programs?... in Social Studies?

They seem to have a problem with language that points out the second amendment above some of the others. You mean... It's a bad thing to make students discuss the impact of an amendment to The Constitution? One particularly that affects our society right now in many ways? The one that's always a hotbutton topic? You wouldn't want to STUDY the impact on our SOCIETY or anything would you?

Then Fox News reports on how the NAACP shows up and fights for their agenda followed by the ACLU. All these evil doers are fighting for specific language that OUTLINES the topics that should be explored. Of course they are there! Of course they want their issues studied! They had to form an entire national union just to get heard!

Now everyone is all worked up about semantics. 

Here's my point, here's how it applies to technology in education. 

Why are we using textbooks again?

If we set National Standards - the topics to explore and what to explore in what directions... Then one could direct a group of students to a Google Custom Search engine. This could be set to receive information from various sources, including the extremes of both sides of the issues. And guess what would happen...


No one could manipulate the information! The information would be ALIVE. It would be affected by real change in REAL TIME! 

How long do you think it will take for these Texas standards to be published and then spread to the rest of the nation and then bought by schools? And then when will these standards be revisited, and what yearly rotation are the textbooks on? I can almost guarantee we will have the answers and data as to the "solvency of long-term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare". It won't even be worth "exploring" by then.

Imagine what the science textbooks that show Global Warming as the threat that it was perceived to be this time last year look like to a scientist right now? Do you have any idea how many people will use "Lucy" as their evidence for the evolution of man? That's because of a textbook. 

Uh... Like... Hello? I'm, like, totally interested...

I've been delivering a student survey to a really great group of students (for survey purposes... I mean, I'm sure they're great, they go to Moore Norman Technology Center - but I mean for survey purposes). They come from various urban and rural settings ("various" is a strong word - but several different high schools) with separate social climates and backgrounds and age groups.

It's been eye-opening... And I love it.

The survey is on social media, and measures how our students here are using social media. It is not only proving to be a hot topic for me to start a conversation with students about their personal accounts, but it's been really fun to hear their reactions to the survey itself.

They've enjoyed it. The questions were, and I quote here, "fun".

I'd like to take a moment to key on a couple of unexpected stats and connections so far:

Among high school students, more than half have a blog. Their choices for how they use their blog were "Personal Journal", "Open Journal of Thoughts", "Hobby", "Critical Analysis", "No Blog", and "Other". 66% responded "Other". Keep this stat in mind.

64% of the high school and college age students post videos for various reasons such as "Social", "Journaling", "Fun Videos", "Reactions", and "Other". Some of these could be the same thing, but they are allowed to click on more than one. 10% responded to "Reactions". 25% was for "Fun Videos". 33% was for "Other".

So what's the "OTHER" category anyway?

Judging from their responses in the "Other" box where they could be more detailed, I would actually classify the majority of these students would have answers that fall in as "Critical Analysis" and "Reactions".

You read it. That's right. C-R-I-T-C-A-L......A-N-A-L-Y-S-I-S.

They are reacting to things, movies, social events, people, historical events, news, politics, school, family... and expressing themselves in the most articulate way they have the capacity to do so. They are reacting to events with an eye that has been developed by the world around them, and then EXPRESSING.

EARTH to TEACHERS... our students are, in fact, engaged. This has wowed me. Especially when I thought about what "Reaction Videos" are. (A fairly new "hit" on youtube where you video yourself in real time as you watch and react to something you watch).

The question is: How do we harness their critical analysis skills? How do you shape the articulation of their eye? Where do you want to focus it?

Ask yourself: "What tools of expression are they passionate about using?" and then will you see more passion go in to homework if you simply change the tool?

Yes, when students were able to start using pencils on paper instead of chalk on miniature chalkboards, were there not more essays written? When you were finally given the choice in school to use a pen over a pencil, didn't you take the one that actually moves across the paper with less friction? If you have great typing skills, are you more likely to write more in depth on a computer than with a pen and paper? YES.

Change your tools. Unleash your students.

I am going to think of some ideas on how specifically to do this... so stay tuned.